Growing tiny humans is a serious superpower and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But with this superpower comes strain on the body (lots of stuff NO ONE told you about) and the serious need for TLC and self care. Something we as moms and women don’t always allow for ourselves but SHOULD, pregnancy or not. And this means dads and dudes too.
So maybe you already have a yoga practice, maybe you don’t, but I always get asked – WHY? “My doctor says I should try it, but WHY bother going to prenatal when I can just pick up a yoga class at my local gym or studio?” “I already have a yoga practice, WHY should I seek out a prenatal class?”
Well here are a few of my reasons WHY you need prenatal yoga…
..and stick around to the end of my post where I share a few yoga mats that may be best for your practice, from the material they are made from to the cushion they provide.
Class adapted to you, not you adapting to the class. I think this certainly one of the most important reasons to find yourself in a prenatal class or find a prenatal class online. The class is designed for YOU, an expectant mom, and is geared towards all trimesters. Your teacher is geared and trained for YOU. Beside the obvious baby bump your body is adapting and changing everyday making room for, and getting ready to have, baby. This means poses to find more room in an already cramped body, fluid movements to gently work joints and stretch muscles, truly relaxing restorative and savasana poses molded to your body and pregnancy. We are talking specific poses to address specific concerns within pregnancy and you won’t have to stand there wondering if you should be doing a pose or not, or how to safely modify the pose to your bump.
Strength and stability. No doubt maintaining or even increasing your strength through your pregnancy is an excellent idea. But you need appropriate strength moves. Moves that don’t create unnecessary strain on specific areas of the body that standard class moves could – your core has enough going on, it doesn’t need the planks. We are talking moves that will ease the weight of baby and create stability. The hips and pelvis take on ALOT during pregnancy. Strength combined with stability exercises help to keep or improve proper posture or skeletal alignment during pregnancy as we carry that extra weight. Prenatal yoga can set you up not only for an easier pregnancy and birth but also an easier recovery post-partum.
You gain tools to take into your practice elsewhere and beyond. Prenatal Yoga Education is what I like to call it. The do’s and don’ts to keep you safe in your home practice or in your favorite local class. What poses are ok, what should you avoid, and what falls into the “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” category. Learn how to use all those yoga props to your advantage – blocks, blankets, bolsters. Props are your best friend when you are pregnant and you can learn how to adjust them through all three trimesters too. Furthermore, how to adjust a pose to meet your growing belly, like adjusting to a wider stance.
And while I don’t mean to scare anyone, some poses in a typical class may seem ok but they may cause more harm and strain than good. Thanks to relaxin in the body, you can actually take a stretch a little further than you really should – your focus should be on strength and stability in a pose and not necessarily increasing flexibility. And if your current teacher isn’t trained in proper modifications they could inadvertently and innocently enough get you in some no-no positions trying to adapt you to the class. Prenatal yoga teaches you not only how to practice safely but to advocate for yourself – to change and adapt a class you are taking to you and to let the teacher know, hey I got this.
Stress and pain relief. Read – restore and relax! Breathing to calm the mind and body. Stretches to move baby and find relief from day to day aches and pains. Myofascial release to help address fluid retention, decreased circulation, restricted mobility, and muscle tension. Restorative poses to let it all go and rest and still be properly supported. Mindfulness exercises to calm anxiety and bond with baby. Extra time in class for all of this!
A mindful pregnancy… Whether you are first time mom or a second, third, or fourth – self care is of the upmost importance! Its ok to spoil yourself a little – you are growing a human! Pregnancy is an incredible time. Enjoy it! Cherish the moments. But when we are stressed, anxious, tired, exhausted, aching… we forget to revel in it! If you can take time at least once a week for mindfulness or to relax and take care of yourself it will make a world of difference. I am speaking from personal experience here and countless research on what mindfulness can do for you. Imagine what several times a week can do when you repeat it at home and in class!
