Whether you’re pregnant or not, yoga can be a great stress reliever, as well as a nice, low-impact way to get some exercise. There are tons of benefits: it helps strengthen and tone muscles, increases flexibility, improves sleep, promotes cardiovascular health and improved respiration, and supports a healthy metabolism. According to the American Pregnancy Association, prenatal yoga can also help reduce the risk of preterm labor, ease nausea, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome, and lower the risk of intrauterine growth restriction. All of this, plus, it’s a great way to relax and bond with baby – what more could you want?

What makes prenatal yoga different?

You might be wondering what the difference is between “regular” yoga and prenatal yoga – which is perfectly normal! After all, isn’t all yoga pretty gentle? In prenatal yoga, there are typically poses that are less strenuous, and women are encouraged to use variations on poses and props, like blocks or chairs (I can work out while sitting? Sign me up!) to make the poses more comfortable. Hot yoga is not done, since this increases risks of complications because of increased body temperature and possible dehydration, and poses where you lay on your back or do any deep twists are avoided. Many prenatal yoga teachers also have special training in working with expecting moms and their needs.

Mama’s Gotta Move: Why Prenatal Fitness Matters

Gearing up for the big day

Yoga improves balance, which is a plus, since your center of gravity is usually thrown off as the pregnancy progresses, because of your growing uterus (as you’ve probably already noticed!). Working on your balance and flexibility now will make trying out different labor positions much easier when it’s go time. The last thing you want to happen while you’re squatting is to pull a muscle or topple over! As the baby grows, your muscles, joints, and ligaments are stressed, especially in your back, hips, and chest – which can then strain your neck and shoulders – resulting in a very achy body. Not only does yoga help relieve tension in all of these areas, but it also helps strengthen your core. A stronger core will come in very handy when it’s pushing time, trust me. Have you noticed how hard it is to belt out an Adele song or keep up with those Eminem lyrics that you used to slay? Prenatal yoga, like regular yoga, focuses on breathwork, which can help you deal with the shortness of breath during pregnancy. So you can get back to serenading your partner/office mate/shower…. I’m sure they will be thrilled.

Slowing down and enjoying your pregnancy

Pregnancy is a busy time. There’s a lot going on physically (hello – growing a human) in addition to everyday life. Our minds race, and it can feel like we’re always “doing.” Yoga encourages meditation, reflection, and relaxation. It allows us some quiet time to connect with our bodies and our babies. This will help you keep your eye on the squishy little prize. When you are able to find a tranquil place and breathe through your labor contractions later on, you will be giving your 9-months-ago-self a mental high five.

Get to it, yogi ma!

Going to a class is also a great way to meet other expecting moms and build a community around you, which can be so valuable during pregnancy, and later, when you have little ones. There are plenty of DVDs to check out that you can do in the privacy of your own home, if you’re nervous or just starting out with yoga, and many yoga studios offer special prenatal classes. A prenatal yoga pro tip: Take it easy that first trimester. Morning sickness + physical activity can be a real recipe for disaster. However, staying active is important and the meditation is a great distraction from your ailments, so choose a time of day that you feel your best. Before starting any yoga practice, remember to talk with your midwife about whether it’s safe for you to do prenatal yoga – there are no silly questions, and she might even know a great studio!

Looking for a class to join? Many of our birth centers offer prenatal yoga classes on site.