We’ve got expert advice on the benefits of prenatal yoga poses. Walmart sits down with Jamie Kalynuik, a certified yoga instructor who specializes in pregnancy and postnatal movement, as she shares her tips and ideas on how you can help prepare your body for this most exciting time in a woman’s life.
Things to keep in mind before starting any new exercise program:
- Consult your healthcare provider to ensure a new exercise program is right for you. Exercising may be harmful if you have any medical problems or pregnancy-related conditions.
- Speak with your yoga instructor and let them know how far along you are in your pregnancy so they can advise you accordingly.
- Never do anything that doesn’t feel right.
Expecting a baby is one of the most beautiful experiences life has to offer a woman, and yet it also comes with its share of growing pains—take it from this mom of four, who has experienced three different pregnancies (including my double-trouble twin boys). Fortunately, I discovered prenatal yoga early in my first pregnancy. After consulting with my healthcare provider and yoga instructor, I practised prenatal yoga during each of my pregnancies to help manage pregnancy-related aches, pains and anxieties. I couldn’t wait to chat with Kalynuik to get her take on the matter.
Jamie Kalynuik is the founder of Yoga Mamas, Toronto’s leading prenatal and postnatal wellness centre. Kalynuik is a certified yoga instructor specializing in pregnancy and postnatal movement. She brings a blend of strengthening and stretching poses into her classes, while also focusing on the importance of the breath and relaxation. She is a DONA trained birth doula and has supported many women during their pregnancies.
Both on the mat and during labour, Kalynuik encourages women to focus on the moment, invite a few gentle challenges in for exploration, and embrace all experiences with compassion. She takes great joy in leading her business, is passionate about working with women on their pregnancy journeys, and is expecting her first baby in February.
“Prenatal yoga has so many benefits. It can help mamas sleep better, manage stress and anxiety, and it may even help to decrease pregnancy-related aches and pains,” says Kalynuik. “It can also help to increase flexibility, strength and endurance.”
Table of Contents:
- What is prenatal yoga?
- What yoga poses are unsafe during pregnancy?
- How often should I do prenatal yoga?
- Does prenatal yoga really help with labour?
- When should you start prenatal yoga?
What is prenatal yoga?
“When done correctly, prenatal yoga is a series of safe movements that have been designed specifically for expecting mamas and their changing bodies,” explains Kalynuik. “This practice is a mix of poses that help to strengthen and build muscles as well as poses that allow mamas to find a great stretch [as their bodies adapt] and create space for their growing bellies.”
One of Kalynuik’s favourite prenatal yoga poses is Cat Stretch, on hands and knees. “It’s really nice because it brings a good stretch into the spine, and can relieve aches and pains that come during pregnancy,” she says. “It’s a pose you can do at home, when getting ready for bed and that you can also bring into labour with you—Cat Stretch [also called Cat Pose] can help baby shift and give mom some relief.”
What yoga poses are unsafe during pregnancy?
While prenatal yoga has plenty of benefits for new moms, there are yoga poses that can be unsafe during pregnancy.
“Some mamas experience dizziness and discomfort when lying on their back; this is due to the weight of the baby compressing the inferior vena cava. Poses that involve lying on your back for extended periods of time are not recommended,” says Kalynuik. “As your belly grows, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to lay on your stomach, so we don’t recommend any poses that involve lying face down on the yoga mat.”
According to Kalynuik, deep back-bends that stretch the abdominal muscles are also not recommended. “This area of your body is stretching the most already and overstretching it will increase diastasis recti,” she explains.
Kalynuik recommends avoiding closed twists where the belly is compressed. “You can replace these with open twists where the movement originates from the upper back and shoulders, allowing room for the belly,” she advises.
She suggests an exercise like Goddess Pose. “It’s a strengthening pose, and also a pose I use to teach breath awareness while using breath as a tool. It’s a nice place for moms to focus on breathing through something for a moment,” she says. “Goddess Pose helps make them feel strong and empowered.”
