The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

It’s no secret that for any stage of life, condition, ache or goal, there’s a yoga that will help. By now, you’ve likely heard about yoga’s many benefits and that’s no exception for pregnancy.

Some commonly known benefits include stress reduction, increased flexibility, reduced back pain and increased respiration. Less commonly shared benefits include balancing metabolism, becoming a mindful eater, enhancing mood, improving sleep, and regulating cortisol.

But I don’t need to tell you this, right?

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the unconventional benefits are what often get people coming back for more yoga. The feedback I get most often from students in my prenatal classes is that they appreciate the sense of community that the yoga space creates. They meet others who are in the same stage of life as them, their pregnancy experiences get normalized and they get to talk and learn about subjects that are often taboo.

If this is new to you, you may be wondering how a yoga class can do that.

Good question.

I aim to extend the principles of yoga beyond the physical and apply the theory in a way that’s relevant to the women in the class. I have dedicated time at the beginning of every class to do this. Yoga class doesn’t only have to be poses and breathing. So we talk.

There is no set format for this, no goal for the chat. It’s simply a time to share and connect. Sometimes there is a question from a student that sparks the talk, sometimes the theme comes from an experience of mine. Sometimes we just have a fun question to answer. We have had tears and laughter, hugs and moments of silence. We learn about each other and gain an acceptance of ourselves. But most of all, we aren’t just learning about yoga, we embody yoga. And this is really where yoga begins.

Check out my current list of prenatal classes and come see what it's about.


American Osteopathic Association, The benefits of Yoga :

Elsevier, The science of yoga - what research reveals :

Harvard Health Publications, Yoga - Benefits beyond the mat :

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Yoga: In Depth :

Psychology Today, Yoga has potent health benefits :

Sonima, The new science on the health benefits of yoga :

Yoga for Common Pregnancy Aches and Pains

Although pregnancy doesn’t come with inherent pain, there are several annoying aches that can arise due to the rapid changes your body goes through in a relatively short period of time as well as our habitual patterns of movement. There are things you can do to prevent and alleviate these pains, including moving in specific ways and gentle stretching. Yoga offers many tools that are accessible with little to no props, special equipment or prior experience. Try this ten minute sequence twice each day, ideally in the morning and evening to alleviate some of your discomfort.

The problem? Sciatic Pain

Sciatic pain in pregnancy can be caused by the growing uterus putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.

What helps? Windmills

  1. Start with you feet wide apart, toes pointing straight forward (you don’t want to change the rotation of your hips by pointing the toes outward). Support your belly with your hands if you are far along in your pregnancy or are feeling compression in your low back. Fold forward until your hands touch the floor or an elevated surface such as yoga blocks or a stack of large books. If folding this far is too much for you, you can still do this by putting your hands on a bed or low table. Ensure that you are “hugging” your ribcage in gently to support your low back.
  2. Place the left hand in the centre of your support. As you inhale, begin rotating the upper body to the right, leading with a straight right arm. Stop rotating when the hips cannot remain level or when your right arm is about to go out of view.
  3. As you exhale, move back to the centre, bringing the right hand into the centre.
  4. Repeat on the other side, following your inhale to open to the left. Follow your exhale to come back to the centre.

You can do this for 10 reps on each side. Increase as you become stronger and accustomed to the movement. Remember not to rotate the hips, you want the sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine) to be flat, as though you could balance something on it through the whole movement. If you’re not sure if your hips are flat, have someone watch you or do this a few times in front of a mirror.

Inhale as you rotate the spine around to one side. Try not to move your arm past where your rotation ends.

Inhale as you rotate the spine around to one side. Try not to move your arm past where your rotation ends.

Exhale back to the starting position and inhale up to the other side.

Exhale back to the starting position and inhale up to the other side.

The problem? Compression in the Spine

Caused by increasing amount of weight at the front of the body. The spine will be pulled forward, increasing the lordotic curve and pressing the lumbar vertebrae closer towards each other. This results in a feeling of compression, or lack of space, in the spine.

What helps? Rounding and straightening the spine (Cat Pose)

  1. Start on hands and knees with the hands placed directly under the shoulders and knees under the hips. You want to start with a “flat” back, or neutral spine. Allow some natural curvature, but your muscles are engaged to support you.
  2. As you exhale, round your spine and tuck your chin as though you want to look at your navel. Aim for a sensation that your upper back is as wide as you can make it and your tailbone is curling between the legs.
  3. As you inhale, return to the start position and pull your shoulders back towards your hips, keeping the lower belly gently engaged to support the spine.
  4. Repeat the cycle at least ten times. Increase as you become more comfortable.
  5. When you are finished, open the knees wide and relax the hips back onto the heels in Child’s Pose and allow the spine to relax.
Inhale into a 'table top' position with a neutral spine.

Inhale into a 'table top' position with a neutral spine.

Exhale as you round the spine up.

Exhale as you round the spine up.

Inhale as you return to the starting position with a neutral spine.

Inhale as you return to the starting position with a neutral spine.

If the knees or wrists bother you in the position, you move the spine through these movements from a seated position. Instead, sit with your hips elevated on a small cushion with the legs crossed in front of you. You can keep your arms free and open them to the sides on the inhale movement, bringing them forward in a “hugging” motion on the exhale movement.

The problem? Heartburn

Heartburn in pregnancy is caused by compression of the stomach as the uterus grows and presses into the organs. With the added pressure, the muscles at the base of the esophagus may relax, making it more likely for stomach contents to spill into the esophagus. Heartburn may also be exacerbated by slowed digestion, thanks to increased amounts of progesterone in pregnancy.

What helps? Leaning Back into Hands

  1. Begin by sitting back on your heels, with toes untucked, if possible. Start leaning back and place your hands behind you with fingers pointing towards your hips.
  2. As you inhale, start lifting the hips off the feet. If your neck is comfortable, let your head come back and be supported by the upper back. Do not do this if it causes strain or if you have a neck injury. Stop the movement once you cannot inhale deeper.
  3. As you begin to exhale, move the head and hips back to the starting position, sitting back on the heels.
  4. Repeat 5-10 times, increasing as you become more comfortable with the movement.
Start position.

Start position.

Inhale as you begin to lift your hips.

Inhale as you begin to lift your hips.

You can go a little further if yo are comfortable and there is no compression in your spine.

You can go a little further if yo are comfortable and there is no compression in your spine.

Finish the sequence by lying on your left side with both legs bent and a pillow or blanket between the knees to avoid pulling the hips out of alignment and something to support the head as needed. Stay in this position for at least three minutes, allowing the whole body to relax.