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Fit Pregnancy: About the Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

written by: Angela Atkinson • edited by: KJ Fitness,Ink • updated: 4/21/2009

It's important to stay in shape during your pregnancy. Yoga is a phenomenal way to achieve and maintain optimal fitness and health for both mother and baby. Learn more about the benefits for each.

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    Image Credit: YogaBirthandBeyond.com
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    Staying in shape during pregnancy may feel like a challenge, but it’s important for your health as well as your baby’s. Yoga can be a great way to get your prenatal exercise, whether you’ve been practicing for years or you’re a novice.

    Prenatal yoga offers many benefits for mom and baby. The practice of yoga is unique in that it focuses holistically on both mind and body wellness. This is especially important during pregnancy as your body is rapidly changing physically, including releasing new hormones which can cause emotional changes as well.

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    Breathing and Relaxation

    Since yoga teaches controlled breathing and relaxation techniques, it can be beneficial for pregnant women in a couple of ways. First, it can help you to deal with some of the stress and physical pain commonly experienced in pregnancy. Plus, some moms say that it even helps to reduce morning sickness.

    The breathing and relaxation techniques utilized by yogis are especially valuable during labor and delivery. Moms who practice yoga regularly report that using these techniques during contractions can lessen the pain significantly and are more likely to successfully give birth naturally. The success rate seems to increase for moms who begin the practice early in pregnancy and continue throughout.

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    Body Work

    Practicing prenatal yoga can help to get and keep your body in shape. Yoga also helps to make your body more flexible and toned. Research has proven that women in better shape before and during pregnancy are less likely to experience complications during labor and delivery. Plus, they’ll have an easier time getting back to their pre-pregnancy shape.

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    Energy and Mood Booster

    Pregnant women often experience fatigue, which can exacerbate depression and irritability. The practice of yoga helps to balance you emotionally and has been proven to boost energy. And, since yoga can help to reduce tension and stress, many moms report better quality sleep as a result of a regular program.

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    Special Precautions

    According to fitness expert Tracey Mallet, while pregnant women and their babies can benefit from yoga, there are certain considerations that should be made.

    “Listen carefully to your body,” she advises. “If you feel any discomfort, stop. You will probably need to modify each pose as your body changes. A good instructor can help you customize your yoga to suit the stage of pregnancy you're in.”

    Mallet also advises that pregnant women skip deep twists and bends as they are not conducive to your baby’s health. She says women should be careful to focus on the upper body during twisting moves and bending should be done at the hip instead of at the waist.

    Backbends should be avoided, and balancing poses (especially those done on one foot) should only be performed while holding on to a chair or table for support. Pregnant women should also be careful not to overheat when practicing yoga as it can be harmful to the fetus.

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    Talk to Your Doctor

    Before beginning a yoga program, be sure to discuss it with your doctor. While exercise is safe for most pregnant women, those with certain medical conditions or pregnancy complications may need to limit or avoid it.