Relaxation is key to a healthy pregnancy
Yoga is practised to balance your mind, body, and breath. It’s all about relaxation, which makes it one of the most popular choices for antenatal exercise.
At 12 weeks’ pregnant you’re hopefully, more or less, over the initial exhaustion and nausea of the early stages of pregnancy and, hopefully, you’ll be feeling up to getting some exercise. But if those very words chill you to the bone, why not think about antenatal yoga?
First things first – Taking care of yourself
While it’s true that yoga can be hugely beneficial for pregnant women, there are still certain health risks associated with it (as with any exercise regimen in pregnancy). You should speak to your doctor or antenatal team before taking up any antenatal exercise – a trained medical professional will be able to give you the right guidance, specific to your own circumstances.
Getting the right amount of supervision and support while doing yoga is also a must, and there are many antenatal yoga classes, held across the country, specifically tailored towards pregnant women.
Not only are these classes a great way of socialising with other mums-to-be, but specialised classes will ensure you don’t push yourself too far, allowing instead for you to slowly ease yourself into the exercises under the supervision of an expert, who will also make any necessary modifications to the positions.
You may already attend a regular yoga class, one that is not specifically tailored towards pregnant women. In this case, you should always inform your instructor of your pregnancy and how far along you are.
The benefits of yoga
Yoga can ease many of the common discomforts associated with pregnancy, such as back pain, nausea, and indigestion, and will help strengthen your core muscles and increase flexibility – very helpful for the birthing process.
Yoga has also been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety by encouraging relaxation through focused breathing. This can also help you improve your sleeping pattern. When done correctly, yoga is one of the best things that anyone, pregnant or otherwise, can do for their overall health.
The other great thing about yoga is how gentle and accessible it is for all fitness levels. Pregnancy clearly isn’t the time to get in touch with your adventurous side, nor is it the time to come to the sudden realisation that you’ve always wanted to take up skiing. Instead, the calming pace of yoga is perfect.
What are the best yoga positions for women 12 weeks pregnant?
Mountain Pose – This position is effective for balancing and strengthening your body and is a good starting pose. Repeating this pose will help you adjust to your gradually shifting centre of gravity.
Cat-Cow Pose – Positions on all fours are good for expectant mothers, and the most popular poses of this kind are the Cat/Cow poses. Alternating between these poses can help shift the weight of the baby away from the spine.
Extended Triangle Pose – This standing pose stretches the side of your body and is good for the legs, hips, and shoulders.
Child’s Pose – The child’s pose is a relaxing position that can serve as a rest between more taxing positions, giving you a chance to focus on breathing and relieve stress.
Butterfly pose – This pose is also good for relieving stress and tiredness while also helping to improve flexibility of the hips and thighs.
Things to bear in mind
While it is true that you will be able to resume and take up light exercise while pregnant without any worry, there are a few things that you should be aware of.
Firstly, you want to make sure you avoid dehydration. There is such a thing as “hot” yoga, where attendees perfect their poses in heated rooms (with temperatures ranging from 100 degrees to 149 degrees) with the intent of “detoxifying” through heavy sweating. This IS NOT recommended for expectant mothers, as maintaining sufficient hydration is extremely important during pregnancy and too much perspiration can lead to difficulty very quickly. Keep a bottle of water with you during any exercise while pregnant so that you can take frequent sips, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
There are also some poses that you should avoid. Any poses that involve lying on your stomach, such as locust and cobra, are unsuitable when you are expecting, and any pose that involves the twisting of the body or a deep forward bend can be dangerous because of how it compresses the blood vessels and nerves that connect to your uterus. Such movements can reduce circulation and blood flow and be very detrimental.
In your second trimester, experts advise against lying flat on your back for long periods of time because the weight of the uterus can interfere with the blood flow to the placenta, so you should avoid any supine poses as you get further into your pregnancy.
Now that you’re entering your second trimester, your centre of gravity will start to shift; this will mean that you may require extra support in the form of a wall of a chair when doing some of the antenatal yoga movements. A fall could harm both you and your delicate passenger, so it’s best not to take any risks.
At this stage, inversions, which involve physically challenging poses where the pelvis and feet are above the heart (headstand, shoulderstand, etc.), are not to be attempted. Even if you’re a yoga veteran and have confidently pulled off such poses in the past, you should wait until after the birth before you resume your gravity-defying positions.
Again, this is where it helps to have an informed instructor, as they will know how to change the poses to compensate for your added weight and your greater level of risk.
What if yoga isn’t for you?
There’s plenty you can do to keep yourself fit and healthy during pregnancy: swimming, indoor cycling, and brisk walking are all great ways to stay active. In fact, if exercise has been a major part of your lifestyle before becoming pregnant, there’s no reason why you can’t continue, albeit with a few alterations to accommodate your bump.
Just leave it until after the birth before attempting a marathon!