8 Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
1. Keep your stress level in check
Decompressing and reducing stress is something that brings a lot of people to yoga, and of course this becomes even more important to do during pregnancy; your baby feels everything that you feel! Yoga is calming for the mind, and the postures help to release tension that seems to accumulate extra during pregnancy. The work we do with breath awareness also helps greatly with de-stressing. Slowing down the breath, especially the exhale, slows down the heart rate so that you and baby can feel calmer and more relaxed.
2. Connect with your baby
The practice of prenatal yoga is all about creating space for baby; physically, as well as mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Your yoga practice is time you set aside to take care of yourself, and in turn you are connecting to your baby. They practice with you. Every breath you take is a breath you share. And there is plenty of quiet time to communicate with your baby in any way that makes sense to you.
3. Increase circulation
Through the combination of breath and movement used in yoga, circulation is enhanced within the body as synovial fluid is activated and dispersed and the muscles are elongated. Increased circulation helps to reduce swelling, a common and sort of inevitable side effect of pregnancy.
4. Prepare for the intensity of labor
Yoga teaches us to breathe consciously and mindfully, even during times of intensity. Practicing breathing calmly through the different poses is wonderful practice for being able to breathe through the intensity that you will experience during labor. It is the practice of being comfortable with discomfort. There are also many yoga poses that we practice during class that can be helpful to use during labor such as child’s pose to rest or malasana (squat) to push efficiently with gravity.
5. Gain a community
It can be very comforting to be with a group of women going through the same process you are. Prenatal classes are safe spaces to communicate with one another, rant, complain, share stories, support, and congratulate one another. A sisterhood is created.
6. Relieve tension, ease aches and discomfort in the body
As baby grows, more stress is put upon the low back, hips, upper back, chest and shoulders. Many yoga poses help to relieve some of the discomfort caused by the changes in the body. In my prenatal classes I always start by asking each student what is going on in her body so I know where to focus some of the poses in order to address specific needs of each body that day.
7. Stay active and in shape
Being pregnant does not mean that you are broken or with an illness! You can absolutely stay active, in fact, most women enjoy more ease during pregnancy when they stay active, as you can imagine the body is not meant to be stagnant. Movement helps to stay balanced and to release tension and toxins. Also, labor is one of the most physically demanding feats you will accomplish in your life. So it makes sense to prepare the body and strengthen the muscles! It’s also a good idea to start working on upper body strength as you look forward to the days of carrying around a baby everywhere you go, plus all their stuff.
8. Tune into your body’s needs
During pregnancy, your body is changing every day. It is so valuable to set aside time in your day to quiet your thoughts, and really pay attention to what is going on. Your body will tell you what you need, whether it is to rest, or to work, or to play. The practice of yoga is nurturing. It is so crucial to take of yourself during this time, you are growing a baby! You deserve to be nurtured and cared for. Also, the time that you are pregnant flies by. Savor this short and sweet time while you can by slowing down and being present!
Kim Neer is the newest addition to the One Down Dog team, teaching prenatal yoga classes on Mondays at 10:45a and Saturdays at 9am.
Check out our interview with Kim to learn a little more about her and check out her Prenatal 101 post for answers to frequently asked questions.
Prenatal Yoga 101: Frequently Asked Questions
Kim here. I teach the new prenatal yoga class at One Down Dog. When I tell people I am a prenatal yoga teacher, they usually have a lot of questions for me, pregnant or not. Here are my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I get regarding prenatal yoga. Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional and all of my answers are garnered from my education, experience, and research I have done. For a little more about me, see last week’s interview post. Check out our class schedule here if you’re interested in trying a prenatal class. See you on the mat!
How is prenatal yoga different from “regular” yoga?
