1: Yoga builds strength
“One of the best things about yoga is it makes you stronger all over,” says Santa Monica YogaWorks instructor Julie Jacobs. You’ll need that strength in your lower body to carry the added pregnancy weight and compensate for changes in balance. And you’ll need it in your upper body to handle the weight you’ll be carrying around for the year or so after birth… your baby!
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2: Yoga helps relieve aches and pains
Back pain is a common pregnancy complaint, often worsening as the weight of the uterus (and the baby in it) increases. Prenatal yoga strengthens the muscles that support this weight, taking pressure off the lower back. Many women experience irritation of the sciatic nerve during pregnancy, and yoga can also be great for this. The pigeon pose and half-moon pose can stretch this area to relieve pain, and inversions can help make space in the pelvis to lessen irritation.
3: Yoga teaches you to breathe
Breathing exercises can be incredibly helpful during pregnancy for calming and centering purposes, and to maximize oxygen flow when you need it. Breath control is an invaluable asset for pain management in labor and birth, especially for those hoping to forego medical pain relief options.
4: Yoga teaches balance
As weight and body shape changes, pregnant women can feel wonky and wobbly. Balancing asanas, like the tree pose and the half-moon pose, help women get comfortable with their changing center of gravity, while poses like the downward dog and the warrior will help stretch and strengthen the muscles required to counterbalance the big belly.
5: Yoga helps you open your hips for childbirth
Not only does yoga make your body stronger all over (a huge asset in childbirth), but as your pregnancy progresses, your practice can be tailored to focus more directly on birth preparation. Squats and other hip-opening poses can help your baby get into position and help with pushing. Some yoga teachers will work directly with women in the end of the last trimester to give them tools to cope with pain and ease childbirth.
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6: Yoga relieves anxiety
The attention to breathing, the calm atmosphere and music, and the stretching and relaxation can really help turn down the noise in your head. Yoga is about being in the moment and letting everything else fall away for the time being. That break from the bustle can help with anxiety about health, birth, or anything else there is to do or worry about.
7: Yoga helps you bond with your baby
The focus on staying in the moment can serve another important purpose. Prenatal yoga gives moms a heightened ability to connect with the experience of being pregnant in the here and now, and bond with their babies. It’s easy to lose that feeling in the hubbub of the everyday, so having a dedicated time to relax and connect can be a real gift — the echoes can last a lifetime.
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8: Yoga teaches you how to rest on command
“Nap when the baby naps.” You’ll hear this advice dozens of times during and after pregnancy. The takeaway is that sleeping when you’re tired is not necessarily part of your new normal. Instead, you’ll have to learn to rest when the opportunity presents itself. Savasana, the relaxation pose that comes at the end of any yoga class, is often adapted to a side-lying or semi-reclining pose in prenatal yoga. But the benefits are the same. Learning to quiet your mind and body and get rest when you can will serve you well when your sleep schedule is out of your control.
9: Yoga is a great way to meet other moms
Prenatal exercise classes are one of the best ways to meet moms who are also at your stage in pregnancy. As you transition to a new phase of your life, having a supportive network of women who understand what you’re going through is incredibly helpful.
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10: Yoga encourages confidence
Unfamiliar feelings and uncomfortable side effects often result in a general sense of unease with your body during pregnancy. Seeing the power of your own body in a room full of other powerful pregnant women can be great positive reinforcement. And your yoga instructor’s words of wisdom can help remind you of your