“Sit up straight, shoulders back!”, the common mantra of many mothers, is not so easy to follow when you’re expecting. Normal changes in your pregnant body can affect prenatal posture in challenging ways. When the breasts and belly expand during pregnancy, the shoulders pull forward leading to a hunched and strained upper back. In addition, the curve in the lower spine becomes more pronounced as your center of gravity adjusts to compensate for the extra weight in the front of the body. Consequently, the muscles and ligaments in the lower back become shorter, tighter and weaker, potentially leading to discomfort and even sciatica. Poor posture in pregnancy can also interfere with your baby getting into the most optimal position for birth. Furthermore, you may experience balance issues due to the shift in your center of gravity.
Sounds unattractive and unpleasant, right? Never fear – you can manage these changes with prenatal yoga. Yoga positions involve stretching, strengthening, balance and relaxation - the perfect remedy for the musculo-skeletal mayhem that arises in pregnancy. Add to that the benefits of meeting a community of women involved in the same life event and you’ve got a full package of physical fitness and peer support. A prenatal yoga class with an experienced and qualified instructor will include a variety of safe positions and movements, such as shoulder rolls, chest openers, pelvic tilts, forward bends, and lunges. Modifications of certain yoga poses will be suggested depending on your gestational age, yoga experience, level of flexibility, and any conditions that could affect your performance or require alternative options. In a prenatal yoga class, participants do not engage in positions that involve lying directly on one’s belly and are instructed to avoid lying on one’s back for an extended period.
The American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of prenatal exercise per day. In addition to prenatal yoga, other safe exercise options include walking, swimming and stationary biking. Remember to hydrate well during any fitness activity and call your doctor or midwife if you experience bleeding, cramps or shortness of breath with exercise. Group prenatal yoga classes offer a chance to meet other women; however, if a class is not possible, consider using a DVD at home. You may even be able to sign one out for free at your local library.
Prenatal yoga can offer you many potential benefits, including increased energy, relief of constipation and leg cramps, improved mood, increased stamina, better sleep, control of gestational diabetes, increased endurance during labor, and an easier postpartum recovery. So don’t delay on your “namaste”. Start practicing yoga today and you’ll feel like heaven.
To learn more, check out these video segments on yoga positions for the upperback & shoulders and yoga positions for the lower back.