The biggest difference is that everyone in the room is a pregnant woman! This results in a class tailored more specifically to address the aches and discomforts of pregnancy. Also, the aspect of community is a major part of prenatal yoga classes. It’s a wonderful place to meet other women who are going through a similar experience as you, making it a great place to vent, share stories, get tips, or whatever else you may want to hear/say. The other difference is that the teacher is usually trained in prenatal yoga or at least has some experience with birth that qualifies them to teach this speciality, therefore they have a fairly good understanding of the process of pregnancy and birth and are comfortable offering options and answering questions.
What are the benefits of prenatal yoga?
Many women come to prenatal yoga never having practiced yoga before, because their doctor recommended it. Why exactly are they recommending it?
There have been medical studies done regarding the benefits of prenatal yoga. Here are some according to Mayo Clinic.
Studies have suggested that practicing yoga during pregnancy can:
- Improve sleep
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase strength, flexibility and endurance in muscles needed during childbirth
- Decrease some common “side effects” such as carpal tunnel, low back pain, nausea,
shortness of breath, headaches
- Decrease risk of pre-term labor
Also prenatal yoga can help you meet and bond with other pregnant women as you prepare for the stresses of new parenthood. Another awesome benefit of prenatal yoga is the focus on the breath. Many of the breathing practices that we practice during class can be extremely helpful to use during labor. Some women even find that they use certain yoga poses during labor.
How early in pregnancy can I start taking prenatal yoga?
Generally, during the first trimester, energy levels can be very low, women can feel nauseous, and hormone levels can be rather unpredictable. For this reason, most women prefer to do a lot of resting during this time, and it’s not very common that I see students before the 12 or 13 week mark. Additionally, there is a high risk for miscarriage during this time, so the body may be sending messages in general to take it slow.
However, it’s never too early to start prenatal yoga, as long as you are listening to your body during your practice and staying within the comfort of your physical limits. Sometimes women who are trying to get pregnant like to take prenatal yoga, and I say they are more than welcome! Even if you are not pregnant it can be a nice practice, I just prefer to keep the classes women only for comfort of my students.
￼How long into pregnancy can I practice yoga?
As long as it feels good! I have had students practice during their 41st and even 42nd week, just days before giving birth. I even know of one student who went into labor later in the day after attending a prenatal class that morning!
I’ve been practicing yoga for a while, can I continue taking my regular classes or should I switch to prenatal because I am pregnant?
I would say this is totally up to you! If you already have an established yoga practice and feel connected to your body, then trusting your intuition should be fairly easy and you may feel comfortable modifying poses yourself without the guidance of a teacher. But if you are fairly new to yoga, or would just really like to experience the camaraderie of sharing your practice with other mom-to-be’s, then you would probably really enjoy a prenatal yoga class!
Are inversions safe during pregnancy?
This is kind of a complicated one to answer! The simple answer is yes, IF 1. inversions are already an established part of the pregnant mama’s practice 2. she is listening to her body and intuition while inverting 3. she knows her limits and can get up and down safely. Pregnancy is not, however, the right time to start an inversion practice.
That being said, the more complex answer requires defining more specifically what an inversion is. Some consider an inversion to be any pose where your feet are about your head. Under that definition, legs up the wall, a restorative pose which can be helpful in reducing swelling in the feet and legs that is common during pregnancy, would count as an inversion.
Another definition sometimes given for inversions is that they are any pose where the head is below the heart. This definition would include down dog and standing forward folds as inversions, poses that again, are safe and commonly practiced in prenatal yoga classes.
This is not to say that these definitions are incorrect, but when talking specifically about yoga during pregnancy, an important factor to consider in poses is where the pelvis is in relation to the heart. Therefore, the best definition of inversions to use in relation to prenatal yoga is: poses that have the pelvis lifted higher than the heart. This definition would include many of the poses that we may more readily think of as inversions such as handstand, headstand, shoulder stand, forearm balance, scorpion, etc.
Those are the poses that should be an already established part of a woman’s practice if she is going to practice them during pregnancy. She needs to know how to safely get in and out of the pose, as her center of gravity shifts during pregnancy, challenging balance. Also because of relaxin and other hormones produced during pregnancy, her back and pelvis, as well as joints and ligaments are more at risk of injury. She must be very comfortable with the pose and know her limits.
There are many differing opinions on this subject in the yoga and birth world, however, the best answer I can give as a yoga teacher is: I am there to support you and make sure you are safe, but you know your body and practice best, and I will not tell you what you can and can’t do.
Are there any other poses that are considered unsafe to practice during pregnancy?
Again the best answer is to trust your intuition and listen to your body. Generally, it is best to avoid closed twists as they can decrease circulation. Also poses that target the abs aren’t great to do, including poses with a strong focus on strengthening the obliques as overly strong obliques can pull your abdominal muscles apart further than they are already being pulled, which causes a condition known as diastasis recti. Deep backbends such as full wheel can also cause diastasis recti. Better to stick with milder back bends such as camel or upward facing dog with a bolster under the thighs. It is also best to avoid poses that require lying straight on the tummy, mostly as that just won’t feel very good for you and your baby.
Once in the second trimester, lying on the back for long periods of times should be avoided. I recommend using a bolster and blocks during Savasana and other times that require being reclined. The increased weight on the uterus when lying flat on the back interferes with the flow of blood and nutrition to your baby. Plus it’s just not very comfortable and can aggravate low back pain and heartburn as well as possibly elevate blood pressure.
Finally, it’s best to avoid hot yoga during pregnancy. You already tend to be over heated most of the time anyway, and getting dehydrated is not a risk you want to take!
Growing a baby is hard work and truly an incredible feat, so honor your body, take it easy when you need to, believe in your own strength, and embrace what your body can do during this special time rather than mourning what it can’t.
Meet Our New Prenatal Yoga Teacher Kimberly Neer
We’re excited to announce our new Prenatal class on Mondays 10:45am-12pm and Saturdays at 9-10:15am with Kim Neer!
Meet other future mamas and get your yoga on ODD style. Improve circulation, ease digestion, maintain a healthy spine, strengthen your uterus and pelvic muscles, and feel at ease throughout your pregnancy. For all stages of pregnancy – get your bump to class!
Read on to learn a little bit more about Kim and click here to sign up for class.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am playful yogi who loves puppies and babies. I don’t have any babies of my own yet, but I do have a doggie named Peanut and I am mildly (maybe severely) obsessed with her! Besides practicing and teaching yoga and talking about birth and general female empowerment; I enjoy traveling, being outside, trying new foods, listening to music, and learning new things.
How long have you been teaching prenatal yoga and where did you do your training?
I have been teaching yoga for three years, and prenatal for a year and a half. I did my training with Jessica Jennings of Ma Yoga, which is a really cool yoga community that has yoga classes all over LA.
What drew you to teaching yoga/prenatal in the first place?
I remember being quite interested in prenatal yoga when we talked about it during my 200 hour training, especially when my teachers made us practice with a rolled up blanket under our shirts so we could get an idea of what it’s like to practice with such a different body! But it wasn’t until I was teaching a regular class at a shelter for survivors of domestic violence that I decided I wanted to learn more. Many of my students there were pregnant, and I felt that I needed more tools to offer them.
What do your students gain from doing prenatal yoga?
I think the most important gain from a prenatal yoga class is the sense of community. It’s so important for new mamas to surround themselves around others going through something similar because at least from what I gather, becoming a mom is a pretty wild ride and it helps to have a good support system! I like to leave time for my students to talk to one another; who better to share stories with about how crazy it is to have a different body everyday than another woman who is also experiencing that!
Plus, many students have reported back to me that the breathing techniques they learned from yoga helped them immensely during their labor. There are also many yoga poses that useful to do during labor, such as resting in child’s pose in between contractions!
What is your favorite pose to teach and why?
My favorite pose to teach in prenatal is probably supta baddha konasana (reclined bound angle pose) using a bolster up on blocks and a blanket to support the legs. I love teaching that one because of the reactions I get from the mamas! That pose is so supportive and comfortable, and during pregnancy, comfort can be elusive. I also really enjoy teaching poses that I call “endurance poses.” This is when we do somewhat intense poses such as wall chair or do some punching for an entire minute. I like teaching these poses timed because contractions last about a minute, so it’s helpful for mamas to start to realize just how short that is and also to practice using their breath to stay present even amidst physical intensity.
