It’s okay if you don’t want to work out. We get it. These are unimaginably trying times, and we’re right there with you learning to navigate this new world. Some of us Kindred Bravely moms get relief from exercise, some from a great show, some from a gratitude journal. “You do you” has never felt truer.
But if you’re itching to move your body, yoga can be incredibly beneficial for pregnant and postpartum women. In addition to being a great workout you can do at home, yoga can relieve stress and teach you helpful breathing techniques – all of which make it especially helpful during this challenging period.
We asked our very own Customer Service Manager, Hannah Danto-Dorafsha, who is also a yoga instructor, to share her expertise with you.
Best Yoga Poses for Pregnant and Postpartum Women
Common areas of tightness and discomfort for pregnant and postpartum women are the hips and lower back. One of my favorite poses is Low Lunge, which can be done with your back knee up or down. Use blocks under your hands to make space for your belly and keep your spine elongated. It's a great stretch for the front of the hips while maintaining a strong and stable foundation.
Cat and Cow, or Cat with some gentle pelvic rocks, are great for relieving lower back pain and stretching the spine.
Another great one is Downward Facing Dog on the wall or the kitchen counter. No, you're not hopping up on the kitchen counter! You brace your hands on the counter (or wall) and bend forward to create an L shape with your body. It gives a nice stretch along the spine and shoulders without giving you heartburn from actually going down to the floor!
Tips for Doing Yoga While Pregnant If You've Never Done It Before
Take it easy and be really conservative! The hormone relaxin is released into your body during pregnancy and does just what you'd think - relaxes the ligaments in your body, making your joints looser, which helps your body adjust as your baby grows but makes it easy to injure yourself.
Even if you feel you can easily go deeper or further into a pose, it's not always a good idea, especially if you’re pregnant or recently postpartum. Make sure to find a yoga teacher (whether online only or in person) who is educated about how to help pregnant women move safely.
Tips for Experienced Yogis as They Adjust to Their Changing Bodies During Pregnancy
Be kind to yourself! It's easy to beat yourself up about what you used to be able to do. It's also surprising how often a pregnant belly can get in the way of what you feel like your body really needs. Be gentle with yourself in movement and in mindset. Know that breathing and taking time for yourself can be just as beneficial as a physically demanding yoga session.
Yoga Poses Pregnant and Postpartum Women Should Avoid
The cardinal rule in yoga is to not do anything that doesn't feel right. If it makes you feel icky, stop.
Please talk with your medical provider about modifications you should make, but Upward Facing Dog is generally not recommended once you’re showing. Bridge can be great until you start feeling uneasy when lying on your back. If you weren't practicing Wheel before pregnancy, wait until several months after birth to start building up to that.
Use caution with plank and Chaturanga; they can actually cause more harm than good if you have an abdominal separation like diastasis recti. There are a lot of ways to engage your core, like pelvic rocks and breathing. Those are great ways to maintain proper core connection in pregnancy and to reconnect the core after birth.
Keeping Your Balance While Practicing Prenatal Yoga
The wall is your friend. Even if you know you can balance really well, be near a wall just in case.
Many women experience pelvic separation (SPD) during pregnancy that is quite uncomfortable. Split leg poses like Warrior I and II, high lunge, and wide-legged forward folds can worsen pelvic pain. If you feel any discomfort or shooting pains when your legs are separated, stick to poses where your legs stay together (like Mountain pose with a block between your inner thighs to help stabilize the hips and pelvis).
Savasana for Pregnant Women
There are many Savasana modifications available for pregnant women. If lying on your back is still comfortable, you can bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor to help relieve lower back pain. Or lie on one side in the fetal position with a pillow between your knees. If you have a bolster and blocks handy, google “supported pregnant Savasana.” There are lots of options!
How Yoga Can Help During Labor
This is one of the reasons I became a yoga teacher. I had such profound benefits from yoga, mainly the breathing and the mindset, during my four-day labor with my first child. Without yoga, I would have ended up in a very different birth situation. But knowing that it would pass and that I was capable of getting through each moment, that relief would come with my exhale, helped me have the delivery I wanted.
Breathing can be the difference between a "5" and a “10” on a pain scale. It’s an amazing tool that is accessible to everyone, no matter what your physical body shape or size is. It's also tremendously helpful for the postpartum period. My first child was very colicky, and breathing and letting go were the only things that kept me sane from moment to moment.
Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor
Right after birth, pelvic floor strengthening looks nothing like what you imagine. There are no planks, no crunches. Rebuilding your pelvic floor after pregnancy and birth means drawing up through your pelvic floor throughout the day to make sure your core is as stabilized as possible. Continue beyond the typical Kegel, where you imagine stopping the flow of urine; imagine your pelvic floor going up like an elevator.
Before you pick up your baby, square your hips and torso towards them. Engage your pelvic floor up and bend your knees rather than your back. This same "drawing up" action can be done throughout the day. Where conventional wisdom would tell you to squeeze your belly and create a bearing or pushing down sensation, think "draw up" instead.
When you’re ready to bring gentle movement like yoga back into your day, remember to engage the pelvic floor in each position. Keeping your pelvis stable by engaging your pelvic floor as you move your extremities is one of the best things you can do for your body after baby. (I'm not a doctor; I'm merely sharing my experience from my own practice and life after two vaginal births. Please consult a pelvic floor specialist who can address your individual needs.)
Yoga Classes Pregnant and Postpartum Women Can Do at Home
I did a short yoga sequence in our Facebook group KindredMamas! Join the group, then click here to see the 30-minute session. With so many people implementing social distancing, many yoga studios and fitness apps are offering free or low-cost classes online; look for experienced prenatal yoga teachers.
Click the photo to check out our joggers and nursing sports bra.
Practicing Yoga with a Baby or Toddler
A lot of yogis find ways to incorporate their babies or kids into their practice. For me, it was most beneficial to practice when my babies were asleep, so I could feel truly restored by the time I spent on my mat. My one piece of advice is to not do any yoga poses wearing your baby that you wouldn't do if you were holding them in your arms. Check out streaming options for Baby & Me or Toddler & Me classes – they might not be as relaxing, but they could be a lot of fun.
Favorite Workout Clothes for Prenatal Yoga
Click the photo to check out Hannah's favorites!
With your doctor’s permission, exercise can be an incredible way to improve your physical, mental, and emotional health during and after pregnancy – and help you contend with the stress you may be experiencing. However you choose to practice self-care, know that we’re here for you, and we want to hear from you. Let us know how you’re doing – and how we can help – in the comments below.