Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga
Benefits of Yoga During Pregnancy
Teacher Spotlight Series - Throughout the year we profile one of our wonderful teachers. Each of them contributes to make our community a very special place. Learn about their journeys, their favorite yoga poses, and discover something you didn't know about them!
This week’s teacher spotlight shines on Jenny, who completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training program with Modern Yoga in 2019. While she was pregnant with her daughter Peyton, she went on to get her RPYT (Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher) certification and now leads our Prenatal and Postnatal yoga program.
Jenny’s daughter Peyton will be turning 1 in April. Happy Birthday, Peyton! In addition to being a mother and teaching yoga, she works full-time as the Vice President of Marketing for a company that manufactures firefighter gear.
In this interview, she shares her yoga experience during pregnancy and postpartum and provides guidance on how expectant and new mothers can start their yoga journey while staying safe.
Read on to learn more. You can also listen to the Modern Yoga podcast episode IX featuring Jenny and prenatal yoga .
This interview has been edited and condensed.
What is prenatal yoga?
Jenny: Prenatal yoga is very similar to a traditional yoga class, except you are in a room full of pregnant women who can relate to one another and the poses are specifically chosen for pregnancy. We focus on breath-work, trying different breathing techniques to calm the mind and body, including traditional ujjayi breath. The class aims to relieve the aches and discomfort women experience during pregnancy and prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for childbirth and postpartum.
How did practicing prenatal yoga affect your pregnancy and childbirth?
J: Although I already had extensive knowledge of yoga and my body, I wanted to learn more about maintaining a yoga practice while keeping myself and my baby safe, so I decided to enroll in prenatal yoga teacher training.
I found a great sense of community and compassion among the women and the teachers, as we all shared similar experiences and fears. The physical practice turned out very beneficial during all the phases of gestation: my body was changing rapidly, preparing to host and nurture another being for the next nine months.
Practicing prenatal yoga helped me sleep better at night, reducing back pain and swelling in my legs. I could breathe more comfortably, even during the third trimester. The breathing techniques I’ve learned and practiced in class were essential to reduce pain and stress during delivery.
Why did you decide to teach prenatal yoga?
J: When I was pregnant with Peyton, prenatal classes nearby were nowhere to be found and I figured more women were looking for them. I really wanted to provide a place where you could come and safely practice yoga while getting the opportunity to be supported by other expectant mothers who could relate to you. Teaching prenatal yoga while I was pregnant provided me with so much both physically and mentally. The community that was created with the first group of women back in 2021 was one of the best things I’ve experienced as a yoga teacher.
What are your favorite prenatal yoga poses?
Legs up the wall on a blanket (or multiple blankets) – this pose allows gravity to assist blood flow back to your heart, reducing swelling in feet and ankles and improving circulation.
Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) – do this fantastic restorative pose at home with blocks and a bolster – or use pillows as an alternative to the bolster. It allows you to relax and prepare your body for bedtime, as it safely opens the chest, which gets tight from the extra weight during pregnancy and relieves discomfort from heartburn or acid reflux. It also supports the opening of the hips and pelvis to prepare for childbirth. If the stretch on the inner tights becomes too intense, place blocks or a blanket under your knees. If you come to my class, this is typically my favorite pose for savasana!
Goddess Pose and Yogi Squats (Malasana) – Squats help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles better than any exercise. These are great poses to frequently practice at home and help prepare the body for birth.
What other classes are designed for motherhood, and what are their health benefits?
J: There are three typologies of yoga classes that focus on prenatal and postnatal care: prenatal yoga, postnatal yoga, and mom & baby yoga. Each has its own set of benefits. While prenatal and postnatal can be taught together with a primary goal to support the mother, “mom & baby” classes are designed to bring you and your baby together.
Prenatal yoga is a crucial ingredient to a healthy and happy pregnancy and conditions you mentally, emotionally, and physically for labor and postpartum. It provides you with a community of other women who understand what we are going through. Often, they become an indispensable support network. You will also learn many breathing techniques that will be very useful during labor.
The most widespread benefits of attending a prenatal course are:
- Increase flexibility, strength, and endurance to the muscles needed for childbirth
- Improve the quality of sleep
- Decrease lower back pain, nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath
- Encourage relaxation
Postnatal yoga is about honoring your post-delivery body and calming the mind. Postnatal yoga allows you to carve some personal time to regenerate and help the body recover. You will experience:
- Increased energy and focus
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Reduced muscle tension and increased blood flow
In postnatal classes, we specifically focus on strengthening overstretched pelvic floor muscles, toning the transverse abdominal muscles (your deepest layer of core), and relieving stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and back, which are common symptoms for mothers.
Mom & Baby Yoga classes are tailored to welcome mothers and their newborns aged six weeks to crawling. Attending these classes will bring numerous benefits for your newborn:
- Help baby’s digestion
- Improve sleep
- Grow confidence in body awareness
- Support toward reaching the next stage in the development
- Provides new stimuli
For the mother, these classes provide a space for bonding with their newborn while getting some light movement.
What precautions should a woman take during pregnancy?
J: Prenatal yoga is safe for mothers at any stage of pregnancy, however, you should receive clearance from your doctor before starting any exercise class. During the first trimester, many women choose to take it easy since their energy levels are low and there is a higher risk of miscarriage.
The class is designed to reduce common symptoms of pregnancy while keeping you and your baby safe. We move at an attainable pace with a strong focus on breath and a goal to increase strength and endurance while relaxing the mind and body.
A few modifications we focus on in class include:
We avoid close twists, deep backbends or chest openers, core exercises, and any poses that compress the belly or overextend the abdominal muscles.
Lying on your back during pregnancy is not advised because of the pressure on the inferior vena cava, the major vein that controls blood flow to your heart. We always come to our backs from our side and incorporate movement, such as rocking side to side in a happy baby.
Balancing sequences are practiced with the use of a wall due to our center of gravity changing
In standing poses, we always stand at least hips distance to make space for the baby and we adjust our stance in warrior poses as needed for comfort
I always recommend releasing the pose if it doesn’t feel right or gets too intense. When we are pregnant and during postpartum, our body releases a hormone called relaxin that softens ligaments and joints, so we focus more on gentle opening to ensure we aren’t overextending in any position. In yoga, it is always important to listen to your body.
What do you expect from a prenatal yoga class?
J: We always start prenatal class with circle time which allows students to meet and share with other mothers in a supportive environment. As a teacher, it is an opportunity for me to learn about their symptoms and the specific modifications they require. From there, the class will start with gentle stretching, breathing exercises, and meditation. We will move right into a series of standing and seated asanas and end the class with restorative postures and relaxation.
Want to learn more and be part of the community? Join the Modern Yoga prenatal & postnatal Facebook group.
Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga is on the schedule every Sunday at 3 pm @Modern Yoga! Jenny teaches every other Sunday rotating with Leah.