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Are you pregnant but want to keep fit? Then yoga could be what you are looking for. Advocates claim it boosts mind and body, helping to keep your pregnancy hassle-free. So what can yoga do for you?

Yoga is an ancient Indian form of exercise with an holistic approach, meaning it tackles a person's well being as a whole – mind and body – unlike other forms of exercise.

Yoga's roots can be traced back five thousand years and the name means to join, or to unite. It consists of different poses, called asanas, that should be held steady, while controlling the breathing. The breathing techniques, which are central to yoga, are called pranayamas.

Each asana has its own benefits and works different muscles, joints or systems of the body.

The philosophy behind yoga is that by daily practice the body is returned to its natural function so it can better take care of itself, one becomes more centred and relieved from stress. The body is also toned and strengthened at the same time.

Yoga and pregnancy

Yoga can help women get through their pregnancy with minimal discomfort. It also helps the birth and post-delivery stages.

Yoga can play a very important role in pregnancy. Generally, pregnant moms who do yoga exercises appear healthier, both in mind and body. Their bodies are more flexible, which enables them to adapt to various positions when in labor and the ligaments are more elastic, which in turn can help to reduce labor pain.

Yoga classes help to boost circulation and also help with fluid retention. The stretching exercises relieve aches and pains.

Posture is also improved by yoga and this can help ease back problems, which are common in pregnant women.

Yoga helps to prepare for the birth - it encourages breath and body awareness, reduces worry and teaches women to adapt to new situations.

And yoga continues to have benefits after pregnancy, too. Postnatal yoga, which can be started about six weeks after the birth, strengthens abdominal muscles and your pelvic floor. It also helps you to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape faster.

Starting yoga

If you have never tried yoga before, you should start by taking classes to learn the poses under supervision.

It is good for pregnant women to practice on their own, but only what they have been shown in class.

But if you are already familiar with yoga, there are several books and videos around that contain detailed explanation on how to do the best asanas at home such as 'Preparing for birth with yoga' by Janet Balaskas.

There are many types of yoga, including Kundalini, a breath based class,which works with the glandular and nervous system, Ivengar, which gives attention to muscular-skeletal alignment and Ashtanga, which is more vigorous and includes a lot of movement.

Hatha yoga is the name given to all physical yoga practises can often be a mix of these systems, and there are many good teachers teaching a blend of styles under different names.

Pregnant women should talk to their yoga teacher to find out exactly what type of yoga they teach, and if it is suitable or can be modified for pregnancy.

Safety guidelines

Starting yoga is no different to starting any other form of exercise – the same advice applies.

If you are not used to regular exercise then you should start slowly and if you are pregnant of course, take it very easy at first. If you already had a yoga practice before becoming pregnant then it is good to continue.

Many moms-to-be prefer to wait until the 2nd trimester to begin again. If you are new to yoga, find a qualified prenatal instructor. If in doubt consult your doctor or midwife.

Any position which feels uncomfortable should be left out. Lying on the front soon becomes inappropriate.

Strong back bends are to be avoided, as are postures that involve using the tummy muscles strongly, such as the boat pose, or supine leg rising. Any posture involving balance should be tackled with great care.

Mothers-to-be should pay attention not to overstretch the body – the ligaments around the joints become loose and soft during pregnancy. The abdomen should stay relaxed at all times so one can use the gluteus muscles instead.

One should not try to 'work out' too hard, but stay in one's comfort zone and use the class to open, relax and stretch, without overexertion or overheating.

However very often pregnant women feel fantastic and strong and really enjoy using their bodies. Giving birth can be strenuous so keeping fit and healthy is excellent preparation.

No kind of pain or nausea should be felt during or after yoga. If this happens, you should stop exercising and contact your doctor or midwife.

After giving birth, it is advisable to continue with the pregnancy modifications to the yoga poses for another 4 to 6 months, as ligaments and muscles have not yet returned to normal, and one needs to go slow and not strain them.

It is best to do Pregnancy yoga on an Affirmats Yoga Mat of your choice as well as the beautiful gowns shown in the pics. You can order the gowns here http://www.myrah.yoga


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