I’m often approached by expectant mothers who have been told that yoga is good to do during pregnancy. While this is completely true, it is also important to be aware of a few factors before rocking up to a class.

Firstly, if you have never tried yoga before or just dabbled in a few drop in classes, it’s probably best not to go to a generic yoga class while pregnant. 

Some of the poses the teacher may have planned may not be suitable and, while they can offer modifications to you, the onus is on you to be aware of your physical restrictions as they tend to the rest of the students also. 

This level of physical awareness only really comes after a while of regular, consistent practice and so, may not be suitable for a beginner. 

There are certain styles of yoga, Bikram or Hot Yoga for example, that are not recommended also.  The benefits of yoga for pregnancy are tenfold which is why I recommend, to practice yoga in a safe and favourable way to your journey towards motherhood, a pregnancy yoga class. 

The changes to the body an expectant mother experiences can create a degree of mental and physical stress.  Pregnancy yoga can help to alleviate and support the physical transformation while also providing the tools to ease any worries a pregnancy can bring and calm the mind during labour. 

Read on to find out some of the benefits of yoga before, during and after pregnancy or familiarise yourself with some guidelines of practising yoga during pregnancy.

Before
If you are currently trying to get pregnant or planning towards having children, yoga can play a huge part in preparing your mind and body for this great change that’s about to happen. 

The physical practice of yoga brings about a certain level of awareness around the body’s physical abilities and restrictions, how you react to these with your thoughts and emotions and how you can work through limitations mindfully. 

A strong, fit and healthy body and mind can create a better environment for your baby to thrive.  Developing a strong core and pelvic floor before pregnancy will alleviate potential pelvic and postural issues. 

The breathwork and meditation that also comes with a yoga class can help you to watch your thoughts, feelings and emotions more clearly so that you gain a better ability to analyse and process what you’re going through with the added bonus of providing the tools to ‘go to your happy place’ during labour. 

A greater familiarity with yourself can help you deal a little better with the physical and emotional changes a pregnancy can bring.

During

Posture
As the baby grows and the belly with it, the abdominal muscles stretch and weaken causing the lower back muscles to over compensate. This can cause immense pressure and strain in the lumbar region, particularly towards the end of the pregnancy.

Having attended yoga classes before pregnancy can help prepare and strengthen your core for this added pressure and reduce the potential for lower back issues. 

Hips
Hormones released during pregnancy allow greater flexibility in the pelvis in preparation for childbirth, however, yoga can helps prepare muscles and ligaments in the pelvis, hips and legs to further assist during labour.

Pelvic Floor
A hammock of muscles forming a bowl attached to the pelvis, the pelvic floor provides support to some of our vital organs as well as the baby during pregnancy. In this case, it is essential to maintain a strong pelvic floor to cope with the added weight a growing baby will bring. 

Many yoga poses encourage engagement of the pelvic floor as it brings a certain degree of lightness to the pose. Pregnancy yoga classes tend to advise avoiding contraction of the pelvic floor in the first trimester so best to work on this before pregnancy and again in the second and third trimester under the guidance of your pregnancy yoga instructor.

Breathwork
The physical aspect of yoga is a great way to prepare the body for pregnancy and labour however, the breathwork and meditative practices learned in a yoga class are not to be underestimated!

Breathing is extremely important during labour as it takes the focus away from the physical pain and helps to calm the mind and release any unnecessary tension you are holding in the body.

As you relax, the body releases and opens up a little more, making the birth a little easier.

After

Physical Fitness
After the baby has been born, returning to yoga can help bring the body back to its pre-pregnancy glory!  Particularly the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor.

Self Care
Simply taking some time out to go to a pregnancy yoga class can help understand the importance and develop a routine of taking the time for self-care. Breathing and relaxation exercise can also help if, at any stage you are feeling overwhelmed. 

New Friends
Regularly attending a pregnancy yoga class in the lead up to the big event will most definitely forge new friendships as you meet people going through or have gone through a similar experience. 

Almost like a support group, a pregnancy yoga class can offer a safe space for expectant mothers to share their worries and anxieties and gain some insight from others with more or less experience.

Mum and Baby Yoga
Lots of studios offer ‘Mum and Baby’ yoga classes. Bring your baby along and introduce them to the world of yoga and its benefits from the start!

Factors to take into consideration when joining a pregnancy yoga class or course is to make sure the instructor is a certified prenatal yoga instructor. 

Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher a few questions about their background and the type of class they teach to make sure it’s right for you. 

Remember that you know your body better than anyone else so don’t push yourself. Make sure to consult your doctor before taking up yoga during pregnancy. It is not always suitable, particularly for those at risk of premature labour. 

Studios in Dublin such as Yoga Dublin and The Elbow Room really cater to expectant and new mothers with lots of pregnancy and ‘Mum and Baby’ yoga classes at a range of different times. 

Or visit The Bump Room or Yoga Therapy Ireland to find a teacher near you across the island of Ireland.