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ISSA | Prenatal Yoga: What It Is & Why to Consider Teaching It

Prenatal Yoga: What It Is & Why to Consider Teaching It

Reading Time: 5 minutes

BY: ISSA

DATE: 2024-01-18


Yoga offers unique benefits for specific demographics. Certain poses help cyclists reduce post-riding soreness, for example. For people who are sick or injured, restorative yoga can help improve healing. A style of yoga that provides benefits for a pregnant person—making it one to consider teaching as an instructor—is prenatal yoga. 

What Is Prenatal Yoga?

Prenatal yoga is a style of yoga designed with the pregnant body in mind. It’s a lot like restorative and Yin yoga classes. Like restorative poses, the poses used in a yoga class during pregnancy are meant to help stretch and relax. 

Similar to Yin yoga, prenatal classes are also slower-paced. The transitions between the yoga poses are slow and controlled. This enables pregnant women to enjoy the movements while improving their mental and physical health. 

Beyond the poses, prenatal yoga involves breath control. They can also include a variety of breathing exercises. These exercises promote relaxation of the body and mind. 

One way in which prenatal yoga is different from a typical yoga class is in the postures performed. Not all yoga poses are safe for a body with a growing baby inside. (An example is poses that involve lying on the back.) A prenatal class considers this and omits these yoga poses. Instead, it only includes poses deemed safe for a changing body due to pregnancy.

Benefits of a Prenatal Yoga Class

Tips for a healthy pregnancy often include eating healthy foods, not smoking or drinking, and seeing a doctor for care. Prenatal yoga offers benefits for an expecting mother too.

The American Pregnancy Association shares that this style of yoga can improve pregnancy wellness by:

  • Reducing preterm labor risk

  • Decreasing nausea and low back pain

  • Lowering stress levels and improving sleep

  • Increasing physical strength, endurance, and flexibility (1)

A review of several studies on prenatal yoga reports additional benefits. This meta-analysis noted that doing yoga during pregnancy can also improve delivery outcomes. It found that yoga shortened the duration of labor. Yoga also improved vaginal delivery. And it provided these benefits without increasing risk to the fetus. (2)

Other research has found that yoga’s benefits extend beyond pregnancy and childbirth. They also exist in the postpartum period. According to a study published in 2021, a regular yoga practice helps lower anxiety and depression while also improving immune function. (3)

Why Specialize in Offering Yoga for Pregnant Women?

Yoga teachers can earn money in a variety of ways. They can work as freelance writers, develop and sell yoga products, and offer yoga retreats. Why use your yoga knowledge and skills to lead a prenatal class? 

If you’ve ever been through pregnancy, you know how it can make the body feel. Even if not, you’ve likely heard comments. (“My feet are swollen.” “I have to pee all the time.” “The bigger my belly gets, the harder it becomes to breathe.”)

Despite the pleasures of bringing a new human into the world, aches and pains can develop during pregnancy. And they often appear in areas they’ve never been before. Each trimester comes with a new set of changes and challenges. Many of these can be uncomfortable physically.

By teaching prenatal yoga, you can help your students work through common pregnancy discomforts. In some cases, it may prevent them completely. Offering a class also creates a place where pregnant women can network with others going through the same experience. Instead of comparing notes or making connections in a Lamaze class, they do it on a yoga mat.

Imagine giving pregnant women this opportunity. That’s exactly what you can do when specializing in prenatal yoga.

Tips for Teaching Prenatal Yoga Safely 

Pregnancy is a time of change for the body. Therefore, special precautions must be taken. Taking additional steps helps ensure that the expecting mother and baby are safe each step of the way.

The first step to prenatal yoga safety is to always get approval from a healthcare provider. Every person’s experience with pregnancy is different. Their healthcare team can help determine what is safe and not safe for them to do. 

Second, there are a few basic overall guidelines to follow. The American Pregnancy Association suggests that during pregnancy:

  • A yoga routine should be limited to 30 minutes.

  • Practitioners should not try to push themselves.

  • Women at risk of premature labor should not do prenatal yoga.

  • Hot yoga should be avoided as this style is not safe for this demographic. (1)

Prenatal Yoga Poses by Trimester

When teaching a class, it’s important to stay away from certain postures. This includes avoiding poses that involve lying on one’s back. A yoga posture that requires a heavy amount of abdominal stretching is also not recommended.

Beyond these basics, the poses incorporated into a class may vary depending on which trimester the practitioner is in.

  • First trimester. During the first trimester, it’s less about the poses and more about slower movements. Students who generally do a more intense style of yoga for exercise may want to switch to a less intense style. 

  • Second trimester. During this trimester it’s increasingly important to avoid prenatal yoga poses that require lying on the back. Also, stay away from poses that involve lying on the abdomen. Yoga blocks and pillows can be great tools. Good poses for the second trimester include Warrior 2 pose, Bound Angle pose, and Cat-Cow pose.

  • Third trimester. During this trimester, balancing poses should be limited or avoided. If they’re used, have the student use support, such as a chair or wall. Good third-trimester poses include Easy pose, Wide Chair pose, and Bridge pose 

Students can engage in prenatal yoga at any stage of pregnancy with their doctor’s approval. They can also do this form of exercise during their entire pregnancy. That is, as long as they don’t have any restrictions that prohibit it.

Above all, encourage students in a prenatal yoga class to listen to their bodies. If a particular pose doesn’t feel right, they should release it. It’s always best to err on the side of caution.

How to Become a Prenatal Yoga Instructor

If you’re interested in leading pregnant women through a safe, effective yoga class, the first step is learning how to teach a yoga class in general. Several of the teaching and cueing principles are still the same. The only difference is that all your students will have a baby growing in their belly.

Completing a yoga teacher training course provides the education needed to teach others this practice. You learn how to break each posture down and explain it clearly. You also learn about the different poses and what they do for the body. 

This information is important when creating a prenatal yoga class. For example, hip openers stretch the muscles around the hip and pelvis. That makes these poses helpful during pregnancy. They can help relieve discomfort in this area. 

Some yoga instructor courses also provide tips for teaching prenatal yoga. This allows you to learn how to work with this type of specialty student while also picking up basic teaching tips along the way.

Ready to get started? Learn more about prenatal yoga in ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy’s Yoga teacher training course. This course covers the principles of teaching a yoga class. You also learn about proper breathing technique and other important elements of a yoga practice.

References

  1. Prenatal Yoga. American Pregnancy Association. (2023, June 1). https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/prenatal-yoga/ 

  2. Rong, L., Dai, L.-J., & Ouyang, Y.-Q. (2020). The effectiveness of prenatal yoga on delivery outcomes: A meta-analysis. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 39, 101157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101157 

  3. Hu, S., Xu, T., & Wang, X. (2021). Yoga as an exercise prescription for the pregnancy or postpartum period: Recent advances and perspective. Yangtze Medicine, 05(03), 157–170. https://doi.org/10.4236/ym.2021.53016 

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