A Pinch Of Thoughts

Yoga During Pregnancy – Benefits And Everything Else You Need To Know (Part 1)

Pregnancy is a phase where a woman’s body undergoes various physiological changes and physical demands. To add to that, many also experience stress and emotional changes throughout the various stages of pregnancy. There are theories which suggest the maternal stress and anxiety may have an adverse effect on the intrauterine and foetal development due to certain hormones released due to increased stress levels. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that mental stress levels are regulated during the gestational period to improve the quality of life of both the mother and the child in her.

Recent studies indicate that yoga during pregnancy is known to be effective in improving pregnancy, labour, and birth outcomes.

We all know that yoga is a great way to manage psychological stress levels and physiological wellbeing. There are studies that hypothesize that yoga during pregnancy can improve the immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems. 

Yoga during pregnancy is a safe approach to exercise as it helps the mother to engage not only her body but also her mind. It primarily focuses on gentle stretching and strengthening of muscles, along with the mental well being and awareness of one’s body.

Walking, light jogging are popular choices of exercise to improve one’s cardiovascular health. If you are one of them, then you could also choose or opt for yoga to stay in shape during pregnancy. Yoga not only helps with cardiovascular health but also helps in toning and strengthening muscles, it improves your balance (especially during the second and third trimester where the belly grows in size) and enhances proper circulation of blood and oxygen.

The best part- it has little impact on your joints as opposed to the walking, jogging and other cardio options.

If you are new to yoga, then I strongly recommend that you train under a certified yoga professional. However, if you are someone who has some knowledge about yoga or have been practicing it for a while, then you could easily practice yoga at home taking necessary precautions. It is advisable to use as much as support possible- like a chair, wall, etc.

Coming to practicing yoga during pregnancy at home…

First and foremost, check with your physician and make sure that there are no complications. People with history of miscarriage, preeclampsia and such should always train under a professional yoga trainer. And for the rest, here are yoga asanas that you could safely practice at home throughout your pregnancy.

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Here is a trimester-wise breakup of yoga asanas and its benefits:

Yoga Asanas During the First Trimester

The first trimester of pregnancy is the most crucial period as this is when the foetus implants and the placenta is formed, and this is the period where chances of a miscarriage is high.

You might not find major changes externally but internally there is a lot happening as your body undergoes various changes to create a perfect environment for your baby like; the hormone levels change drastically, the blood volume increases, your joints and your muscle tissues tend to become loose due to a hormone called relaxin, which allows or prepares the uterus to stretch. All of these activities happening within your body leads to fatigue, nausea, etc. However, it varies from person to person.

To deal with these changes practicing restorative yoga during pregnancy is highly recommended which is absolutely gentle and safe to practice.

Some of the asanas that you can try are:

1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

This is a simple pose and if you feel dizzy you could easily do it against a wall for support. You can practice it anytime and not necessarily on an empty stomach. To know how to do the pose, check here. You could also try the advanced variation of this pose.

Precautions:

If you are suffering from headache, insomnia, or low blood pressure, it is best to avoid this pose.

Benefits:

  • It helps improve body posture and with continuous practice it strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles.
  • It helps in toning the buttocks and the abdomen.
  • It helps in regulating the digestive, respiratory and nervous systems.

2. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

This is a beginner level asana and should be practiced on an empty stomach. This asana includes a stretch and hence make sure that you keep it light and don’t over-stretch. Do not hold the pose for more than 30 seconds.

To know how to do the pose, click here. You could try the advanced variation only if comfortable; else simply stick to the basic asana.

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Precautions:

If you suffer from hernia, back injuries, or carpel tunnel syndrome, it is best to avoid this pose.

Benefits:

  • Excellent to release stress.
  • Tones buttocks, and stretches the chest, shoulders, chest and abdomen and releases the stiffness of the back.
  • Makes the spine stronger and flexible as this is a deep backbend.
  • However, during pregnancy, do not aim for a deep backbend.
  • Helps people with asthma.

3. Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

This is a beginner level asana and is quite easy and safe to practice. It is ideal to practice on an empty stomach and hold the pose as long as comfortable but not more than 5 minutes.

To know how to do the pose, click here.

Precautions:

If you have a knee injury or any sort of pain in the knee, do not attempt this asana.

Benefits:

  • It stimulates the heart thereby improving blood circulation.
  • It helps in relieving fatigue and anxiety.
  • It improves the functioning of the female reproductive system.
  • It gives an excellent stretch to the inner thighs, groin area and also improves the flexibility of the hips. This could prove beneficial during labour by making it easier.
  • It relieves stress and lowers fatigue levels.

4. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II)

Copyright: Flickr – WeTravel

This is a beginner level asana that is named after a mythological character named “Virabhadra”. It is best practiced on an empty stomach. It is ideal to hold the pose for 30 seconds on each side; not more than that.

To know how to do the asana, click here.

Precautions:

If you suffer from high blood pressure, it is best to avoid practicing this asana.

Benefits:

  • It helps strengthen the lungs and shoulders.
  • Improves stamina.
  • It provides a great stretch for the groin and the hip areas.
  • Helps relieve backaches especially the ones during pregnancy.
  • Helps improve digestion.

5. Bilitasana and Marjariasana (Cow-Cat Pose)

Although they are two different poses, I have mentioned it as a combination pose as it is more effective when done together. Both of these are beginner level asanas, and it is best practiced on an empty stomach.

To know how to do this asana, check here.

Precautions:

If you suffer from any neck or back problems, do consult a physician before embarking.

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Benefits:

  • Helps in improving balance and posture.
  • Helps reduces stress levels.
  • It is a great and safe stretch for the spine during the first trimester.
  • It helps in improving digestion.
  • Improves blood circulation in the body.
  • Aids in toning the abdomen.

6. Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose)

Copyright: Be Extra Yoga

This is an excellent pose to reduce the strain in the pelvic region. It is fairly easy to practice.

To know how to do the pose, check here.

Precautions:

If you suffer from knee pain, then it is better to not strain it further by attempting this pose.

Benefits:

  • This asana reduces the strain on the pelvic floor.
  • It also helps support the reproductive and digestive organs.
  • It helps in maintaining muscles of the pelvic region both taught and supple.
  • It reduces complications during childbirth.

Few other asanas that you could also try are: Balasana (Child’s pose), Adhomukha Svanasana (Downward dog) but for shorter period of time, Parsava Konasana (Side Angle Pose). These are beginner level asanas and can be performed easily at home.

Remember to take support of the wall in case you feel light-headed.

What to avoid:

  • Kindly avoid performing standing twists as they directly put pressure on the abdominal and pelvic region.
  • If you attempt any kind of stretches, make sure that you do not over-stretch as during this phase your joints are quite loose and there are chances that any form of over-stretching could cause dislocation.
  • Avoid any intense asanas that put direct pressure on the abdominal cavity and the uterus.
  • Do not practice too many backbends as they tend to stretch the abdominal muscles more than required.
  • Avoid any inverted postures or asanas as these poses might cause the blood to flow away from the uterus and we do not want that to happen.
  • If you wind up your session with Shavasana, then make sure that you lie on your left side instead of lying down flat on your back. As we lie flat on the back, there is pressure exerted on the vein which carries blood from the uterus to the heart.

Coming up shortly: Yoga asanas during Second Trimester…

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