I am not a pregnancy yoga teacher and possibly never will be. I believe that you need to be woman teacher or trainer to teach how to exercise during pregancy to a lady. A man hasn’t got the sensitivity and the personal body knowledge and experience to help women during those very important 9 months. However, through the years, I have seen so many of my friends and students becoming pregnant and enjoying the benefits of exercising in yoga or pilate classes, in the swimming pool etc. It is essential to keep the body active and healthy for both the mum and the baby growing. This is why I wanted to publish that very informative and straight to the point article written by friends and colleagues at the Klinik, EC2 in London. They are offering great classes and if you need more information please click the link at the end of the post. Enjoy! Laurent
Being as fit as possible during pregnancy can offer significant health benefits – not only to your body and baby, but also for being in labour, giving birth, for post-natal recovery and for getting back into shape after the birth.
Health benefits of exercising in pregnancy
Following an exercise routine offers health benefits at any stage of life, but when a new life is also beginning in the body, it can be particularly beneficial:
- Physically – exercising can off-set pregnancy aches and pains and may also keep digestive processes moving, alleviating common pregnancy-related digestive complaints such as indigestion and constipation. A regular exercise routine can also prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy, which may also reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. Exercising to maintain a good overall fitness can also benefit your immune system which supports both your own health and that of your baby.
- Mentally – regular, daily exercise can also help to improve mood, aid sleep and boost energy levels, at a time when all these may be particularly required!
Getting the go ahead
Current recommendations are that pregnant women should exercise for at least 30minutes on most days, but preferably each day. For those already dedicated to a form of exercise or sport, it may be fine to carry on, although this depends on the activity and your general health and comfort.
For those who want to get started, many pregnant women find that maternity leave often means they finally have time to focus on themselves (at least for a short while) and introduce an exercise programme. Care should be taken to build up this routine gradually, particularly if your work role is usually sedentary, such as a desk or computer-based role. Initial sessions should take place for no more than 15 minutes continuously, with no more than three sessions a week, before building up gradually to exercising for longer and more often.
However, whether you’re getting fit for pregnancy or if you’ve been exercising for years, in all cases it is advisable to discuss your exercise programme with your healthcare practitioner and midwife. Then, once you’ve got started with any form of exercise, if you experience any unusual physical symptoms or even an exacerbation of usual ones, it is important to seek medical advice.
Of course, the fitness campaign should only include activities appropriate for maternity. Contact sports, including rugby, football, basketball and volleyball and activities which include an increased risk of falling, such as horse-riding, skiing and gymnastics should be avoided across all trimesters of a pregnancy.
If you’ve chosen an alternative exercise activity which is led by a professional, do also ensure that this person is aware of your pregnancy and can tailor activities to the needs of your pregnant body. For example, it’s wise to avoid exercises which require you to lie on your back in the second or third trimesters and appropriately qualified practitioner should be able to guide you to more suitable alternatives.
For your chosen form of exercise, such as gym training, exercise classes, Yoga and Pilates, common exercise advice still applies. It’s still essential to warm up and cool down appropriately, to avoid injuries and whilst staying hydrated is always important when exercising, pregnant women are particularly advised to drink plenty of water and avoid overheating.
Particularly if pregnancy is a motivation for focusing on fitness, or when it’s a case of swapping your usual exercise habits for a routine better matched to maternity, it makes sense to choose an activity which can actually support health in pregnancy. Activities such as Yoga or Pilates both involve the use of disciplined movement to improve physical and mental strength, co-ordination and control – all ideal aspects for supporting women through pregnancy, labour and post-natal periods. The gentle stretching aspects of both Yoga and Pilates routines can also help to reduce the aches and strains commonly associated with pregnancy, such as leg cramps and back ache.
Yoga and Pilates for pregnancy
Both Yoga and Pilates particularly benefit pregnancy because they offer gradual development of core strength and stamina, with an emphasis on breathing techniques for restoration and relaxation. In addition:
- Yoga’s emphasis on physical positions benefits posture and can make a positive difference to how the body ‘carries’ a pregnancy.
- Posture in pregnancy is also affected by the pregnancy hormone Relaxin, which literally relaxes ligaments and joints (specifically in the pelvis) in readiness for labour. This can also have the effect of making your body more flexible, meaning that taking up Yoga or Pilates during pregnancy can make your stretches more effective and help you to master certain Yoga positions and Pilates movements more quickly.
- However, Yoga and Pilates include specific exercises to help off-set the negative effects of this ‘relaxation’ in the pelvic floor. These are the muscles which predominantly support the growing womb and those other organs (such as bowel and bladder) which are directly affected as the womb extends. Targeting the pelvic floor with appropriate exercises can help reduce weakness which results in stress incontinence (the passing of small amounts of urine when laughing, coughing or sneezing). This complaint is common in late pregnancy, but may continue after birth if muscles remain weak. Focusing on these particular muscle groups in pregnancy helps to reduce problems and support these muscles to recover after the birth.
- Although Pilates and Yoga specifically focus on core abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, exercises are specifically designed to help keep these toned without putting any strain on other joints.
- Focusing on core strength in areas such as the abdominals (tummy muscles) strengthens these against the strain of the growing baby’s weight. The tummy muscles also support the girdle of the pelvis and back, and any weakness in these muscles can lead to pain in the back and pelvis, so keeping these strong can reduce the body’s susceptibility to injuries and pregnancy aches and pains.
- With an emphasis on breathing techniques to facilitate safe and effective exercise, both Yoga and Pilates can help you to develop breathing techniques which are effective for relaxation and pain relief, both vital during labour, birth and post-natal recovery.
As with all physical and mental well-being programmes, exercise in pregnancy is about achieving balance. Simple aerobic exercise such as brisk walking in the fresh air and swimming (which is particularly useful as a low-impact, non-weight bearing way to relieve painful legs and joints) should be combined with exercise programmes such as Pilates or Yoga, which specifically build muscle strength and promote stamina.
Finally, to get the most from your pregnancy exercise, seek out classes which specifically focus on antenatal exercise and ensure that the practitioner is appropriately qualified to instruct pregnant women. With the right practitioner and with the emphasis on respiration, restoration and relaxation, Yoga or Pilates can be ideal activities for a fitness beginner and can support not only your own health, but also that of your pregnancy and growing baby. Find out more about yoga and Pilates at The Klinik.