What is one ODD fun fact about you?
I have seven tattoos and four of them are matching with someone else (all good friends of mine). My mom claims that someday she will get a matching tattoo with me, which would bring me up to five matching tattoos. That makes me feel pretty loved.
#ODDlight Teacher Feature: Arielle Miller
Each month we will be bringing a teacher into the #ODDlight and illuminating their interests, practices, and who they are. There is a real person behind those teachers and it’s their knowledge filtered through their own experiences that make them that person that pulls you into class. This month, we are featuring our favorite girl with the purple hair, Arielle Miller!
Arielle Miller, soon-to-be Cohen!
Ari but once married, call me AC. Kinda like AC Slater but better because I have purple hair.
I grew up going to sleep away camp and some of my fondest memories of my childhood reside nestled within the majestic beauty of the Berkshires. Sitting on by the lake in Copake, NY at dusk.
What’s your sign?
Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you?
I am a Buti certified instructor
Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you?
I was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2010-2011. And by Teacher of the Year, I mean for my teaching English literature to the urban children in LAUSD ☺
Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you?
I have classical fine arts training and was [initially] a Fashion Design major
When you aren’t at the studio where can you be found (favorite past time)?
When I’m not at ODD you can find me teaching America’s finest urban youth at Fairfax High School in West Hollywood. You can also find me teaching indoor cycling and working out. I LOVE working out and I am not just saying that. The harder, the sweatier, the better! Aside from being a teacher to children, or a fitness instructor, one of my absolute favorite ways to spend quite moments is at home writing for my blog www.thegirlwithpurplehair.com.
How do you define yoga?
I define yoga as an outward expression of inward reflection. Yoga is movement and movement is life. To me, yoga nourishes ones soul in any capacity in which someone is searching. Whether someone is looking for a kick-ass workout or to obtain some clarity; yoga is always there to build you up or in some cases, break you down so you can take a hard, honest look at oneself and grow.
Why do you teach? What brought you to become an instructor?
I teach yoga to heal and empower others. I teach yoga to share its gifts, joys, and empower others to look inward without fear. I teach yoga because I believe this sacred kind of magic needs to be treated with care and deserves to be upheld in the most noble of ways. I teach because without yoga, I do not know where I would be today.
Yoga found me and saved me from myself. I was depressed, very, very, very depressed and I was angry. I blamed the world for slighting me and being out to get me. I was urged to take yoga classes by my doctor and I fought it. I refused to go under the misguided perception that I’d be sitting on a dirty floor, chanting shit that meant nothing to me, and that just didn’t resonate with me. I am very Type A, always moving and I thought yoga was going to be hell on earth so NO THANK YOU.
And then one day, I just went to yoga. As simple as that, I went to yoga.
I woke up and said, “Today, I am going to try yoga.” From the minute I walked into the studio, I relished the ritual of taking off my shoes, carefully unrolling my mat, and how the yoga made me feel. There was this instantaneous deep connection with my feminism and beauty. This outward expression of moving my body made me feel strong, celebrated, and above all beautiful. Yoga made me feel like I was the only person in the room and that I was of boundless strength. As my practice started to evolve, the initial attraction of yoga’s athleticism progressed into something so much larger than myself filled with trainings, Sanskrit, and even chanting. My body yearned [and still does] for this ancient traditional practice and I was hooked. In darkness, yoga showed me the light but more importantly yoga built me up to find the light—Yoga showed me that I was the light.
So why did I become an instructor?
I wanted to show people that by being nothing other than real and authentic you are capable of anything. I wanted to show people that while we all walk in darkness there is always light. It is my hope that through arming people with the confidence to find themselves on their mat that an ember may burn within to help them shine bright beyond the yoga room.
