About AOA

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
- Unknown


Prenatal Yoga

Yoga of all kinds has exploded on the scene over the last twenty years or so. If you’re pregnant, prenatal yoga can be a great exercise solution to help you relax and stay fit, as well as prepare you for labor. Before you start prenatal yoga, it’s valuable to understand the range of possible benefits, what to expect during a typical class, and important safety tips. Remember, it’s important to talk with your AOA physician before you begin any new exercise program.

What are the benefits of prenatal yoga?

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing, which can help you feel better during your pregnancy, and prepare for labor and delivery. Studies have suggested that prenatal yoga can:

  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
  • Decrease lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and shortness of breath
  • Decrease the risk of preterm labor, pregnancy-induced hypertension and intrauterine growth restriction — a condition that slows a baby's growth

Additionally, a prenatal yoga class is an excellent way to meet and bond with other pregnant women who are all preparing for the challenges of parenthood.

What happens during a typical prenatal yoga class?

A typical prenatal yoga class may involve:

  • Breathing. You'll be encouraged to focus on breathing in and out slowly and deeply through the nose. Prenatal yoga breathing techniques may help you reduce or manage shortness of breath during pregnancy and work through contractions during labor.
  • Gentle stretching. Prenatal yoga involves gently moving different areas of your body, such as your neck and arms, through their full range of motion, which keeps you flexible and helps with balance.
  • Postures. While standing, sitting or lying on the ground, you'll gently move your body into different positions aimed at developing your strength, flexibility and balance. Props — such as blankets, cushions and belts — may be used to provide support and comfort. You'll also continue to focus on your breathing.
  • Cool down. At the end of each prenatal yoga class, you'll relax your muscles and restore your resting heart rate and breathing rhythm. You'll be encouraged to sit down and gently stretch different parts of your body.
  • Relaxation. You will be encouraged to listen to your own breathing, pay close attention to sensations, thoughts and emotions, or repeat a mantra or word to bring about a state of self-awareness and inner calm.

Are there styles of yoga that aren't recommended for pregnant women?

There are many different styles of yoga — and some are considerably more strenuous than others. Prenatal yoga and hatha (gentle) yoga classes are the best choices for pregnant women.

Be careful to avoid Bikram yoga, commonly called hot yoga, which involves doing vigorous poses in a room heated to 100 to 110 F. Bikram yoga may raise your body temperature too much, causing a condition known as hyperthermia. Also, Ashtanga and other types of power yoga may be too strenuous for women who aren't experienced yoga practitioners.

Are there any special safety considerations?

To protect your health and your baby's health during prenatal yoga, use common sense and follow a few basic safety guidelines.

  • Talk to your AOA healthcare provider. Before you begin a prenatal yoga program, make sure you have your health care provider's OK. You may not be able to do prenatal yoga if you have a history of miscarriage, are at increased risk of preterm labor, or if you have heart disease or back problems.
  • Set realistic goals. For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day is recommended, however, shorter or less frequent workouts can also help you stay in shape and prepare for labor.
  • Pace yourself. If you can't speak normally while you're doing prenatal yoga, you're probably pushing yourself too hard.
  • Stay cool and hydrated. Practice in a well-ventilated room to avoid overheating and drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated.
  • Avoid certain postures. A prenatal yoga instructor should be able to help you avoid problematic poses. Remember to bend from your hips — not your back — to maintain normal spine curvature. Avoid lying on your belly or back, doing deep forward or backward bends, or doing twisting poses that put pressure on your abdomen. You can modify twisting poses so that you only move your upper back, shoulders and rib cage. Avoid inverted poses, which involve extending your legs above your heart or head. As your pregnancy progresses, use props during postures to accommodate changes in your center of gravity. If you wonder whether a pose is safe, ask your instructor for guidance.
  • Don't overdo it. Pay attention to your body and how you feel. Start slow and avoid positions that are beyond your level of experience or comfort. Stretch only as far as you would have before pregnancy. If you experience any pain or other red flags — such as vaginal bleeding, decreased fetal movement or contractions — stop and contact your AOA health care provider.

How do I choose a prenatal yoga class?

Talk with your AOA physician, or do some research in your community to learn about available classes. Look for an instructor who has training in prenatal yoga. When possible, talk with the instructor or observe a class to learn more about their particular style, class size and environment, to find a class that suits you. If you'd rather try prenatal yoga at home, your AOA health care provider may be able to recommend a video series or other support.

Yelp provides a fairly thorough list of yoga studios and prenatal yoga classes throughout the Metro Phoenix area.