Prenatal Yoga 101:

Pregnancy is a time of unadulterated joy, bliss is saturated into everyday moments, whether it’s that incredible pregnancy “glow,” the boundless freedom and acceptance to indulge your cravings, or feeling your tiny human kick for the first time. Whether it’s your first time, or you’re a veteran wrangling two little ones into your Twin Triumph with a third on the way to add to the fun, pregnancy can be unpredictable. There are ways to smooth out the bumpy ride, a few simple things you can do for your physical and emotional wellbeing to combat the not-so-glowy aspects of pregnancy. A method proven to help expecting moms stay fit and feel centered? Prenatal yoga.

We met Kate, a prenatal yoga instructor at Skyting Yoga in the Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca, to learn a little bit about the practice of prenatal yoga, why it’s impactful and important for moms-to-be, and what a newcomer can expect from a typical class. Kate was certified as a yoga instructor in 2011, making the switch from her PR career to study psychology. She had a desire to explore the transformational, spiritual effects of yoga and to guide others with her knowledge of the practice. Below, Kate shares some advice for expectant moms (yogi or not) as well as a look into the flows of her typical class. Follow along with us and try these gentle poses at home.


M: What exactly is prenatal yoga, and what makes it different from other yoga practices?

K: It’s a little bit more of a gentle process, a more nurturing practice than a very dynamic, vigorous aynasa yoga practice. There are some yoga postures we try to avoid during pregnancy, one being deep twists. Twisting is okay, but we try to avoid deep or closed twisting that compresses the abdomen. Deep backbends are another pose to avoid because there’s something growing inside your abdominal wall and there’s a tendency of diastasis recti, which is small splitting of that wall. In prenatal yoga, we try to do things to mitigate it as to not exacerbate it...we don’t do a lot of plank or chaturanga. You can do anything from the knees, just avoid putting any more stress on the abdominal wall.

M: What are some the major physical benefits of prenatal yoga?
K: I think maintaining that level of physical activity, for me, has been so beneficial. Up until this last trimester, I’ve felt like myself this whole time. Physical activity in general helps promote blood flow which helps with swelling in your hands and your feet especially when you’re pregnant. Moving those fluids in your body is an important thing to do; it helps balance your energy. There can be a lot of nerves with being pregnant, so yoga in particular can help balance your energies and help you feel a little calmer. It also helps you maintain strength and stamina which you’re going to need during labor.
M: What are some of the emotional benefits of prenatal yoga?

K: Emotionally, it’s a time when we’re quieting our mind, allowing ourselves the opportunity to connect with not just ourselves but also with the baby. During our normal lives, we’re just running around from here to there and aren’t able to tune into it. Of course, stress reduction is another benefit. There are studies that show reducing our amount of stress is beneficial to the fetus. It also helps you have an easier experience with pregnancy overall. There can be a lot of discomfort and the idea of yoga and meditation is learning that life is a lot of pleasant things but also a lot of unpleasant things. And with pregnancy, as much of as a blessing as it is, there are a lot of unpleasant side effects. Whether it’s morning sickness or not being able to move the way you used to be able to move, being able to ride the wave of those changes with an equanimity of mind is really beneficial.
M: What are some of the problems that occur during pregnancy that prenatal yoga can help alleviate?

K: Back pain, and groin pain that some expectant moms experience. You’re not moving the same way you were moving before pregnancy necessarily, so maintaining that flexibility is nice. Sciatic pain is also something some women experience, so there are some poses that help with that, some women also have heartburn that can be alleviated with certain poses as well.

M: Is there a difference in the way you practice prenatal yoga during each trimester?

K: Some people like to avoid practicing anything in the beginning because in the first twelve weeks you’re more likely to have a miscarriage, I don’t necessarily agree with this, I think it’s perfectly fine to practice at any time. You can also do more in the beginning than you can when you’re 35 weeks pregnant, you need to add more modifications as you get bigger. Stepping forward, stepping backwards, just moving around becomes more challenging as the belly gets bigger. Also, in the first trimester and in the second trimester, most people are comfortable lying on their back, but by the third trimester it can compress your lungs and put pressure on the arteries there so you want to avoid lying on your back. You can do shavasana on a bolster.
M: What kind of yoga or exercise do you suggest after pregnancy?

K: Usually people will say they recommended waiting 6 weeks, some doctors will let you start exercising sooner. It depends on the individual and whenever you get clearance from your doctor, but I recommend gentle stretches that you can do at home on your own. I would really recommend continuing in a post or pre-natal class after birth because if you do have diastasis recti, you want to make sure that you’re actually healing it rather than exacerbating it.
M: What are a few of the most important things for expectant moms to know about prenatal yoga before they take a class?

K: I would say to try to put aside any judgements, this is not the time when you should be worried about doing the craziest poses and try to put your ego aside. Let this be a time for nourishing and nurturing yourself! if you have concerns and questions definitely speak to the instructor at the beginning, if there’s anything going on with your pregnancy that you think the instructor should know, it’s important that you tell them. Just have fun!

Maclaren promotes an active-family lifestyle, supporting moms on-the-go who lead happy and healthy lives, everyday. Maclaren encourages moms to get active, whether it’s taking your little one for a walk in the park with the travel friendly Volo Buggy, or taking some quiet time for a yoga class. Here are a few more of Kate’s favorite poses to practice at home: