Do yoga exercises promote a healthier, more relaxed pregnancy? Although the jury is still out with a definitive answer, recent research indicates that yoga has multiple benefits for pregnant women.
In one recent study, practicing yoga was associated with reducing depression in pregnant women who were found to be high risk for the condition. These women participated in “mindfulness yoga,” which incorporates meditative focus and pregnancy-appropriate yoga poses. Adequately preventing or treating depression can help improve pregnancy outcomes and the mother-infant bond, and yoga as an alternative to medication may be attractive to some pregnant women.
Other benefits of yoga include reduced complications from health issues such as high blood pressure, decreased pregnancy-related complaints like back ache, lower subjective levels of stress, and stronger muscles and ability to cope with labor pain.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a Hindu discipline practiced by millions of people for health and relaxation. It includes meditation, the practice of certain body postures, and breath control. Studies have shown that yoga can reduce pain and improve mobility for people with conditions like low back pain. Some evidence suggests that yoga can slow heart rate, lower blood pressure, and relieve anxiety and depression.
Is all yoga safe?
Yoga is a good low-impact exercise, but as with any activity, pregnant women should first seek advice from their healthcare provider, and talk with a qualified yoga instructor. Some movements or types of yoga may not be safe, depending on the stage of pregnancy and the health of the mother.
For example, women may be advised to use a modified version of yoga if they have been diagnosed with a health issue or may be at risk for preterm labor. Additionally, Bikram or “hot” yoga should be avoided as this can lead to hyperthermia, or an increased internal body temperature, that is not safe during pregnancy.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, November 2018
- Yoga may help promote a relaxed pregnancy and help alleviate common pregnancy ailments.
- One recent study demonstrated that “mindfulness yoga” helped ward off depression in high-risk pregnant women.
- Before starting a yoga program, check with your provider first.
- Avoid Bikram or “hot” yoga in pregnancy so that you don’t overheat.