Much like other types of childbirth-preparation classes, prenatal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing. Research suggests that prenatal yoga is safe and can have many benefits for pregnant women and their babies.
Prenatal yoga can:
Prenatal yoga can also help you meet and bond with other pregnant women and prepare for the stress of being a new parent.
There are many different styles of yoga — some more strenuous than others. Prenatal yoga, hatha yoga and restorative yoga are the best choices for pregnant women. Talk to the instructor about your pregnancy before starting any other yoga class.
Be careful to avoid hot yoga, which involves doing vigorous poses in a room heated to higher temperatures. For example, during the Bikram form of hot yoga, the room is heated to approximately 105 F (40 C) and has a humidity of 40 percent. Hot yoga can raise your body temperature too much, causing a condition known as hyperthermia.
To protect your health and your baby's health during prenatal yoga, follow basic safety guidelines. For example:
Avoid certain postures. When doing poses, bend from your hips — not your back — to maintain normal spine curvature. Avoid lying on your belly or back, doing deep forward or backward bends, or doing twisting poses that put pressure on your abdomen. You can modify twisting poses so that you only move your upper back, shoulders and rib cage.
As your pregnancy progresses, use props during postures to accommodate changes in your center of gravity. If you wonder whether a pose is safe, ask your instructor for guidance.
Don't overdo it. Pay attention to your body and how you feel. Start slow and avoid positions that are beyond your level of experience or comfort. Stretch only as far as you would have before pregnancy.
If you experience any pain or other red flags — such as vaginal bleeding, decreased fetal movement or contractions — during prenatal yoga, stop and contact your health care provider.
Look for a program taught by an instructor who has training in prenatal yoga. Consider observing a class ahead of time to make sure you're comfortable with the activities involved, the instructor's style, the class size and the environment.