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Prenatal Yoga: Why You Should Give It a Try

Update Date: Apr 09, 2013 02:03 AM EDT

Prenatal yoga can be a good alternative workout program for pregnant women who are hesitant to hop on the treadmill or elliptical.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women workout for at least 30 minutes daily, or at least on most days. Benefits of exercising while pregnant include improved mood, sleep and posture, increased muscle tone, strength and endurance and also helps reduce symptoms like backaches, constipation, swelling and bloating.

A major focus of prenatal yoga is lots of long inhales and exhales. Kahlil Kuykendall, a certified prenatal yoga teacher in Washington, D.C. said the combination of postures and breathing exercises help to prepare pregnant women for labor.

"It makes you stronger all over, and that's not only preparing you for the labor and delivery, but also for when you're going to be carrying that baby around," said Kuykendall. "It's breathing in that final hour, when the baby is descending, where it all comes together. You need strength from the yoga postures, but it's that breathing that'll help to relax the mind and nervous system."

Oklahoma City prenatal yoga instructor, Karen Prior said prenatal yoga breathing and relaxation techniques are helpful in labor because they "slow the heart rate, clear the mind and relax the body."

Prior points out pregnant women who attend prenatal yoga classes are building a sense of community and also bonding with their unborn babies at the same time.

"The most important bond pregnant women make via prenatal yoga? The one they form with their babies," Prior said. "We remind [women] to take time and connect with their babies through meditation and breath, and touch of the belly."

The ACOG recommends that women receive a clinical physical evaluation before beginning a prenatal yoga program. Prior also stresses the importance of selecting a registered instructor from the Yoga Alliance website who has completed at least 100 hours of prenatal yoga instructing. Since these instructors may be hard to come by, Prior suggests finding a certified prenatal teacher as the second best option. These instructors are still qualified, but they have less hours of instructing under their belt. Another alternative would be purchasing DVDs or specialized books on prenatal yoga.

"The most important thing is listening to your body and doing what feels right," Prior said.

Prenatal yoga is a good option for pregnant women who want to feel strong, relaxed and confident. Due to the many physical changes during and after pregnancy, Prior stresses the important elements of flexibility and strength that prenatal yoga can help women develop and maintain.

Kuykendall said "cat and cow" and "squat" positions are good to start with. However, if prenatal yoga is not something that fits in your schedule, it is beneficial to at least practice some slow breathing exercises and "sit quietly, and focus on the baby and what's happening within," Kuykendall says. "It's a miracle and you don't want to miss it."

This was adapted from an article in U.S. News by Laura McMullen

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