What is your favorite song to play in class?
I go through so many phases of favorite songs that I get hooked on and obsessed with putting them on every playlist, for every class for weeks on end. That said I typically align myself with a savasana song and stick to it for a couple of weeks, sometimes even months. Though many savor the stillness and silence of savasana, I prefer to play a meaningful and intentionally selected song.
My students know that when they hear our ‘savasana song’ that final rest and release is upon us. Since we are all familiar with our final song, it signals a total letting go and the permission to really do so. Right now, I have been super inspired by Daniela Andrande’s cover of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. It is familiar but more than that, this acoustic version is introspective and haunting, giving us the freedom to gaze inward without judgment while surrendering.
What is your favorite pose or flow? Why?
It’s so hard to pick an absolute favorite pose or sequence, but what I can say is that there are poses that I re-fall in love with over and over again. Poses that I forgot about or shied away from until one day in class, an instructor guides me through a flow or pose. I would have to say that Happy Baby is a pose that I cue in virtually every class for the simple fact that it just feel so good. For me as both an instructor and student, yoga is about challenging myself but also about digging into my physical-self and feeling sooooooo gooooooooooooddddd.
As far as discovering a pose I have forgotten or abandoned, after shying away from Upward Facing Floor Bow due to lumbar spine narrowing (aka arthritis in my L4 and L5); an instructor and friend prepped the class for it…without hesitation after years of just chilling with my knees bent I decided that I was going to reclaim this pose and I did. It has been weeks since my initial victory in this pose and I have re-introduced it into my classes to share the joys it has recently brought to my life. And for me folks, that is the essence and splendor of yoga: Just when you least expect it, or don’t think you need or want something—yoga knows what you need.
Memorable yoga moment?
One of my most memorable yoga moments was relatively early into my teaching career when I was smack in the middle of a flow in a packed class and I litearally couldn’t remember what pose came next. I drew a complete blank and couldn’t remember the flow at all! Horrified, I racked my brain for what came next as yogis are just chilling and I had ZERO clue what we had done on the other side! I was terrified and remember vividly the heat washing into my face when I finally said to the class, “So, I’ve got to be honest here guys…this has never happened to me but I completely forgot the flow!” Everyone in class laughed and together we just started again and smiled because to be human means to be imperfect.
What is your favorite yogi prop or piece to wear or use?
The Manduka CORK block.
I love it’s stability, texture, and density. The block is firm and keeps me grounded, supported and elevated at the same time. The texture of the cork feelingly connects me to my sense of touch. But what’s also so great about these blocks is that in the Sweat class I love that these blocks provide that little extra edge of resistance and serve as almost a weight, really taking our practice to a whole new deliciously sweaty level!
What can we share in promoting you, your business, or your projects?
FB: Arielle Miller and Fitness with Arielle
www.thegirlwithpurplehair.com (MY BLOG!!!!!)
Hashtags: #FitnesswithAC #thepaleoyogi #thegirlwithpurplehair #FitnesswithArielle
Stay tuned for some big shit I am going to be launching this summer, so subscribe to my blog, follow me on facebook and insta!
8 More Ways to Do Yoga at Work
I’m really excited to be leading the Yoga at Work Workshop on June 14! Many of us work in offices and have pain from sitting at a desk all day. Sore neck, tight shoulders, lower back pain, the list goes on … but we don’t have to suffer! Yoga to the rescue! There are stretches and exercises you can do in the office to help combat pain, stress and tension. I even taught my co-workers yoga poses they could do right at their desk, and then made them pose for photos too. Below are 8 more ways to do yoga at work!
1. Jaw Stretch
How: Close your mouth. Using your pointer and middle fingers, massage the hinge of your jaw in a circular motion moving toward your chin. You can start to release the tongue and focus on slowing down your breath. For an extra release of tension, place your hands on your lap and gently open your mouth wide. Stick your tongue out and close your mouth. Repeat 3 times, moving slowly.
