Maybe you’ve seen Instagram photos of glowing moms-to-be looking blissful in a yoga pose, or maybe you’re wondering how all those moms doing yoga with their babies on the mat actually find inner peace when that baby inevitably crawls away, but either way, you may be wondering: should I give prenatal yoga a try?
Many women have found that these classes are a great way to connect with other mamas at the same life stage, get in touch with their changing bodies, and spend some quality time focused on physical and mental health. What’s not to love about that?
So, what exactly is prenatal yoga? In short, it’s yoga for pregnant moms. Although the foundation and even many of the exercises are similar to traditional yoga, prenatal yoga is tailored on supporting a mother through her pregnancy. For instance, the core work component may be less intense as her stomach grows and moves may focus on gentle stretching in the hips and back to ease discomfort.
Prenatal yoga can be a low-impact form of movement during pregnancy, but, it’s also a powerful one. Research has shown that prenatal yoga can have a “significant impact” on pregnant women’s stress levels and even help their immune systems function better.
Prenatal yoga can also impact your delivery: a 2018 study found that moms who did prenatal yoga sessions once a week during their third-trimester had fewer inductions, less need for pain medications and more vaginal deliveries than moms who didn’t do yoga. If you’ve decided that a delivery with minimal medical interventions is right for you, prenatal yoga could help you achieve that.
Why is it so beneficial? Yoga for pregnant moms specifically focuses on the things that pregnant bodies need. Prenatal yoga focuses on helping women improve core and pelvic floor strength and expanding their breathing capacity. That— n addition to the stress relief benefits—can help make labor more bearable. And, even if prenatal yoga doesn’t impact your delivery, it can help you sleep better during the third trimester. Believe us, you’ll be grateful for that!
What to Expect from Prenatal Yoga
If you’ve never done yoga before, that’s OK! Prenatal yoga is meant for moms-to-be of all shapes, sizes, and athletic abilities. All moves during class can be adjusted and modified, and you should only ever do things that you’re entirely comfortable with.
If you’re not quite ready to plunge into an in-person class, or you’d prefer to stay home right now, you can also find prenatal yoga videos online. Be Mama Strong is a popular option and even offers a free month trial so that you can give prenatal yoga a try. Of course, there are tons of free options online, so you try a few different ones to decide what’s best for you. (Just be careful to vet any “experts” when it comes to pregnancy yoga, and always check with your own pregnancy care provider before starting any exercise routine.)
Mom and Baby Yoga
If you’re interested in giving yoga a try when you’re ready to get moving again after giving birth, the first step is giving your body enough time to rest and heal for a few weeks. It might seem counterproductive, but we promise that a healed body = a healthy body.
Once you’re medically cleared to work out again and feel ready to incorporate more movement into your day, yoga offers a gentle transition back to exercise. Mom and baby yoga provides a lot more than an adorable Instagram activity. Although there’s less research on mom and baby yoga than there is on prenatal yoga, the evidence indicates that yoga has health benefits for both mom and baby.
For example, a 2015 study found that women who participated in mom and baby yoga had lower rates of postpartum depression. Some yoga practitioners believe that yoga can help babies sleep longer and eat better—and if you’re like most moms, you’ll give anything a try to get a bit more shut-eye from your little one. If nothing else, you’ll have some uninterrupted time to bond with your baby and maybe even a chance to get to know other new mamas.
What to Expect from Mom and Baby Yoga
Going to your first mommy and me yoga class can be intimidating. You’re probably still adjusting to your new postpartum body, and getting used to positions with your baby might seem challenging. Before you even start yoga, take a big, deep breath and relax—and hey, breathing is key in yoga, so you’re on the right track.
Choose an outfit that is comfortable (don’t worry about how you look) and throw your hair in a mom bun. Pack a spare baby blanket that can be put on the floor. Then, push aside any worries you have about your infant crying or having a blowout—we promise, mommy and me yoga instructors have seen it all!
If you’ve attended other yoga classes, you might know that yoga studios are often silent and still. But don’t worry; that’s not the case with mom and baby yoga. While you’ll get the benefits of a calm environment, it’s entirely fine if your baby cries or gurgles, or if you need to step aside for a moment to give a bottle or nurse.
Your yoga instructor will walk you through a variety of poses and interactions designed to help you stretch and build strength while bonding with your baby. Your little one will also start building their own strength. Babies can start coming to mom and baby yoga classes as young as six weeks, and can stay until they’re on the move. After that, you’ll move on to a class for moms and older babies.
Pregnancy and early motherhood can be overwhelming, mentally and physically. Prenatal yoga and mom and baby yoga are great ways to reconnect with your body, bond with your baby, and meet other new moms in your area.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many times per week should I do prenatal yoga?
Studies have shown that prenatal yoga has benefits even if you only do 30 minutes once a week. Listen to your body (and mind) and choose a prenatal yoga schedule that feels right for you. If you want to do prenatal yoga every day, that’s just fine!
How old does my baby have to be to start mommy and me yoga classes?
Most classes welcome babies who are 6 weeks or older. Young babies will likely sleep through most of class, but by three months, babies can start participating more, doing poses and interacting with you. Many mommy and me yoga classes welcome babies until they’re on the move, at which point, they graduate to tot classes.
Can I do prenatal yoga into my third trimester?
Yes! Prenatal yoga is particularly beneficial during the third trimester. By this point, you’re increasingly uncomfortable physically, and yoga can release some aches and pains. Since the mindfulness and breathing aspects of yoga can help you during labor, it’s good to keep your practice up right until the end of pregnancy. Of course, talk to your provider and listen to your body—the third trimester is not the time to push yourself. Some poses, like twists and full inversions, should be avoided during the third trimester.
Here’s Why Experts Don’t Recommend Cosleeping
Reviewed by Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN…