Here's a confession - I am not, by nature, a very active person. I like to walk, I like to swim and that's about it. I constantly I think I should be doing more, but I never actually get around to putting on my runners and going for that threatened run. So when it came to pregnancy, I wasn't one of those people who had to worry about whether I could continue at my current activity level. But I did feel the physical need to do something, so I turned to prenatal yoga.
If you practiced yoga regularly before pregnancy you can continue your practice with some modifications while pregnant, but if you're new to the practice it's recommended to wait until the start of the second trimester to begin prenatal yoga.
It's been very popular as a pregnancy activity in recent years and it's rare not to catch sight of at least one photo of a celebrity clutching a yoga mat during her pregnancy. But far from just being the trendy thing to do, there are many benefits to practicing yoga while pregnant - both physical and psychological.
Energy, strength, stability
It's a low-impact form of exercise, perfect for pregnant bodies when joints are extra-flexible and prone to injury, and will help you to maintain muscle strength and tone. The focus on good posture helps to alleviate the discomfort that comes from holding your body in a new way as your baby grows and improves balance and stability. A good yoga instructor will also check at the beginning of a class what physical problems, if any, you're experiencing, so you can focus on those during the class. And I found that as relaxing and gentle as the classes were, I had more energy when doing a regular class.
Rest and relaxation
It's nice to take an hour or so out of a busy schedule just to focus on yourself, your body and your baby and even moreso if you already have children at home already. In addition to this, breathing techniques learned and the wonderful relaxation period at the end of the class always sent me home for a fantastic night of sleep.
Friendship and support
This bit might sound a bit gushy, but one of the nice things about going to a class like this is just getting to meet and talk to other women who are pregnant. You know you're not boring them silly with all your pregnancy complaints and it helps to be able to compare symptoms and problems with others going through the same things. It's also good to have that contact once babies are born, especially if you're on maternity leave from work and don't have friends and family around during the day to spend time with during what can be an isolating and lonely time for some.
Preparing for labour and delivery
Prenatal yoga classes will focus a lot on breathing techniques to help get you through early labour and beyond. While it sounds very simple, it's easy to forget how much impact the way you breathe can have on your body when you're going through the pain of labour. And particularly during my second delivery, I really felt the benefit of the prenatal yoga practice I'd done.
Yoga after pregnancy
I enjoyed prenatal yoga so much that I've continued the practice - first with a mom and baby yoga class and now with a general yoga class that focuses on postnatal bodies. It's a great way of getting your pelvic floor back in shape and of counteracting the physical discomforts looking after small (and bigger) babies brings with it.
If you've practiced yoga while pregnant, did you enjoy it? Or did you prefer any other type of exercise? Let us know in the comments!