Benefits: Many of us clench our jaws when we are stressed, and you might not even realize it! Tension in the jaw can also lead to headaches. Stress can lead to teeth grinding so give your jaw some love!
2. Wrist and Forearm Stretch
How: Seated in your chair, extend your right arm in front of you. Place your palm away from you with your fingertips pointed towards the ceiling like your about to yell “Stop!” … but don’t yell because we’re in an office 🙂 Intensify the stretch by placing your left hand on your fingers and flexing the hand towards your body. Roll your shoulders down your back and breath. Hold here for 5 breaths. Release and repeat on the left side.
Flip your palm to face you, fingertips point toward the ground. To intensify the stretch, gently place your opposite hand on the back of your hand, flexing your hand towards your body. Roll your shoulders down your back and breath. Hold here for 5 breaths. Release and repeat on the left side.
Benefits: Endless typing and a poor computer set up can be damaging for the wrists. Take a moment to stretch and strengthen them to prevent tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
3. The Double Chin
How: Yes, I just called this stretch the double chin. Sit up straight in your chair. Press the back of your head directly behind you (look you made a double chin!), making sure your shoulders don’t move. Hold for a breath and release. A good visual for this exercise is to imagine standing with your back to a wall and you are holding tennis ball at the back of your head, when you press back, you are pressing the tennis ball harder into the wall. Repeat 10-15 times.
Benefits: Over the work day, the head starts to shift towards the computer screen. The neck and shoulders follow and hunch over. This exercise strengthens the neck muscles and helps realign the neck directly over the shoulders.
4. Shoulder Rolls
How: Stand up from your desk. Inhale and raise your shoulders up to your ears, on your exhale pull your shoulders down your back. Repeat 5-8 times.
Benefits: Helps releases neck and shoulder tension and corrects posture.
5. Eagle Arm Stretch
How: Sit with your feet firmly planted into the ground. Take your right arm and wrap it under your left, wrapping at your wrists if it is available or just place your hands back to back. Start with palms in front of your eyes and gently raise your elbows up so they are at shoulder height. Roll your shoulders down your back and breathe for 5-8 breaths. Release your arms and repeat on the left side, wrapping the left arm under the right.
Benefits: Open shoulder joints, creating space between the shoulder blades to release tension.
6. Forward Fold with Chest Expansion
How: Stand up from your desk. Spread your feet hips width apart. Clasp your fingers behind your back. Start to fold forward while reaching your clasped hands toward the ceiling. If you have really open shoulders, try to extend your hands above your head.
Benefits: Throughout the day, your shoulders may start to creep up into your ears from stress and tension. The chest expansion stretch releases the neck and and shoulders, while the forward fold releases the lower back. The fold also gives your neck and shoulders a break from holding up your head all day!
7. Standing Figure Four
How: Stand up from your desk. Bring your hands to heart center. Ground your left foot down. Inhale your right foot up off the ground, bending at the knee. Gently place the right ankle over the left knee. Intensify the stretch by bending your left knee and sitting back. Repeat on other side.
Benefits: Sitting may seem comfortable but it’s not natural to sit at desk for 40+ hours a week. The hip flexors shorten from sitting for long periods of time. This stretch opens up the hips and can also help relieve lower back pain.
How: Close your eyes, place your hands on your knees palms facing down. Take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the nose. Begin to slow down your breath. Start to count the breath in and match the length on your exhale. Repeat as long as you like.
Benefits: When things are hectic, use your breath to calm you down. Breathing exercises can improve concentration while slowing down the nervous system.
Take a walk! Get your blood flowing by getting up from your desk to go for a walk. Walk to get coffee, take a loop around the block, or even a stroll around the office to say “Hi!” to your co-workers. A walk will help boost your mood and leave you energized so you can tackle the rest of your day!
Join us for Yoga at Work with Hallie Anoff on June 14, 2-3:15 PM
We will flow and target problem areas, then practice stretches and relaxation techniques you can incorporate into your work day.
$25 advance, $35 at the door
SIGN UP HERE