Yoga for pregnancy: Benefits, poses and tips for moms-to-be
Yoga for pregnancy: Benefits, poses and tips for moms-to-be
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that has contributed in the holistic living of individuals in the most natural way since years. Yoga is like a spiritual route to a relaxed mind and healthy body. During pregnancy, when women are battling mood swings at varying levels, fatigue and sickness, painful leg cramps and breathing problems; yoga exercises, techniques and postures ease all such conditions ensuring a period of relieved nine months followed by an easier labour and smooth delivery. We share yoga poses, tips and benefits of doing prenatal yoga.
If you are an expecting mom, you should take up yoga for its various health benefits. It helps you relax, and eases the pregnancy. Here's why you should sign up for prenatal yoga.
Keeps you both healthy
According to the Mayo Clinic, prenatal yoga can improve sleep, cut down on stress levels, reduce lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, headaches and shortness of breath, among others. Practising yoga regularly will keep both your baby and you healthy. However which poses you should try should be done under expert supervision.
Prepares for labour
Prenatal yoga involves a lot of breathing exercises which help the body relax. This will come in handy during labour. Taking deep, mindful breaths during labour relaxes the body, letting it instinctively know that it is about to give birth. Beginning early will help during childbirth which can be a daunting task.
When you practise prenatal yoga, it helps tone your muscles, especially the pelvic floor, hip and abdominal core muscles. Building and maintaining muscle tone with poses like gentle backbends and lunges reduces back aches and pains during pregnancy and helps the body get back to a toned condition post childbirth.
Helps find balance
With a growing tummy, physical balance of the body becomes difficult to maintain. Emotionally too, the constant fluctuation in hormone levels makes it difficult to find a balance. Breathing exercises in yoga help you find your balance, stretch the muscles properly and make the process of supporting a growing belly easier.
Calms the nervous system
Deep breathing sends the nervous system into parasympathetic mode, which helps the body relax. When the body is in this mode, the digestive system functions properly, immune system works at its best and you sleep better. There are several breathing exercises taught in yoga, and you can do the ones that help in keeping you in a relaxed state of mind.
Improves blood circulation
During yoga, the joints and muscles are elongated, circulating blood efficiently. This leads to decreased swelling and increased immunity, creating a healthy environment for the baby. This will also prevent discomfort associated with pregnancy and make walking and other activities easier to do.
Make sure you consult your doctor before you begin any new form of exercise during pregnancy. Also, do it under the supervision of a trained professional so that you do not have any injuries. If you feel any discomfort, tell the trainer so that they can modify the pose accordingly for you.
Yoga poses for pregnant women
Women who are regulars would require minor modifications to their yoga routine during pregnancy months when the body is undergoing hormonal changes. The aim of pregnancy yoga is to help the mother bring the newborn into the world with minimum hassle and completely no health complications. Positions and exercises practised across the three trimesters of pregnancy differ with every phase. It isn't just about yoga; it is about doing it under expert supervision and favourable environment.
A pregnant woman must take into consideration her health history before beginning with the exercises. For those who are doing yoga for the first time and have not been following a regime otherwise should not rush into the same without prior medical consent. The first three months are the most crucial and chances of miscarriage are high; therefore utmost caution is paramount during this time.
With all clauses and health tips in mind, let us now move forward to the 'asanas' most recommended for would-be-mothers. Yoga postures mentioned below focus on strengthening the pelvic muscles that help enhance the womb space for the healthy growth of the foetus. Yoga teacher and nutritionist Abhilasha Kale believes that, "The benefits of asanas are many. By doing regular exercises, a lot of happy hormones are released called 'endorphins' that keep a mother energetic and positive sans the deterring and erratic mood swings coming in way."
Here's a list of the top exercises that Abhilasha suggests women to attempt during pregnancy months. She also guides us on doing them correctly:
Vakrasna (Twisted pose)
-Sit erect with feet stretched in front (parallel).
-Inhale and raise your arms at shoulder level, palms facing down.
-Exhaling, twist your body from waist towards your right moving head and hands simultaneously to the same side. Swing arms back as much as possible. Do not bend your knees.
-Inhale and come back to original position maintaining your hands shoulder level and parallel to each other.
-Repeat on other side.
Benefit-Your spine, legs, hands, neck are exercised along with gentle massage to abdominal organs.
Utkatasana (Chair pose)
- Strengthens thigh and pelvic muscles
-Stand erect with feet 12 inches apart. Keep your feet parallel to each other.
-Inhale for 2 seconds and raise your heels and arms at shoulder level, palms facing down simultaneously.
-Exhale slowly; sit in squat pose, on your toes. If not comfortable standing on your toes, stand normally keeping feet flat on the ground.
-Keeping your hands in the same position, inhaling, get up slowly and stand on your toes.
-Exhale, hands down and heels down simultaneously.
Konasana (Angle pose)
- Flexibility of waist and fat remains under control in the waist region
-Stand erect with feet 24 inches apart. You can do this asana with the support of wall.
-Raise your right hand up keeping elbow straight. Give a nice upward stretch and while you inhale, bend sideward towards your left. Exhale and come back and put your hand down.
-Repeat the same with other side.