A good yoga mat is essential for your practice, says Kalynuik, who recommends one with traction to help prevent you from slipping. Look for one that’s thicker, with more padding for added comfort.
This extra-thick 5/8-inch mat by Zenzation Athletics will help protect your spine while exercising. It is dual textured (vertical ribbed and flat texture) to help guard against slippage. Includes stretchable straps to roll up and go.
How often should I do prenatal yoga?
When asked how often an expectant mom should practise prenatal yoga, Kalynuik recommends that three times a week is ideal. “You should have a mix of in studio and at home,” she suggests.
Be sure to bring your water bottle to your practice, she adds, and sip as you go. “You need to stay hydrated during each prenatal yoga session,” advises Kalynuik.
Stay hydrated with this 20-ounce glass water bottle with petal sleeve by Contigo. The BPA-free purity glass water bottle features a stylish silicone sleeve to help protect the glass bottle. Its attached silicone lid creates a convenient carry loop, and the wide mouth makes it easy to add ice cubes before your prenatal yoga session. Comes with a limited lifetime guarantee.
You might also like: Yoga at Home: Yoga Equipment Essentials
Does prenatal yoga really help with labour?
“It can,” says Kalynuik. “Prenatal yoga can be an amazing way to help prepare both your mind and body for all of the physical and emotional work involved throughout the birthing process,” she says.
“Prenatal yoga helps to strengthen your muscles, and a strong body can help to carry you through labour as you walk around, change positions, and deliver your baby,” explains Kalynuik. “It also helps build endurance, as well as breathing and breathwork,” she adds. “Deep slow breathing can calm the mind and also boost the flow of oxygen to you and your baby. Focused breathing is a great tool that mamas can bring into their labour to help them stay calm and conserve energy.”
In her practice, Kalynuik likes to start with breathwork and relaxation. “You’re seated, hips elevated—you can use a block instead of a towel or blanket to give you more height,” she suggests. “Come into your practice, quiet the mind, and slow the breath. You can also do some side stretching in this pose.”
A yoga block offers expectant moms height to create space for moms and babies, and breath as well. This yoga tool is recommended for poses where you might need additional support as you practise prenatal yoga.
This lightweight yoga block with bevelled edges is made of EVA foam construction. It is designed to provide stability and balance as it helps to support and cushion your body.
When should you start prenatal yoga?
“You can begin prenatal yoga at any stage of pregnancy, but it is important to first speak with your healthcare provider,” stresses Kalynuik. “In early pregnancy, prenatal yoga can be integrated into your fitness routines as you begin to phase out other activities and help calm the mind over first-trimester anxiety and concerns,” she says. “In the middle stages of pregnancy, prenatal yoga is a nice way to help relieve the aches and pains that are starting to take place and is a nice way to begin to connect with other mamas who are expecting,” she continues. “Practising prenatal yoga in the last stages of pregnancy is a beautiful way to help connect with your baby, stretch and create more space for your growing belly, and also an opportunity for you to feel connected to your breath as you prepare for labour.”
Kalynuik says Child’s Pose is another favourite prenatal yoga pose. “It helps to open up the hips, and lengthen the spine, releasing the lower back,” she explains. “A lot of moms feel discomfort in the lower back, and find some relief with this pose. It’s also a really calming pose.”
You might want to use a bolster or pillow for more restorative yoga poses like Child’s Pose, says Kalynuik. “A good memory foam pillow, one that has more structure, can help support you in that pose. It can make it easier to get into that restorative pose without overstretching, and gives you something to lie into,” she says.
From helping to calm the mind to preparing the body for labour, prenatal yoga can offer many health benefits to expectant moms and their unborn babies. Following this expert’s prenatal yoga advice may provide an opportunity for you to build an early bond with your baby. It may also help bring some much-needed comfort to your growing body and assist in calming your mind as you prepare yourself for the big day. Keep in mind that everyone’s pregnancy is different. Make sure to check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program and do what’s right for you.
See also: Hospital Bag Checklist: For Mom and Baby
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