Some women love pregnancy, while for others, those nine months can't pass quickly enough. No matter which camp you fall into, there's no denying that pregnancy takes a physical and mental toll on every soon-to-be mom. Luckily, moms today are more aware than ever of the options they have to maintain a healthy physical and mental equilibrium, and prenatal yoga is one great way to do just that. As defined by the Mayo Clinic, prenatal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing in pregnant women.
Of course, it's always important to talk with your doctor before you start a new exercise routine, but once you get the go ahead, here are seven great reasons to try prenatal yoga.
It Helps the Body Prepare for Labor
Labor is a physically demanding experience. Most pregnant women are encouraged to exercise throughout their pregnancies, and prenatal yoga is one such exercise that increases the strength and flexibility of muscles used during childbirth. Poses like the deep squat help open the hips and allows the baby to get into the birthing position while also increasing the strength of the pelvic and hip muscles.
You'll Meet Other Expectant Moms
Becoming a mom comes with a huge range of emotions: joy, excitement and love are common, as are stress, fear and worry. These feelings are normal, but if you're experiencing them alone, they can also feel isolating. In a prenatal yoga class, you'll meet other moms that are expecting babies around the same time you are. You'll be able to bond with these women while discussing all of the joys and fears that come along with motherhood, making everyone feel less alone and more connected.
Prenatal Yoga Reduces Stress and Anxiety
There's a good chance that if you are feeling stressed out during pregnancy, your baby is feeling stressed, too. Because prenatal yoga requires stillness and focused breathing, it helps lower stress hormones by calming the expectant mother. Relieving stress will help pregnant women have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies, too.
It Strengthens the Bond Between Mom and Baby
For many expectant moms it can be a challenge to feel a connection with their unborn baby. In prenatal yoga, the instructor will often take class participants through exercises that explicitly strengthen the bond between the mother and the child growing inside of her. Some of these exercises include breathing deeply with one hand on your heart and the other on your belly, visualization or energy-directing exercises that ask the mom to really hone in on and make a connection with the small baby in her womb.
Stretching Minimizes Routine Aches and Pains
Hip, pelvic and lower back pain are all extremely common complaints during pregnancy and can make even the simplest tasks, like walking or sitting, feel like a chore. Prenatal yoga instructors are well aware of routine pregnancy pain and will walk class participants through poses and stretches that help ease the pressure on their pregnant body. These poses will, over time, also strengthen the muscles and improve posture and alignment, both of which can help decrease pain.
Helps Women Stay Focused and Calm
One important facet of yoga is the practice of taking long, mindful breaths. The deep-breaths used in yoga will not only help the mother stay calm and focused as she practices yoga, but will help her prepare for the task of labor, where controlled and focused breathing can help laboring moms manage painful contractions. As an added bonus, the habit of taking calm and mindful breaths will also serve new moms well as they weather those early, sleepless nights with a newborn.
Allows Mom to Focus on Herself
When you're pregnant, it's so easy to spend so much time focusing on the baby that self-care can become an afterthought. Prenatal yoga gives the expectant mom time and space to be in her body, clarify her thoughts, bond with other women and carve out a time that's just for her. Yoga is also an activity that can be carried into the postnatal period, giving the new mom some all-important time to focus on herself.
READ THIS NEXT: What You Need to Know About Running While Pregnant