Everything You Need To Know About Prenatal Yoga, From An Expert!

April 12, 2017

Did you do yoga while you were pregnant? I did and it’s something I recommend to all of my friends now because I had such a great experience with it. I wish I had time to fit in more classes! I was a little nervous before I started, so today I’m excited to have Amy Griffith or Exercising Balance here to share some tips about prenatal yoga. Amy’s a certified prenatal yoga instructor and even has her own videos you can do at home! Amy’s a mother to four and shared the birth story of her twins earlier this year if you want to read it here :)

How did you get into yoga to begin with? Were you a yoga instructor before you decided to focus on prenatal well being?


I have been a dancer since the age of 5, I went to college for dance, then danced professionally in New York for 7 years.  So, movement has always been a part of my life.  I discovered yoga as a compliment to my rigorous dance career.  I began to realize how yoga helped me physically, mentally and emotionally.  I knew I wanted to learn more.  After receiving my 200 hour yoga certification, I immediately continued on to a prenatal yoga training while living in NYC.  I had such a strong feeling that I wanted to teach this practice to pregnant women even though I hadn’t had any children of my own yet.  Once I had my first baby, I witnessed the power of yoga through pregnancy and birth in a new way.  I have since had 3 more children (including twins) and have relied on yoga throughout each experience.  

Is prenatal yoga safe for all pregnant women throughout the duration of pregnancy?

Yes, prenatal yoga is a safe form of exercise and can be practiced up until baby arrives!  As long as mom receives clearance from her doctor or midwife, she can do yoga throughout her pregnancy.  Mom will modify the poses as baby grows, use props for support and will always listen to her body.  Exercise is a positive component of a healthy pregnancy so it is recommended for almost all expecting mamas.  Prenatal yoga offer the added bonus of connection to breath and stress relief, something every expecting mom can benefit from.

Are there any particular yoga or exercise moves that pregnant women should avoid?

In prenatal yoga, we avoid deep arches of the spine and deep twists.  Once mom is in her 2nd trimester and she’s starting to “show”, she’ll begin to avoid abdominal-crunch-type exercises.  There are many ways to modify traditional yoga poses so that they are safe for pregnancy.  Many times, mommies are surprised by what they CAN do!  Prenatal yoga celebrates the woman’s body and this miraculous connection with baby.  It is a wonderful form of exercise that encourages mom to slow down, connect with herself and baby, and explore movement that feels good. 

How does yoga benefit mama + baby?

Exercise during pregnancy can help maintain muscle tone, improve circulation, aid in digestion, regulate blood pressure and can be a preventative measure for gestational diabetes.  The deep, focused breaths taken in prenatal yoga are a key element in stress reduction, connecting to the parasympathetic nervous system, encouraging rest and relaxation.  Yoga postures can also help relieve muscle strain as mom’s body changes so dramatically during pregnancy.  All of these components help to keep mom and baby healthy as they grow together. 

What should an expectant mother know before taking a prenatal yoga class or doing one of your at-home videos?

Prior yoga experience is not necessary for beginning prenatal yoga.  Besides comfortable clothing to move in, a yoga mat is the main prop she’ll need.  We also use foam yoga blocks which can be purchased at local stores such as Target or from any online yoga accessory outlet.   An alternative to using blocks is to position the yoga mat near a chair that can assist mom up to standing and down to the mat.  If mom is brand new to yoga, she will follow the modifications demonstrated for the third trimester. One of the most important things to remember is to “listen to your body.”  As the expecting mom is encouraged to listen to her body, she moves mindfully and becomes more in-tune with her physical strengths and her growing baby.   One of the best things an expecting mom can do before beginning my prenatal yoga DVD or any prenatal fitness class, is to let go of expectations and simply explore movement that feels good in her body.  Our bodies are wise.  In prenatal yoga, we celebrate this wisdom and find gratitude for the gift of life we carry within ourselves. 

Do you have any calming mechanisms to calm pregnancy anxiety or stress?

In moments of stress we tend to forget how important it is to breathe.  Simply recognizing we should take a slow and steady breath in and out is one big step towards finding a sense of calm.  Mom might slowly inhale to a count of three or four, then slowly exhale for the same count, keeping her jaw, forehead and shoulders relaxed.  (*note* It’s important to never hold the breath during any breathing exercises {pranayama} during pregnancy.  If mom is not breathing, baby is not receiving oxygen either.)  Our breath is an incredibly powerful tool.  It plays a large role in our prenatal yoga practice because it helps us feel grounded, present and calm.  Remaining present is another way for mom to reduce some of the common worries of pregnancy.  Many times our minds run wild with scenarios or worries about the future that are not actually true.  It is normal for mom to worry about her growing baby and the long list of tasks she needs to prepare for baby’s arrival.  Partnered with her breath, mom can remind herself that “Right here, right now, baby and I are just fine.” “In this moment, we are safe.” “I trust my body and I trust my baby.”  These are examples of positive intentions that a mom might repeat regularly to herself throughout pregnancy to remind her that she and baby are the perfect team.  I’m even a big fan of writing these down on a sticky note and placing them on a bathroom mirror or other frequently visited location in your home. The more positive reminders the better!

Does prenatal yoga help prepare a woman for childbirth? And what specifically should we try to carry through with us (or remember) during labor? 

This is one of my favorite questions! The answer is “Yes!” Prenatal yoga combines movement with breath, mind with body, strength with surrender.  When practiced regularly, all of these tools can work to support the laboring mother.  Yoga poses provide strength and endurance needed for labor and birth.  Many moms, including myself, have even moved through some of these postures during labor.  I’ve taken hip circles from table top pose, supported forward folds, and deep squats to help my babies move into optimal position while laboring. Movement in general is incredibly beneficial during labor.  It helps baby descend and can relieve some of the intensity during contractions.  A regular prenatal yoga practice also helps mom become so in tune with her breath that it is an automatic response to help her find peace and surrender in moments of discomfort .  Slow, steady breaths relax her mind and body.  The positive intention mom sets throughout her prenatal yoga practice carries her through moments of doubt during labor.  My favorite intention, that I set for all three of my pregnancies and births, is “Trust.”  I held on to the word Trust that my body and my baby knew exactly what to do.  I carried Trust with me when I had to make important decisions during the birth of my twins. I trusted my voice to remain strong.  I trusted our journey even though it wasn’t what I had planned.  I trusted that all of my babies would be born in their own perfect way, in their own time.  As much as we prepare physically and do our research to inform ourselves, one of the most valuable tools was the steady surrender of my breath as I continued to Trust

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