Paryankasana (Ham's pose with one leg)
- Strengthens abdominal, pelvic and thigh muscles
-Lie down on your back. Straighten your legs. Keep your knees together.
-Now, fold your right leg in the knee at the side of your posterior. Breathe normally. Hold the position as long as you're comfortable and repeat the same on other side. Straighten your leg.
-Repeat with the left leg.
Hast Panangustasana (Extended hand to big toe pose)
- Strengthens pelvic and thigh muscles
-Lie down on your back. Straighten your legs. Keep your body in one line.
-Your hands in T-position, palms facing down.
-Slide right leg towards your right side. Don't try very hard. Hold toe with your right hand if possible.
-Sliding your leg come back to original position.
-Repeat the same on left side.
Bhadrasana (Butterfly pose)
- Strengthens inner thighs and pelvic region
-Sit on the mat with legs fully stretched.
-Keeping the legs in contact with the mat, form 'Namaste' with your feet. -Sit erect, without leaning forward. Place your hands on knees or thighs. Hold the posture till the time you feel comfortable.
-Straighten your legs and repeat again.
Parvatasana (Mountain pose)
- Improves body posture, relief in backache
-Sit on the mat in sukhasna, padmasana or ardhapadmasana.
-Sit straight and while you inhale, raise your arm and join your palms in 'Namaste' position. Keep your elbows straight. Hands are near to your ears. Hold the position for a few seconds and come back to normal position again.
-Repeat 2-3 times
Yastikasana (Stick pose)
- Corrects posture, body gets stretched, relieves body tension
- Lie down on your back. Straighten your legs. Keep your body in one line. Knees and feet are together. Feet point upward. Hands rest on the sides.
-Inhale and raise your hands; rest them on the floor and stretch upward. Push your toes out simultaneously.
-Exhale, raise your hands and come back into normal position.
-Repeat 3-4 times with in between breaks.
Some important reminders/safety measures to keep in mind
- Mothers with condition of asthma can try the above mentioned asanas but shouldn't hold or suspend breath during the practice of pranayams/asanas.
- On the basis of pregnancy trimesters, there are certain exercises that cannot be carried throughout all pregnancy months. Konasana (angle pose) for instance should not be continued post seven months of pregnancy. Once the mother feels uncomfortable doing an asana, it is advisable to stop immediately without further straining the muscles.
- Avoid forward bending asanas (strong back bends, such as the boat pose), inverted poses and exercises that might put pressure on the abdomen. Asanas that require lying down on the weight of your stomach should be strictly avoided.
- Exercises involving balance should be done with utmost care.
- Please avoid hurrying into weight-loss exercise regime immediately after delivery. Post-natal yoga (post six weeks after birth) and exercises should be practiced only when the mother's body is fully ready and relaxed.
- Simple stretching exercises encourage circulation, help fluid retention, and relieve stress
- If mothers feel pain or nausea doing any of the exercises, then they should stop immediately and consult doctor.
- Yoga can be practiced every day but you need to ensure that you do not overdo anything as that can be bad for your health.
Celebs who swore by yoga during their pregnancy
Yoga gained popularity once celebs started doing it and endorsing its various benefits. Several Bollywood actors too took to yoga and continued doing it during their pregnancy. Here are a few of them that swore by prenatal yoga.
Kareena Kapoor Khan
The yummy mummy of Taimur had a fabulous pregnancy and things that helped her stay fit during this time were her right diet and yoga sessions. Kareena who has been practising yoga for years now, did not ditch it during her pregnant days. In fact, even post delivery, she got back to her pre-pregnancy body with yoga and other exercise methods like Pilates.
Soha Ali Khan
Soha too has been a fan of yoga and continued doing it throughout her pregnancy. She even took to social media to post photos of herself doing different asanas when pregnant. Soha too was quick to get back in shape post her delivery and yoga had a major role to play in it.
Lara Dutta was so into yoga during her pregnancy, that she released a DVD showcasing the various poses that could be done by mothers-to-be. She embraced this ancient form completely and made sure that she did it regularly to help ease her pregnancy.
Lisa Haydon has always been a fitness freak and she continued exercising throughout her pregnancy. The model-turned-actor loves doing yoga and makes sure it is part of her fitness regimen even today. Yoga not only helped her have a healthy pregnancy, but also helped her post it.
This new mommy calls herself a fitness fanatic and leads a healthy lifestyle. Apart from eating a healthy diet, Esha also works out regularly. Even during her pregnancy, she continued her routine and did prenatal yoga. Though she did crave for cupcakes, she did not give up her workout routine.
After giving birth to Misha, Mira is pregnant again with her second child and is clearly glowing. The yummy mummy starts her day with yoga which helps her relax and ease her pregnancy. Even after the birth of Misha, Mira continued doing yoga and looks like it has become a way of life for her.
Shilpa Shetty Kundra
Shilpa is one of the most fit actors in Bollywood and she is someone who endorses yoga. She even launched her yoga DVD that many used to reap in the benefits of this ancient form of exercise. Even though Shilpa put on a lot of weight during her pregnancy, she lost all of it with dedication and regular workout. She practiced yoga before, during and after her pregnancy.
With inputs from Kriti Saraswat Satpathy