By Faye Martins
As a relatively low-impact activity, yoga practice is an ideal healthy fitness routine for pregnant women. Doctors recommend that pregnant women exercise regularly, following certain guidelines.
First, women who were working out before pregnancy can continue their normal workout unless pain, over-heating, or excessive fatigue inhibits them. I have a friend who ran a marathon at 10 weeks pregnant with her doctor's full approval. She had been training long before she got pregnant, and her pregnancy was healthy enough that it posed little risk for her or her baby.
Second, women who want to start working out during pregnancy to derive the advantages that a fit body derives during labor are encouraged to do so but should start out slowly and increase their activity levels with patience and caution. In other words, don't start training for a marathon during pregnancy if you've been sitting at your desk for the last year.
Third, women should be aware of changes their bodies undergo during pregnancy. Loosening joints make high-impact activities like jumping more injury-prone, and a change in equilibrium could mean trouble balancing for women. Other pregnancy-related adjustments include an increased risk of fainting, overheating, falling or nausea.
Clearly, a consistent yoga practice easily fits within these general guidelines, and women can begin or continue to do yoga as long as their pregnancy is healthy, with only a few minor modifications.
The Question of Safety
Pregnant women are encouraged to lie down on their sides instead of backs to prevent any decrease in the oxygen supply to their babies. Thus during yoga practice, poses where you lie flat on your back should be avoided.
As most pregnant women will find, it will grow increasingly difficult to lie on the stomach during pregnancy, as a growing uterus will eventually make it feel like you are lying on top of a watermelon. So once your uterus begins to protrude, you also should avoid poses where you lie on your stomach.
Abdominal stretches will grow increasingly difficult as well, and so will poses like shoulder stand that engage abdominal muscles for much of the balance work.
Some pregnant women have trouble with poses that place a lot of stress on their pelvis whereas others struggle under the weight of their growing abdomen in plank or hands-and-knees poses. Therefore, any pose, which causes sharp or chronic pain, should be avoided.
Some women question whether hot yoga is dangerous for pregnancy since women are advised to avoid overheating their bodies during the first trimester. Many practitioners feel, however, that you can still practice in heated classes wisely, by monitoring your body temperature and leaving the room to cool down if necessary.
However, to be prudent, a specialized prenatal class seems to be the best choice. As always, check with your doctor before beginning any fitness regimen.