And finally, community. Maybe you don’t live near family? Maybe you are the first to be pregnant in your family or circle of friends? Maybe you just need another expectant mom to share your questions, concerns or complaints with? I learned more from my prenatal yoga class community than from anywhere else about all the stuff that no one likes to talk about. Heartburn? Try aloe vera juice. Need a good body pillow recommendation? Got it. Feel like strangling the father of your unborn child because he has NO CLUE how you are feeling? Me too! And if you can’t find a prenatal class near you and are feeling a little alone in your pregnancy, try looking online for expectant moms forums, meet ups, or Facebook groups – these are always a great place to exchange information, just be mindful of groups that you feel worse about yourself and your pregnancy than when you logged on. If you don’t feel comfortable, then log off – same as any classes or groups that may meet in person. Find your group, and know that not every group is for you, and that is OK!
At the end of the day, the goal of the prenatal yoga class is to create an environment of community, practicing yoga in a way that is beneficial and adaptive to you, your changing body, and your baby. It is also special time for you to bond with your baby in a different way throughout your pregnancy. It is restoring and relaxing. Its meant to carry you through a healthy pregnancy and set you up for a fast and easy recovery post-partum. Prenatal yoga is one of the best things you can do for yourself and baby in pregnancy, its a whole mind-body approach, and why doctors, doulas, and midwifes recommend it so often!
So if you are expecting, I HIGHLY encourage you to find a prenatal class in your area or online. Give at least one class. I offer private and small group prenatal classes upon request if you are local to the North Dallas/Collin County area. And if you can’t find it in your area and online is not for you, ask your local studio, they should be able to find you an instructor to offer privates or has been waiting to start a class.
So what about the best mat for my prenatal practice and beyond…
Many of us ladies once we become pregnant, especially when its our first pregnancy, immediately go into what I like to call “protective nesting” mode. We immediately begin to clean up the house, our products, our cleaners, our diets, maybe even our activities and habits, to both get ready for and provide our unborn child with best set of circumstances we can. Well, with your yoga practice, did you know you should clean up your yoga mat too?!
For starters, you may find that the current mat you have no longer serves you as you may need more comfort and cushion. Then, as you learn about chemicals that may be harmful during pregnancy, it may be time to ditch the old mat and embrace a more comfortable, safer mat, for both you, your growing child, and the environment. I love searching Consumers Advocate for information on products when I am having a hard time choosing what to buy. From prenatal vitamins to cord-blood banking they have tested, review, and researched the top products and services and not even yoga mats are off limits with them!
So why bother check safety when it comes to yoga mats? Because, just like our beauty, health, and food products, many yoga mat companies have take to “greenwashing” because they know how many yogi’s take their impact on the environment seriously, and without much regulation we need organizations such as Consumers Advocates and the Environmental Working Group to test products and the validity of their claims. Because, surprise, surprise, many are manufactured with chemicals that harmful to both us, our children, and the environment. Insert eye roll here.
So what does this mean for me as an expectant mama, or any yogi really, you ask? First, ditch the PVC mat if you have one. I hate to say it, but PVC is toxic to us and the environment from start to finish, and that comfy PVC mat you are laying on may have also been treated with phthalates. Which, trust me, was news to me!
According to Consumer Advocates..
“Many phthalates – chemicals added to PVC to make it soft and pliable – are classified as carcinogens by most health agencies around the world. In fact, in 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the use of certain phthalates from use in children’s products, and multiple studies have found links between phthalate exposure during pregnancy and birth defects. This means that, if you’re a parent or an expectant mother, mats made from PVC should be especially worrisome.
But even if you’re not, and you do yoga regularly, it should still be concerning. Jeff Gearhart, Director of Research for the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, MI, (the non-profit that partnered with Consumer Advocates to test the yoga mats in question) told us that “the phthalates involved in PVC are especially likely to be released even at room temperature. The hotter it gets, the more likely they are to be released.”
Second, find a yoga mat that both meets your practice needs AND is made from safer materials. Consumers Advocate selected 10 non-PVC mats to review, use, and lab test and have posted their results here. I recommend seeing what they have to say when selecting the perfect mat for your practice. Not only have they tested these mats, they also give the why, and what you should be looking for in yoga mat materials, PLUS all the science behind it – information you can use to select the best mat for you, even if its not on their list. I don’t know about ya’ll, but I love being armed with this kind of information to help me make the best decision when it comes to my purchases.
It can be overwhelming to move through this world and navigate families and life and work and the vest sea of consumer products during pregnancy, but at the the end of the day, I think Maya Angelou says it best when she says…
And as always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with comments below or questions over on our contact form.