Prenatal Yoga: 5 Benefits & Safety Tips

Published May 23rd, 2022 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by
Camille Freking
Medically Reviewed:
Chris Riley

When you’re pregnant, exercising can be an excellent way to support your overall health and wellness (and thus, your baby’s health and wellness).

But as much as you loved doing high-intensity workouts in your pre-baby days, this period in your life might call for something a little different. Enter: Prenatal yoga.

Yoga is well-known for its gentle movement between poses and integrated breathwork. Prenatal yoga is specially tailored for pregnant women and accommodates all of the changes that their bodies are going through.

If you’re looking for a new physical activity to bring into your life with a little one on the way, then prenatal yoga can be an excellent option as a low impact exercise. 

Keep reading this guide from USA Rx to discover what prenatal yoga is, its benefits, and how you can practice it safely (even in the first trimester). 

What Is Prenatal Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient practice that links physical posture, breathing, and meditation. It is linked to various health benefits for both the mind and the body.

Some yoga practices are vigorous (like power yoga or Bikram hot yoga), while others offer a more gentle yoga workout for expecting moms (such as yin yoga, pregnancy-geared Vinyasa, or Hatha yoga). 

Prenatal yoga was developed specifically for pregnant women. While every prenatal yoga class varies with the yoga studio and the instructor teaching it, a ”typical” class is very gentle and is designed to be easy for beginners.

In a prenatal yoga class, you won’t be asked to quickly move between poses (called asanas) or to get into any challenging positions.

prenatal yoga

You can also rest easy knowing you won’t move into any positions that involve twisting your torso, putting pressure on your abdomen, or lying flat on your back.

In pregnancy yoga, the focus will be placed on slow movement and gentle stretching. 

Some poses — such as a deep squat — might focus on preparing expecting moms for labor and on working their pelvic floor.

To help get later-termed women into deeper stretches, props such as blankets, pillows, and belts can be used. 

Because any type of yoga is more than just a physical practice, a prenatal yoga class will also place a focus on breathing and meditation.

Slow, deep, steady breathing can be used to relax your mind and body, while making it easier to stretch your muscles.

Breathing is also an excellent way to reduce emotional stress (which can have many negative health consequences, pregnant or not). 

At the beginning or end of every class, your instructor might dedicate some time to meditation.

This is usually about ten minutes, during which you’ll be asked to direct your focus away from your thoughts and onto something peaceful, like the rhythm of your breath. 

Meditation is linked to a variety of health benefits, such as improved relaxation and stress relief, both of which can help improve well-being all throughout your pregnancy

What Are the Benefits of Prenatal Yoga? 

Prenatal yoga is a mind-body practice with various benefits for pregnant women.

Research suggests that prenatal yoga can:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety: Prenatal yoga engages the parasympathetic nervous system. This can reduce stress hormones while increasing “calming” brain chemicals, such as serotonin. As a result, pregnant women who do prenatal yoga have reported feeling much less anxious and much calmer. 
  • Improve sleep: Stress is a significant cause of sleeping problems, especially during pregnancy. Because prenatal yoga is a natural stress reliever, it has been shown to help pregnant women to fall and stay asleep — waking up refreshed in the morning. 
  • Provide physical conditioning: Physical exercise is vital for everyone, including pregnant women. Prenatal yoga offers a pregnancy-safe form of gentle exercise, even as late as the 3rd trimester.
  • Improve labor outcomes: Prenatal yoga can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles that are used in labor. In addition, prenatal yoga breathing techniques can reduce shortness of breath in labor.  

Prenatal yoga can also help you meet and bond with other pregnant women, and prepare for the stress of being a new parent.

Later, you can keep the good feelings going with postnatal yoga, which often focuses on full-body toning and flexibility that couldn’t be practiced with a baby bump.

5 Safety Tips for Prenatal Yoga 

To make sure that you reap the full benefits of prenatal yoga, it’s important to practice it as safely as possible.

Here are five tips for safe prenatal yoga practice: 

  1. Talk to your health care provider: Although it’s advertised as a gentle practice, prenatal yoga can put a bit of strain on certain muscles. If you have any musculoskeletal health conditions, make sure to get your doctor’s approval before you start the practice. 
  2. Avoid certain postures: Before starting any class, especially if it’s your first time doing any type of yoga, make sure to talk to the yoga instructor (sometimes called a yogi) about any concerns you may have. They can help you make the necessary modifications to comfortably complete the yoga routine. In addition, you may want to avoid anything that includes twisting or bending in the torso, lying on your belly, or deeply bending forward (though virtually all yoga classes specific to prenatal postures will already avoid these).  
  3. Don’t overdo it: Before being pregnant, you might have never skipped a gym day. However, this period in your life is different. Give your body more time to recover, even if you feel like you’re ready to jump into your next workout. 
  4. Pace yourself: You don’t have to push yourself extra hard to reap the benefits of prenatal yoga. If you’re sweating profusely and are out of breath, slow down the pace of your practice and ask your instructor for additional guidance. 
  5. Stay hydrated: You should drink as many fluids as it takes for your pee to be clear or light yellow — anything darker is usually a sign you need to up your water intake. This is especially the case if you’re sweating a lot during your prenatal yoga stretch. 

In Summary 

A prenatal yoga program can help you stay fit, reduce stress, improve sleep, and even make it easier for you to give birth. 

If you decide to start prenatal yoga, make sure to stay safe by getting your doctor’s okay, not pushing yourself too hard, and staying hydrated throughout your whole yoga experience. 

Following these tips should help you get all the benefits of prenatal yoga without any of its downsides. Good luck!

References and Sources: 

The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults | PMC 

Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis | PMC 

Effects of Prenatal Yoga on Women’s Stress and Immune Function Across Pregnancy: A Randomized Controlled Trial | Complementary Therapies In Medicine

Prenatal Yoga Exercise Improves Sleep Quality In the Third Trimester of Pregnant Women | Sciencedirect

Prenatal Yoga: Effects on Alleviation of Labor Pain and Birth Outcomes | NCBI

Prenatal yoga: What you need to know | Mayo Clinic