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Tips for Creating a Safe Prenatal Yoga Program

Reading Time: 5 minutes 12 seconds


DATE: 2021-01-11

Almost 3.8 million babies are born in the U.S. each year. As a fitness professional, you can help many of these mothers-to-be through their pregnancy. One way to do this is to offer a prenatal yoga class.

The Purpose of Prenatal Yoga

Unlike Vinyasa or Power yoga, the goal of pregnancy yoga isn't to provide a strenuous workout. Instead, each yoga pose and sequence is gentle and less intense. Often, props are used to better support the woman's growing belly. This provides greater comfort while also making the poses safer to perform. But why would a pregnant woman want to do yoga?

Prenatal Yoga Benefits

In general, yoga offers many positive health benefits. Some of these benefits are physical, such as improving muscle tone and increasing flexibility. The mental benefits of yoga include reduced feelings of anxiety and depression. Yoga relaxes the body, making it beneficial to dealing with stress.

There are also a few benefits that are more applicable during pregnancy. For example, yoga can help reduce back pain. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explains that back pain is common during pregnancy. Taking a pregnancy yoga class may help.

One study found that prenatal yoga can help alleviate labor pain. In this case, 200 pregnant women were split into two groups. One half engaged in prenatal yoga exercises. The other half served as a control. The women who did prenatal yoga had a higher pain tolerance. They were also less likely to be induced and had more natural deliveries.

Taking a prenatal yoga class is a great way for expecting mothers to bond with other expecting mothers. They can share their experiences and ask each other questions. This provides benefits that extend beyond the prenatal class.

Potential Yoga Risks During Pregnancy

As a prenatal yoga instructor, it is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with practicing yoga during pregnancy. For example, women who are carrying an unborn child should not practice certain forms of yoga. Hot yoga is one such form.

Hot yoga involves doing yoga poses in a room that is between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be dangerous during pregnancy, raising the mother's body temperature too high. When this occurs, hyperthermia can result.

Women should also avoid doing certain yoga poses during pregnancy. This includes forward bends, which place too much pressure on the belly. Another pose you won't see in a yoga class for pregnant women is twists. The reason is that these movements can cause a greater separation of the stomach muscles. This is called diastasis recti and, though common in pregnancy, can increase the risk of pain. The separation is also responsible for the dreaded "postpartum pooch."

The American Pregnancy Association adds that women with an increased risk of preterm labor should not engage in prenatal yoga. Preterm labor refers to labor that begins before the 37th week.

To ensure that each woman is safe to practice prenatal yoga, it is best to get consent from their doctor. This health professional knows her health and body best. So, they are better equipped to say whether developing a yoga practice is a good idea or not. If the woman is using a doula to assist with the birth process, get their input too.

It's also important to remind the women to listen to their bodies. If a certain pose doesn't feel right, they shouldn't do it. Show them a modification or advise them to avoid the pose completely.

Importance of Breaking Down Prenatal Yoga Poses by Trimester

A complete prenatal yoga program addresses how far a woman is in her pregnancy. It involves providing a yoga practice that evolves with the pregnancy. This requires using poses based on which trimester she is in.

First Trimester

During the first trimester, the baby's organs and bodily systems begin to form. The mother's body goes through changes to accommodate this formation. The uterus begins to expand, giving the baby the space it needs to grow. Breasts become larger (and more tender) as they prepare to feed the baby once it is born. Hormones start to surge. This can lead to feelings of nausea, not to mention a few mood swings.

Choosing poses that assist with this process is critical during the first trimester. Any pose that places pressure on the growing uterus should be avoided. This includes the Bow pose and Locust pose. Child's pose is okay and is a great pose for resting when needed during the class.

Some breathing exercises should be avoided as well. One is any breathing exercise that requires forceful belly movements. Breath retention exercises is another. Deep breathing is okay.

Second Trimester

The second trimester brings about even more changes to a woman's body. Her breasts and belly continue to grow. Some moms-to-be also notice changes in their skin, nasal issues, and even problems with their teeth. Dizziness, leg cramps, and urinary tract infections are fairly common in the second trimester.

Choosing yoga poses that support these changes and doesn't instigate any further issues is important. Prone positions and backbends become more uncomfortable. Supine positions can compress the vein between the lower body and heart, dropping the woman's blood pressure.

Some poses can still be safe as long as they are modified. Child's pose is one. Widening the space between the knees provides more room for the baby while also stretching the lower back and relaxing the shoulders and neck.

Props become more important during this trimester. For example, a growing belly can make it harder for the pregnant woman to balance. Providing access to a wall or chair provides added stability.

Third Trimester

With the pregnancy approaching full term, back pain and breathing issues become more common. Hormone increases can lead to greater incidences of heartburn. The need for more frequent bathroom breaks also occurs, thanks to the baby moving deeper within the pelvic floor and placing pressure on the bladder.

Developing a safe yoga practice during the third trimester requires continuing to follow second trimester suggestions. The one major change is that inversion poses should now also be avoided. This prevents any issues related to the baby's positioning within the uterus.

Additionally, because breathing is more difficult in the third trimester, the pace of the yoga class may need to be slowed. It's also helpful to add breath work that can support a healthy delivery. Deep breathing is best for this purpose.

When should you stop doing yoga when pregnant? The answer to this question is different for everyone. Some women may find yoga uncomfortable during the first trimester. Others may practice yoga until the day they deliver. That's why it is important as a yoga instructor to encourage women to listen to their bodies. Pay attention to how they feel during and after the yoga class.

Making a Case for Postnatal Yoga

You may also consider creating a yoga practice for women after they deliver. Offer new mothers a postnatal yoga class.

When part of a post pregnancy workout plan, yoga can provide the new mom improved mental health. It can help her relieve the anxiety and stress she may be feeling. Practicing yoga can also help her body return to its pre-pregnancy state. Greater strength and flexibility make it easier to tend to the young infant.

Some women develop postpartum depression after delivery. As a prenatal yoga teacher, you can help motivate your postpartum clients. Expose them to the mental health benefits of yoga. Introduce them to other members of the class, providing a larger support system.

Want to learn other important tips for creating a safe yoga practice? Enroll in the ISSA's Yoga Instructor certification course. This program teaches you how to modify yoga postures for each client, whether pregnant or not.

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