Growing a human being inside is not always the most pleasant experience. A growing baby, wiggling around inside your abdomen combined with the hormonal effects on muscles, ligaments, and tendons, makes pregnancy uncomfortable for many women.
Prenatal Yoga improves fitness, strengthens muscles, and increases flexibility to improve the discomforts of pregnancy. Prenatal yoga alleviates some of the pregnancy pains and also relaxes the mind.
Why do pregnant women have aches and pains?
- Posture. The center of gravity shifts during pregnancy. As the belly grows, the curvature of the spine changes to accommodate the “passenger.” The spine curves inward to adjust to the added weight at the front of your body.
- Ligaments Two hormones, relaxin and progesterone, cause muscles and ligaments to relax. These physiologic changes are crucial to allow vaginal delivery but also lead to pregnancy discomfort.
- Pelvic floor muscles A layer of muscles supports the organs inside the pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles hold the bladder and rectum in place but come under stress as the uterus expands. The pelvic floor becomes stretched and stressed by the added weight of a pregnancy.
- Stressed pelvic muscles The pelvic muscles that hold the bladder and rectum in place come under stress as the uterus expands. The pelvic floor becomes stretched and stressed. The added weight of pregnancy could compromise the muscles in the pelvic area.
- Nerves A large bundle of fibers called the sciatic nerve travels from the spinal cord through the buttocks and down into the legs. The excess weight and fluid retention often cause inflammation leading to sciatica nerve pain.
Can yoga relieve growing pains?
Yoga is a safe exercise for pregnant women. The goal is to avoid positions that may lead to falling or hitting the belly. Experienced yoga practitioners will have an innate sense of safe yoga positions.
Beginners should start with simple, well-balanced poses that stretch the muscles and relax the mind.
Standing squat. Standing squats are a great way to exercise the core muscles and build lower body strength. No equipment is needed, and one can stand against a wall to provide more balance. The squat will strengthen your thighs and may help open the pelvis to allow the baby to descend when it is time for labor.
Goddess pose. While standing, take wide steps with both feet pointing to opposite corners of the room. Keeping your arms and back straight, dip the pelvis deep. This pose opens the hips and strengthens the lower legs. Focus on slow, deep, relaxing breaths.
Cat-cow stretch. Start on all fours, in the tabletop position. To perform the cow stretch, drop your belly down and lift your head up with your chin forward. Inhale and round out your back. Bring your chin to your chest to execute the cat stretch. The cat-cow stretch is a great exercise to alleviate tension in the spine. These movements are done slowly and mindfully with focused attention on slow, deep breaths.
Gentle seated side bends. Sit on the floor or yoga mat. Keep the back straight and bend gently from one side to the other. Hold each stretch through a deep inhale and exhale. Side bends relieve tension in the lower back, hips, neck, and shoulders.
Tree pose. Stand on one leg. Prop the other foot propped against the standing leg at the ankle or if you are able, below the knee. Tree pose strengthens the muscle in the feet, calf, and leg. It also requires concentration on balance and body awareness.
Prenatal yoga is a fun and relaxing way to stay physically fit during pregnancy. It is also a tool to alleviate anxiety. Most pregnant women worry about their baby’s well-being and the upcoming labor experience. Yoga can help with mental and physical fitness.
According to the American Psychological Association, Yoga “increases body awareness, relieves stress, reduces muscle tension, strain, and inflammation, sharpens attention and concentration, and calms and centers the nervous system.”
Before practicing yoga during pregnancy:
- Consult with your OB-GYN or midwife. Prenatal yoga and other exercise programs are safe for most pregnant women. If your pregnancy is high risk or you have any medical complications consult with a provider before starting.
- Join a class. The best and safest way to practice yoga during pregnancy is by taking a prenatal yoga class with an experienced prenatal yoga instructor. Many prenatal yoga apps and virtual courses are available. Qualified instructors guide you through a safe and effective experience.
Pregnancy is an amazing journey, but it is not always easy. Aches and pains may be part of a natural part of the process, but yoga is one way to improve the prenatal experience. Try out this ideal fitness tool to improve physical and mental fitness during pregnancy.