Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Prenatal Yoga

Q1. Can I do yoga if I am pregnant?

Yes, but there are certain precautions. Yoga must be carefully tailored to the needs and abilities of the pregnancy. Yoga is a great way to keep fit during pregnancy. In particular it can help strengthen the pelvic area, normalize thyroid functioning and blood pressure, and help keep you calm and relaxed -- all of which is good for the baby, too.

Q2. Is it safe to do yoga during pregnancy?

All types of exercise can be beneficial to pregnant women, and specifically yoga can be very beneficial. Of course, if you are starting a new exercise plan you should check with your doctor. But, for most women who want to continue, or try yoga it is completely safe, with a few modifications and precautions. Make sure to ask your doctor if yoga is safe for you during pregnancy especially if you have any complications during it.

Q3. Can I take up yoga as a beginner when I am pregnant?

The start of pregnancy probably isn't the best moment to start Yoga for the first time ever. If you do so, it should certainly be with the guidance of a Yoga expert, and one who understands Yoga and pregnancy. The beginner should not start her yoga during her pregnancy because the chances of miscarriage are greater in the early days of pregnancy. Even women who are regular in their practice should be careful in days of pregnancy. They should do selective yoga, without bending too much, to keep the birth mechanism in order.

Q4. Which kind of poses should I practice?

There are several asanas that are helpful during pregnancy.
  • Ardha Halasana, Akarshana Dhanurasana, Trikonasana, Oordhwa Pada Hastasana loosen the pelvic girdle.

  • Matsyasana, Supta Vajrasana and Baddha Konasana strengthen the pelvic structure.

  • Padmasana and Bhadrasana are also recommended during pregnancy for they develop the pelvic floor.

  • Squatting is a vital posture for pregnancy as it strengthens the pelvic floor muscles in preparation for childbirth. So squatting poses like Utkatasana andMandukasana can be beneficial.

Q5. Which kind of poses should I avoid?

In general, you want to avoid strain, compressing and twisting in the belly or abdomen and most inverted poses (headstands, handstands, shoulder stands) unless you are an advanced practioner, only if it feels good to you. Omit poses that press the heel into the uterus while folding or sitting like Ardha baddha Padmottanasana, Janu Sirsasana.

Pranayama: Any pranayama requiring breath retention or rapid inhales and exhales (such as Kapalabhati) should be avoided.

Q6. Can I practice Bikram Yoga during pregnancy?

Raising your body's core temperature is not recommended during pregnancy; therefore hot yoga should not be practiced. Remember, yoga is about being flexible in the mind as well as the body, so Bikram devotees should use this opportunity to explore other yoga options. 

Q7. Is there any specific yoga pose that can be practiced to prevent miscarriage?

Sarvangasana is generally advised to pregnant women as this stimulates the glands which secrete hormones, thereby enhancing the body's metabolism and preventing miscarriage.

Q8. How can yoga breathing benefit me during my pregnancy?

It is a good relaxation technique that helps reduce anxiety and the build up of stress. During pregnancy, good breathing and control of Prana (energy) are absolutely vital, because just like the nutrients you provide your baby from your food, you are also responsible for providing him/her with high quality oxygen and prana from the air you breathe.

Yoga breathing or pranayamas helps you learn to breathe deeply and relax, which will come in handy as you face the physical demands of labor, birth, and motherhood. Perfect control of the breath allows the mother fully to collaborate with the doctor and midwife during labour, and to deliver the newborn gently, with a minimum of fatigue and pain. These phenomenal techniques help to release emotional tension during labor and the likelihood of post-natal depression is dramatically reduced.

Q9. Are there specific yoga breathing exercises to be practiced during pregnancy?

Two simple Pranayama exercises, which don't require retention of the breath, namely Ujjayi and Anuloma Viloma are recommended to pregnant women.

Ujjayi Pranayama is an excellent way of preparing the mother for childbirth; for while she practises, she learns, fairly, how to breathe in quickly but deeply and to regulate the amount of air she breathes out during long exhalations.

Anuloma Viloma - that is, breathing through alternate nostrils - is without equal as far as the purification of the nerves is concerned. This exercise help improve the oxygenation of the blood, and bring the metabolism and hormonal secretions into balance.

If practised one after the other, Anuloma Viloma should come before Ujjayi.

Q10. How can prenatal yoga help me during labor?

Regular participation in a prenatal yoga program while pregnant can reduce labor-associated anxiety by helping you tap into your own labor tools and teaching you how to bring them with you on your journey into motherhood.

As you move through the various stages of labor, your body will want to move into different positions. If you are hoping for a natural birth, it can be helpful to have an idea of how you can position your body to help you during contractions and during times of relaxation. Many yoga poses can translate wonderfully into comfortable laboring positions.

Squatting poses like Utkatasana and Mandukasana, practiced in your pre-natal classes, strengthen the pelvic floor muscles in preparation for childbirth. Squatting combined during pregnancy really can help your labor in two ways. The work that you have been doing during your pregnancy has toned the muscles of your pelvic floor and given you practice tightening and releasing them. During labor, it opens up the birth canal, helping the delivery of the baby's head.

Q11. What points do I keep in mind while choosing a prenatal yoga instructor?

  • Ideally it's best to find a prenatal yoga class. 

  • It is important to take the time to find a class and teacher that feels right for you. 

  • You can ask for references of students who participated in the program which you are considering. 

  • Inquire about classes in stores frequented by pre-natal women and new mothers. 

  • Don't be shy about asking your potential yoga instructor about her training, the format she uses, or the intention of her class. 

Most of all, even if you are an avid yogi, pregnancy is not the time to push yourself by attending a regular yoga class and attempting to modify the postures to accommodate your growing belly. Not only does that increase the likelihood of causing injury, but you would be doing a disservice to yourself by missing out on a wonderful opportunity to participate in a class that is tailored for you at this very special time in your life.

Q12. What precautions should I take while practicing yoga during pregnancy?

  • Drinking lots of water before, during, and after exercising to keep your body hydrated. 

  • Never overstretch the abdomen during any time of the pregnancy. 

  • Breathe deeply and regularly as you stretch. 

  • If you're feeling pain or discomfort, make an adjustment or ask your instructor to recommend an alternative position. 

  • Seek out an instructor who is specifically trained in prenatal yoga. 

  • Skip any movements that require you to lie flat on your back for longer than a few minutes, especially after the first trimester. 

  • If you have high blood pressure or other complications in your pregnancy, it is extremely important to check first before continuing (or starting) a yoga practice. 

  • No breath retention or breath of fire should be attempted 

  • Don't practice yoga to the point where you're fatigued. 

 Q13. How can prenatal yoga benefit me?
  • Yoga eases many of the problems present during pregnancy like nausea, cramping, high blood pressure etc. 

  • It maintains good posture, and thus eliminates back pain. 

  • Deep yoga breathing and yoga meditation techniques cause mental relaxation and thus the pains during pregnancy and childbirth are minimized. 

  • The relaxation also aids in speedy recovery of the body after the childbirth. 

  • Yoga can be an ideal way to stay in shape during your pregnancy. This age-old practice keeps you limber, tones your muscles, and improves your balance and circulation, with little, if any, impact on your joints. Taking a prenatal yoga class is a great way to meet other pregnant women - to become part of a community. 

  • Being in a positive, supportive environment with others like you can give you a regular emotional boost and keep you motivated to continue exercising. 

  • It will reduce discomfort in your upper and lower back that sometimes accompanies carrying a baby (before and after pregnancy). 


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