The Power of Prenatal Yoga
The fatigue, nausea and uncertainty that often accompany early pregnancy may tempt you to forget about fitness. But just because you're expecting doesn't mean you should abandon your workouts altogether. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently updated its exercise recommendations for pregnant women, encouraging them to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. "Studies have shown that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy are better able to deal with the labor process," says Bradley Goldberg, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Douglas, Georgia.
So how can you adapt your exercise program to your newly pregnant state? One option you may want to try is prenatal yoga. "Prenatal yoga is great for strengthening and toning, and it helps to keep a mom happy with her changing body," explains Jyothi Larson, a Brooklyn, New York-based certified yoga instructor and author of Yoga Mom, Buddha Baby: The Yoga Workout for New Moms (Random House, 2002).
"Yoga gives you a better understanding of your body, and you can take that with you into labor," Larson adds. "After all, pregnancy is the easy part of the whole motherhood experience. Yoga can be so helpful not only in pregnancy but in the postpartum period when you have to keep up with your baby."
Although some forms of yoga are vigorous, prenatal yoga is a low-impact form of exercise -- a bonus during pregnancy because hormonal changes relax the connective tissues, making bouncing motions stressful to joints. Most prenatal yoga postures are performed in standing, seated or kneeling positions, which is perfect for pregnant moms whose balance maybe off because of weight gain. In addition, yoga can reduce back pain, notes Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, a San Francisco physical therapist and author of Living Your Yoga (Rodmell Press, 2000).
Prenatal yoga helped Mia Finnegan, the inaugural winner of the Fitness Olympia and mom to 2-year-old Noah, stay strong while her body changed shape. "It helped strengthen my lower back and abdominal muscles: increased my stamina, endurance and flexibility; and helped me relax," says Mia, who's expecting another baby later this year.
Be Safe While You Stretch
Always talk to your healthcare practitioner before beginning prenatal yoga. Keep in mind the following safety tips for prenatal exercise:
* Be aware of abs and back. Avoid traditional belly poses, such as the cobra pose, that require you to place weight on your midsection. Goldberg recommends that women past the 13th week of pregnancy avoid exercises done lying on their backs. Larson also avoids teaching inversion moves such as headstands and shoulder stands because balance may be altered during pregnancy, increasing the risk for falling.
* Less is more. "Listen to your body -- if you're tired, give yourself a break," advises Larson. You should never exercise to the point of exhaustion, and be gentle when you stretch.
* Keep it cool. A woman's temperature is increased during pregnancy, making it easy to become overheated, which can be dangerous to a fetus. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after your yoga workouts.
* Watch out for warning signs. If you experience vaginal bleeding, unusual pain, dizziness or lightheadedness, unusual shortness of breath, fluid leaking from your vagina or uterine contractions, stop exercising immediately and call your doctor
RELATED ARTICLE: strike A POSE
Yoga instructor Jyothi Larson recommends that pregnant women who want to try yoga attend a class taught. specifically for them. in a prenatal class, the instructor will show exercises that work the pelvic floor," she says. Try these pregnancy Friendly poses, but don't push yourself too hard:
* CAT AND COW POSE: According to Larson, the cat and cow pose keeps the spine Flexible and strengthens your abdominal muscles. Get on your hands and knees. Inhale, arching your back and reaching your head toward the sky. During the exhalation, bring your chin into your chest and roll your spine up to Form a curve. Repeat three times.
* SQUATS: Squats were one of inaugural Fitness Olympia champ Mia Finnegan's Favorite yoga moves when she was pregnant with son Noah. With your legs wider than shoulder-width apart, inhale and, as you exhale, bend your knees and lower your glutes all the way down toward the floor. Keep your Feet Flat on the Floor, and bring your hands into a prayer position in front of you. Sit there for a few moments and relax.
* CHILD'S POSE: While on your hands and knees, open your knees, and bring your toes together and your heels apart. Move your glutes down to rest between your heels and rest your forehead on the Floor, allowing your arms to stretch out in front of you. Breathe and relax.
Prenatal yoga basics: maintain your pre-pregnancy fitness with this ancient exercise form - For Moms Only Muscle & Fitness/Hers,
By Amy Sutton July, 2002
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