The benefits of prenatal yoga and how to get started

prenatal yogaWhen you are pregnant, it may feel like your body is not your own any more as your body changes in unexpected ways.

Being aware of your new body is just one of the many benefits of prenatal yoga, which is why I encourage pregnant women to try it.

I talk to all of my patients about the benefits of exercise and prenatal yoga, so if this is a conversation that you haven’t had yet with your healthcare provider, it is one you want to have. You should talk to your doctor or midwife before you start yoga or any type of exercise class during pregnancy.

Why prenatal yoga?
There are numerous studies about the benefits of prenatal yoga. Possible benefits include improving sleep, reducing stress and anxiety, and increasing the strength and flexibility of muscles.

Prenatal yoga usually includes different breathing techniques, gentle stretching, and a mindful approach that are all beneficial to you throughout your pregnancy and even during labor.

Yoga can help you achieve the mental relaxation that helps limit fear of the labor process, and provides inner peace in the moment.

Listen to your body

It is important to be realistic about your goals and how active you were before pregnancy. Whether you rarely exercise or workout often, it is important to stay hydrated, stay cool, and listen to your body.

For my patients who are already athletic and exercise regularly before pregnancy, I remind them that pregnancy is NOT the time to push past the pain; if it is uncomfortable, stop.

prenatal yogaAdapt your exercise/yoga to your changing body

Women who already practice yoga sometimes ask about continuing in their current classes.  That might work for your first trimester, but you will want to look for a new class that is appropriate for your changing body and needs. Pregnancy is not ergonomic and as your back and your balance shift, so will your yoga practices.

One of my favorite prenatal yoga videos shows three pregnant women (each representing a different trimester) and although they are doing the same yoga poses, they each make modifications for that stage of their pregnancy.

Choosing a yoga instructor

Do your research. Make sure you find an instructor who is trained in prenatal yoga and let her know if you have any previous yoga experience.

Pregnant women should never do bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga, because it is practiced in a “hot” room. It is NOT safe for pregnant women, because it raises your core body temperature.

It is fine to have prenatal yoga be your introduction to yoga. You don’t need experience to get started!  Another added benefit of starting prenatal yoga is that making time for a prenatal yoga class and scheduling that time for yourself is a great skill for your new schedule as a mother.  My patients tell me that prenatal yoga makes them feel better, and often they continue that commitment to exercise after their babies are born.

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carrie bell mdCarrie Bell, MD, is an OBGYN at University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Bell sees patients at U-M’s East Ann Arbor clinic.



university of michigan women's hospital

University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital opened in December 2011, offering women a state-of-the-art place to welcome their babies to the world in the most caring and comfortable way possible.  From private rooms to birthing tubs, each feature was designed around mom and baby’s every need.  Learn more at www.UofMhealth.org/birthcenter.