Exercising when you’re pregnant comes highly recommended (in an uncomplicated pregnancy) even if you were completely inactive before pregnancy . In fact, The Canadian Guidelines for Exercise in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period recommend that all women participate in aerobic and strength conditioning exercises as part of a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy(1).
Prenatal yoga is an excellent form of strength training for expectant moms because it targets key areas of a woman’s body that come into play in childbirth like the pelvic floor and hips. Yoga postures for pregnancy like pregnancy squats, the standing pelvic tilt and sitting meditation using kegels condition the lower body and help prepare the cervix to open easily during the first phase of labour.
Learning to breathe is also key to a relaxed and calm labor experience. In kundalini yoga, the breath is linked to each exercise as you inhale in one position and exhale in a counter position. For example, in a standing pelvic tilt, as you inhale you press your chest forward and your pelvis back and as you exhale, you draw your pelvis under and round your upper back. This breathing pattern helps keep the mind calm (because with each movement the mind has something to focus on) and keeps you connected with your body.
During childbirth, the slower, deeper and more powerfully a woman can breathe the more in tune (and the less out of control) she will feel with her body and mind.
The benefit of starting yoga early in pregnancy is that a woman can apply breathing techniques taught in class, such as long, deep breathing, and use the breath as an anchor during daily stress-inducing situations. Experiencing the benefits of stress-reduction using the breath well in advance of labour helps build a woman’s confidence in her own abilities to manage the waves of sensation during labour.
Although many women are fine to begin a gentle prenatal yoga classe as soon as they find out they are pregnant, some women find the best time to start a movement program is in the second trimester, when nausea, morning sickness, and extreme fatigue have passed(2).
Even cardio is highly recommended during pregnancy so long as women keep their heart rate in a specified range and maintain exertion levels between fairly light to somewhat hard(3). Remember to always consult your health practitioner before starting a new exercise regime, especially a higher impact one.
Women should stop exercising and seek medical attention if they experience any of the symptoms below(4):
• Excessive shortness of breath
• Chest pain
• Light-headedness, muscular weakness and feeling faint
• Painful uterine contractions
• Leakage of amniotic fluid
• Vaginal bleeding
While there are more benefits than risks of exercising while pregnant, it is vital that a woman stay deeply connected with how she feels during exercise especially if her pregnancy is categorized as ‘high-risk.'
Being physically active during pregnancy is extremely beneficial for a woman’s health and actually helps prevent (5):
• Loss of muscular and cardiovascular fitness
• Excessive maternal weight gain
• Risk of gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced hypertension
• Development of varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis
• Shortness of breath
• Low back pain
• Poor physical adjustment to the physical changes of pregnancy
So even if you’re new to fitness, pregnancy is the ideal time to commit to a practice of self nurturing like prenatal yoga and meditation. Yoga Goddess offers a unique combination of childbirth education plus prenatal yoga and meditation helping you prepare physically, mentally and spiritually for the birth of your baby available from the comfort of your own home. Contact us for more information.
(1)Joint SOGC/CSEP Clinical Practice Guideline, No. 129, June 2003, Exercise in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period.