Feeling a little stressed out? Let the gentle stretching movements and breathing exercises of yoga help you unwind while strengthening muscles and improving flexibility ready for childbirth!
A little bit of exercise each day is a great way to help improve both your mental and physical health. We all need to be active – whether we’re pregnant or not – ideally for at least 30 minutes on most days each week. But a lot of us, particularly when pregnant, are just not getting up and moving for long enough to reap all the health benefits from regular exercise.
Yoga is the fastest-growing form of exercise in Australia. A large majority of the two million participants are women and, more importantly, there are dedicated prenatal yoga classes available tailored especially for pregnant women. Yoga focuses on both the ‘mind’ and ‘body’ – which may help in the quest for a happier, more balanced pregnancy.
Just a few of the benefits of yoga
Yoga and sleep – Practicing yoga is thought to have a sleep-enhancing effect for some people, with the relaxation exercises and breathing techniques helping with sleep problems such as insomnia.
Yoga and mental health – Yoga typically uses meditation and mindfulness techniques alongside physical poses as a way of helping to develop a healthy mind and body. Yoga during pregnancy is thought to be more effective at lowering stress levels than walking or other more standard forms of prenatal exercise.
Yoga and childbirth – Pregnancy, labour and delivery can place enormous stresses on your body – yoga may help by:
- Reducing common pregnancy problems such as back, leg and pelvic pain
- Helping to strengthen the muscles supporting your pelvic floor
- Making the time you spend in labour shorter and more comfortable with less pain.
There are many different styles of yoga to choose from – some more suited to pregnancy than others – and you should talk to your instructor before starting any classes, so you can tailor the exercises to your pregnancy.
Some common types of yoga
- Hatha is a relaxing, restorative form of yoga
- Ashtanga is a strenuous ‘power’ pose yoga
- Anusara has slow free-flowing movements between poses
- Lyengar involves holding poses for long periods and difficult positions such as headstands
- Bikram or ‘hot’ yoga is done in very hot humid rooms and is best avoided during pregnancy as it can raise your body temperature too much.
Enjoy your mat time
Here are a few simple tips to help make your time on the yoga mat both safe and enjoyable:
- Check to see if the instructor is experienced in teaching prenatal yoga or choose a dedicated prenatal yoga class
- Set realistic goals for yourself, particularly if you have never tried yoga before or were not active before your pregnancy
- Pace yourself and don’t overdo it – remember slow and steady movements, and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.
Before starting it is important to talk to your doctor or midwife (even if you have done yoga before) so they can advise on whether yoga is a right exercise for you.