10 Things You Should Know About Prenatal Yoga

Being physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy during pregnancy is something that most women realize is important. As yoga becomes more popular and mainstream in our Western world, it is a natural progression for prenatal yoga classes to be offered to address a pregnant woman’s health holistically. However, there are some precautions that one should be aware of before participating in a yoga class when pregnant.

Pregnancy results in many physical changes of a woman’s body and consequently can cause issues such as low back pain, pelvic pain, incontinence, postural changes, and balance problems just to name a few.  In fact, over 70% of pregnant women experience low back and pelvic pain (Mogren, 2005).  One may think that continuing with their regular strengthening, stretching, and core strengthening routine, or enrolling in a prenatal yoga class may help their current prenatal aches, pains, and other issues. Unfortunately, simply attending a regular fitness class, yoga or Pilates class isn’t always safe and appropriate when you are pregnant. The good news is that there is a great deal of evidence showing that specific exercise programs designed and delivered by physiotherapists can relieve low back pain, pelvic pain and urinary incontinence in pregnant women (Morkved, 2007). A physiotherapist assessment followed by an individual treatment program, which may include yoga postures, can help you safely and effectively participate in a home program or class setting in order to gain the specific strength, stability, flexibility, balance, postural control, and pain management required to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

If you are participating in a pre-natal yoga practice or exercise program of any kind, here are 10 general tips to keep in mind:

1)  Do not overheat. Keep body temperature within comfortable limits. Avoid dehydration, which is more likely to occur in a hot yoga environment. Fluid losses increase your heart rate and decrease blood volume, potentially causing fetal stress.

2)  Keep heart rate from elevating to a high, rapid, uncomfortable rate and always maintain your breath. You should always have the ability to talk.

3)  Do not overstretch muscles. You may feel like you can ‘go deeper’ into many of your yoga postures, but this is only because your relaxin hormone is high, therefore decreasing the ligaments’ abilities to stabilize your joints. Overstretching muscles around unprotected or unstable joints can lead to injury. A hot yoga environment also potentially increases the risk of injury because the muscles become extremely extensible resulting in possible overstretching beyond the joint’s safe limits.

4)  Avoid prolonged supine (lying on back) postures after around 20 weeks or first trimester. This position can potentially occlude the inferior vena cava and consequently compress the subrenal aorta. This compression can then reduce maternal cardiac output (resulting in decrease oxygen to tissues, including fetus).

5)  Caution with standing balance postures! Your center of body mass will change dramatically, causing your balance to become altered. Walls and sturdy chairs can be used for extra support.

6)  Avoid aggressive forward bends or twists. As always, listen to your body and watch for signs of distress or pain and modify as necessary.

7)  Do not perform any pranayama (breath work) that involves retaining the breath or overheating the body.

8)  Yoga inversions, such as headstands, are controversial. The main danger during inversions is the risk of falling and injuring yourself or your baby during the fall. As a general rule, if you practiced inversions prior to your pregnancy, it is safe to continue IF you are tolerating the pose with great ease and your breathing is not labored. Currently there is no evidence supporting the fact that inversions are dangerous during pregnancy.

9)  Postures in the prone (lying on stomach) position are not dangerous, however, they tend to become very uncomfortable and physically impossible, therefore, inappropriate.

10)  Pay attention to any ‘warning signs’ such as light headedness, unusual nausea or vomiting, increased low back or pelvic pain, or any pain in general, decreased fetal movement, spotting or fluid leakage, or any other symptoms that you are unsure about. Yoga will not necessarily ‘cause’ these symptoms, but if you have pregnancy related conditions, you may need to avoid exertion or certain yoga postures.

Please always inform your doctor before you participate in any prenatal exercise class or activity, including classes such as ‘prenatal yoga.’

It is important that you let your therapist or instructor know when you are in pain or feel uncomfortable in any way. As always, know and respect your own limits and ‘listen to your body.’

This article is not intended to act as medical advice, nor to diagnose or replace your current treatment. Please seek clearance and guidance from your licensed healthcare professional prior to participating in any of the tips, advice, practices or movements mentioned in this article.

Reprinted with permission from http://physioyoga.ca/

Shelly ProskoShelly Prosko, PT, PYT, CPI is a Physical Therapist and Yoga Therapist, Shelly is dedicated to bridging the gap between yoga and modern healthcare philosophies and believes it is essential in order to create and sustain optimal health. She received her Physical Therapy degree at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and her medical therapeutic yoga training at Professional Yoga Therapy Studies in North Carolina. Shelly has been integrating yoga into her physical therapy treatments since 1998, addressing a wide variety of conditions including chronic pain. Currently, she travels across North America offering specialty Physio-Yoga Therapy workshops, lecturing at Medical College programs, instructing at Yoga Therapy Trainings, presenting at International Conferences and actively promoting the integration of yoga therapy into our current healthcare system. Shelly is dedicated to inspiring, empowering and educating health professionals, yoga teachers, therapists, students and people in pain about ways yoga can be used safely and effectively to address a variety of health issues and improve quality of life.  Please visit www.physioyoga.ca for more information.

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