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New to Prenatal Yoga? All Your Prenatal Yoga Questions Answered

Keeping fit is an important part of staying mentally and physically healthy, and this continues to be true throughout pregnancy. Pregnant women should approach exercise differently as their body changes and their center of gravity shifts. Though they have to be careful to avoid injury, there are still lots of safe activities for pregnant women. One of these is prenatal yoga. If you are new to yoga, this Q&A put together with the help of instructors from the Motherhood Center should help answer some of your questions about the popular form of prenatal fitness for pregnant moms.

Q: What is prenatal yoga and how is it different from regular yoga?

A: Prenatal yoga is a gentle form of exercise that was created specifically for pregnant moms. This version offers less strenuous sequence of poses that are gentler on the body. The instructor may demonstrate variations to regular yoga poses to accommodate a growing middle and the shift in gravity. Often, props like blocks, belts, or chairs are used to help support the body and make poses more comfortable during different stages of pregnancy. Certain poses, like those that require lying on the back or twisting deeply, are avoided because they can put pressure on organs and major blood vessels that make it unsafe for the baby.

All yoga encourages stretching, focused breathing, and mental centering. Prenatal yoga can help pregnant moms improve their sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase their flexibility and endurance. This is especially important for carrying an increasingly heavier load on the body and for labor and childbirth.

  1. So is prenatal yoga for relaxation or is it a work out? Will I be sweating and out of breath? 
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A: Some classes and styles of yoga are just for relaxation but typically a balanced class will have elements of both. Different instructors might have different styles but generally yoga can be heat building or calm and relaxing.

At the Motherhood Center, we like to use our Yoga & Fitness classes to fortify the body, mind & spirit for the work to come at the end of pregnancy. Working towards building strong, confident bodies is important! You may sweat a little but with skillful breath work you should not overheat or be out of breath. However, if you do find yourself light-headed during a class or feeling unwell, take a seated upright position or child’s pose and meditate on your breathing. 

  1. I’m new to yoga and I’m not very flexible. Can I do prenatal yoga? 

A: Yes! Beginners are welcome. People do yoga for many reasons and flexibility is only one aspect of it with general prenatal fitness being another. Practicing yoga can also help with flexibility. You can always speak with your teacher about showing you pose modifications. As one of our instructors says, “it is a yoga practice, not a test!” 

Q: What exactly happens during a yoga class?

Breathing: Yoga classes start with breathing exercises that encourages you to focus on breathing in and out slowly and deeply. Learning prenatal yoga breathing techniques could be helpful during contractions and labor as well as to help manage shortness of breath during pregnancy.

Warm-Up/Gentle Stretching: After breathing comes the warm-up when you’ll be encouraged to gently stretch different parts of your body, such as your neck and arms. These exercises will help prepare you for the next part of class.

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Posture: This is the part of the class when you’ll be moving your body into different positions to help with strength, flexibility, and balance. In prenatal yoga, you may be using props, such as cushions and blocks, to provide extra support and comfort while holding certain poses.

Cool Down and Relaxation: At the end of each prenatal yoga class, you’ll take part in a cool down session where you restore your resting heart rate and relax the muscles you’ve been using to hold yoga poses. You might be led to close with relaxing breathing and meditation.

Q: I’m already pretty far along in my pregnancy and my belly is big! Can I still do prenatal yoga? 

Absolutely! Prenatal yoga is designed for the pregnant body from conception to delivery which means any stage of pregnancy is an acceptable one for participating in this activity. There are several poses that can be particularly helpful during labor so being near the end of pregnancy can actually be a good time to brush up on some techniques for the big day.  

Q: How should I dress and what should I bring? 

Dress in whatever will keep you comfortable, such as stretchy clothes that are breathable and allows you to move freely. Bring a yoga mat, hand towel, and water. At the Motherhood Center, we provide all the other props for you to use. If you’re uncomfortable using the communal props, you can invest in your own set of props including a rectangle yoga bolster (Manduka or HuggerMugger make great ones) and two yoga blocks.

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Q: Anything else I should know about doing prenatal yoga?

Pregnant women looking for a prenatal yoga class should find a program taught by an instructor who is trained specifically in prenatal yoga. There are certain poses in yoga that you should avoid including ones that require you to lie on your back and belly. Twisting poses can be risky as well since they put pressure on your abdomen. There are other modifications you may need to make as your pregnancy progresses so staying in tune to your changing body is important. 

Q: Where can I find a prenatal yoga class?

At the Motherhood Center, our prenatal yoga classes are taught by instructors well-versed in prenatal yoga techniques. We currently have in-person and live-stream classes for our clients.  Our in-person classes follow COVID-safety guidelines. Please explore our schedule and pricing options online and feel free to contact us if you have any more questions.

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