Yoga for Pregnant Women

With all the bending and crazy positions involved, you may be afraid to try yoga when you're pregnant. But don't fear! Prenatal yoga is a great way to put time aside for you and your baby, and the health benefits are also fantastic! Whether you're a seasoned yoga vet or you've never done a downward dog in your life, you can enjoy yoga while you're baby bun is still cookin'--in fact, yoga classes are a great way to prepare for the birth process as well as enjoy the company of other mommies-to-be.

First Timers

Many first time "yogis", as they're sometimes called, find yoga to be a great form of exercise during pregnancy and even after! If you're looking to go to a class, stick to those with "prenatal" in the title--these teachers will be most helpful in instructing you. If you decide to join a regular yoga class, be sure to inform the teacher that you are pregnant right away. If you plan on buying a yoga DVD, look for "prenatal" on the DVD box. Many women who work during their pregnancies don't have time for yoga until around the third trimester. While you will still benefit from yoga at this point, the earlier you start during your pregnancy, the better.

Yoga Pros

If you've been a fan of yoga for a long time, you'll be delighted to hear that you can continue to enrich your life with this excellent exercise routine throughout your pregnancy. You'll have to adjust your yoga poses as your belly gets bigger, but you can still take regular classes as long as you feel comfortable. Make sure to tell your yoga instructor you're pregnant and don't feel pressure to perform at your pre-pregnancy level. Consult your instructor or the good old internet for poses to avoid at various points throughout your trimesters.

First Trimester

Listening to your body is at the core of yoga, whether you're pregnant or not! You may think you know your body, but you have to tune into what it's telling you and respect these cues each day, especially when you're carrying a child. If you're experiencing morning sickness, that's your body telling you to take it easy. Allow yourself to miss some classes or take a less intense class if you're not feeling up to par. It's important to tell any yoga instructor that you're pregnant, even if you're not entirely comfortable discussing your pregnancy in public yet. Ask the teacher to be discrete if you're still staying quiet about it. Experienced yogis may find their normal classes to be a bit too intense, while prenatal classes may feel too gentle. In this case, use your pregnancy as a hall pass to pick and choose the appropriate class for your body depending on how you're feeling each day.

Second Trimester

Morning sickness has passed for most women by this point, but keep taking it easy if yours lingers. If you've never done yoga before, the second trimester is a great time to start. Many women explore yoga for the first time during pregnancy so don't worry about being the only newcomer in class. Those experienced in yoga will probably start to feel like prenatal classes are more their speed now, but if you're still comfortable in your pre-pregnancy class, feel free to continue attending, adding adaptations for your growing midsection.

Third Trimester

At this point, your belly will be getting in the way of lots of daily tasks, not just yoga! It's normal to feel more tired and cumbersome so use this as your excuse to ease up a bit. All poses that compress the belly region should be avoided during the third trimester. You should also avoid inversions during this time because the baby will be moving into the birth position and you don't want to compromise this important migration! Be careful as your due date approaches but continue to practice yoga if you feel up to it. This critical period in your pregnancy is no time to overdo it, so stop doing any poses that feel uncomfortable. Yoga will help you prepare mentally for the birth of your little one by teaching you to listen to your body--focus on long breaths to achieve this.

A General Caution

During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which softens your inflexible parts (like bones and ligaments) to make room for the baby and prepare for birth. However, it can also make you vulnerable to over-stretching so avoid going further into poses than you are accustomed to. An overstretched ligament is a serious injury that takes a long time to heal. Be especially careful with your knees!

Post-baby Yoga

If you've always loved yoga or got hooked on it during your pregnancy, it's totally understandable that you'd want to resume your routine after you have the baby. Most doctors recommend waiting around six weeks to start back up again if you've had a vaginal birth, but you may have to wait longer if you've had a C-section. You're ready to do yoga again after your doctor's given you the OK and you have no significant bleeding.