yoga during pregnancy
Health

Yoga during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of extraordinary change, as your body completes the miraculous task of creation and prepares for the birth of your baby. It can also be a challenging time, both physically and emotionally, as hormones fluctuate and your lifestyle changes in preparation for parenthood.

Yoga can empower you to manage these physical and emotional changes with grace and ease. An ancient and holistic system, which incorporates gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, breathing, relaxation and meditation, the practice of yoga during pregnancy will help you and your baby to be healthy and strong.

Physical benefits

Prenatal yoga is practised slowly and consciously, making it an ideal form of exercise during pregnancy. Most movements are combined with breath awareness, which helps to maximise oxygen uptake in the body, which is so important for your developing baby. The exercises are gentle, yet effective.

yoga during pregnancy

Yoga tones muscles without straining them, improves circulation and alleviates fatigue. This has been shown to reduce labour times and the possibility of medical intervention. Studies have also shown that yoga can help to lower blood pressure in pregnancy by calming the nervous system and reducing the effects of stress.

Yoga can ease many of the physical symptoms of pregnancy:

1. Back ache, pelvic pain: your changing weight and shape places extra demands on the legs, lower back and pelvic floor muscles. From 20 weeks, pregnancy hormones are rising dramatically, including the hormone relaxin. This hormone causes the ligaments of the pelvis to loosen, allowing for the ‘swinging back’ of the sacrum during labour.

This loosening causes instability in the pelvis, which can result in back ache and pelvic pain. Prenatal yoga strengthens the legs, back and pelvic floor muscles, helping to prevent this pregnancy-related discomfort. Safe core strengthening exercises also help to support the low back.

2. Tiredness, sleep problems: The relaxation and breathing aspects of yoga can help you to cope with tiredness and promote better sleep.

3. Calf cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, restless leg syndrome: Yoga stretching and strengthening exercises for the legs, feet, ankles and wrists will help to ease and prevent these problems.

4. Diabetes, high blood pressure: Studies have shown that yoga and mindfulness meditation can be effective in reducing stress, blood pressure and related complications during pregnancy as well as improving foetal outcomes.

5. Weight gain: Yoga exercises help to prevent rapid weight gain, not simply because you are burning calories as you exercise but by helping you to develop body awareness and encouraging you to make healthier food choices. Yoga will also improve muscle tone and help you to get back in shape after the birth.

6. Varicose veins: Yoga improves circulation, thereby reducing the likelihood of varicose veins appearing. If this problem has already developed, yoga offers specific poses designed to elevate the legs safely, supported by props. This can alleviate discomfort and reduce swelling.

7. Frequent urination: Pelvic floor exercises can help to improve bladder control. Avoiding caffeine will also reduce your need to use the bathroom.

8. Nausea and heartburn: Prenatal yoga postures open and lengthen the front of the body, creating more space for digestion. Yoga’s sister science, ayurveda, recommends fresh ginger tea as an excellent remedy for nausea during pregnancy.

9. Constipation: Gentle squatting and twisting poses in yoga help to improve the tone of the pelvic and abdominal muscles and facilitate digestive transit.

10. Breathlessness: Yoga focuses on creating space in the torso to facilitate your growing baby and allow more room for the lungs.

11. Birthing: Pelvic floor exercises increase the strength and tone of the pelvic floor. This can make birthing easier and helps muscles and tissues to heal more quickly afterwards.

It’s never too late

Whether you’re a couch potato or a gym bunny, yoga can help you to find strength and ease in your body at this exciting time. It is never too late to start yoga in pregnancy. You will feel the benefits after just one class so even if you’re in your final weeks, it’s worth taking part in a class. You can continue doing yoga right up to your due date if this feels comfortable.

If you are unsure about when to start or stop yoga, make sure to ask your doctor or midwife.

More like this:

Keeping fit through pregnancy
Hypnobirthing
Eating for two

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.