Yoga, like walking, presents an easy-to-do, gentle, yet highly effective exercise regimen for people at all levels of physical fitness, including pregnant women. Learning to regulate breathing patterns, and to find optimum ways to achieve relaxation and manage stress, will have great benefits for a woman preparing to go into labor. And the sense of community that comes with joining a prenatal yoga class and meeting a group of other women going through the same life-changing experiences can provide much-needed emotional support.
Most physicians consider yoga in general to be safe during a typical pregnancy, given sensible precautions. Research suggests that yoga can promote healthy sleep, lessen pain in the lower back, alleviate some of the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, and decrease nausea. Some researchers note that the chances of going into premature labor may be diminished through yoga, and that it may also inhibit development of high blood pressure.
Pregnant women should consult their medical professionals before undertaking or modifying an exercise routine. And there are a few specifics to avoid. For example, if you are unused to doing inverted postures such as headstands and shoulderstands, pregnancy at any stage is not the time to incorporate them into your yoga practice, and even experienced practitioners should avoid them later in pregnancy, or on the advice of their doctor or yoga instructor.
Refrain from performing any postures that require you to lie on your back, since this position can impede blood flow to the uterus. Avoid the hot rooms of Bikram yoga, because overheating can be dangerous to your developing baby. And remember that, because your body is now filled with the pregnancy-associated hormone relaxin, whose role is to stretch the uterus in preparation for giving birth, your other muscles are also much more at risk for injury from over-stretching and straining.