Prenatal yoga Prenatal yoga
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Prenatal Yoga

More and more health professionals are now recommending prenatal yoga, an ancient art form that has been tweaked to stretch, strengthen and inspire even the most pregnant body. Yoga for its own sake is a relaxing, low-impact way to develop strength and flexibility, and what better time to develop these skills than during pregnancy!

As the female body changes throughout pregnancy, it can become more difficult to exercise because, among other things, the "baby bump" becomes heavy and gets in the way. However, prenatal yoga is in a different category altogether, because it is specifically designed for the pregnant body - with both mother and baby in mind. In fact, many prenatal yoga instructors emphasize the physical and emotional connection between mother and fetus and encourage the mother to focus on and strengthen those connections.

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Prenatal yoga combines several techniques, such as stretching, deep breathing, meditation, muscle-toning exercises and Kegel exercises (focused contraction/relaxation exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor), specifically aimed at helping a woman prepare for childbirth. Practicing prenatal yoga can also help unwind tight, stressed muscles and relieve many of the aches and pains that accompany pregnancy. Some women even claim that their post-pregnancy recovery was easier because they practiced prenatal yoga regularly.

Because of the growing popularity of prenatal yoga, there are a variety of ways to participate. An increasing number of gyms and recreation centers now offer prenatal yoga classes. Prenatal yoga classes offered in a group setting can provide several benefits, such as the opportunity for a woman to meet and spend time with other pregnant women in a low-stress environment. Another added benefit is the presence of a live yoga instructor. An instructor specifically trained to work with prenatal yoga classes will likely be able to observe each woman's movements and assist anyone who is having trouble.

For women who prefer to practice yoga in the quiet privacy of home, several DVDs and videos are available. Some of the most effective prenatal yoga DVDs features women in each trimester practicing the yoga poses simultaneously. Each participant demonstrates adaptations for the exercises according to her shrinking flexibility and growing belly. This is not only very helpful, but also makes the DVD a tool that can be used effectively throughout the entire pregnancy.

In essence, prenatal yoga is easy on the body and easy on the mind. For this reason, previous experience with yoga is not required for a productive workout. Most yoga routines are actually quite adaptable and accessible for everyone from the most inexperienced beginner to the expert.

Because yoga is an anaerobic activity, it is important to remember to combine yoga with an aerobic activity, such as walking, to create a balanced workout. For instance, alternating days of prenatal yoga and walking can help maintain cardiovascular endurance and flexibility, both of which are essential during a healthy pregnancy, labor and delivery, and recovery.

In spite of all the wonderful benefits of yoga, please use caution: Some regular yoga poses can be hazardous to mother and/or baby during this sensitive time. For instance, some twists can constrict the pregnant belly. Also, yoga poses that require significant balance can feel different for a front-heavy pregnant body and result in a fall. For this reason, it is important for an expectant mother to seek out instructors or videos that are specifically geared toward prenatal yoga. And as always, be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.

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