Pregnancy Exercise

Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

Is there anything that yoga can’t do? Not only is prenatal yoga good for you, but it’s also great for your baby! There are many institutions all over the country which offer great yoga classes for you and your unborn baby – with stellar results.

Prenatal yoga is divided into three different levels – one for the first-trimester, second and then the third and final trimester just before the baby is due. Below you can find just a few ways prenatal yoga is good for you and your baby, and how to get started.

RELATED: What is Laughter Yoga?

Not only does it help you stay in shape during your pregnancy, yoga also keeps your muscles nice and toned, improves circulation in the body, and helps with a variety of breathing exercises that will keep you calm and centred during labor.

One of the first steps of any yoga classes doesn’t actually focus on the arms or legs at all – instead it teaches you ujjayi. This technique means that you breathe in through your nose and completely exhale through your mouth, leaving your stomach to decompress.

Yoga tips

First-trimester

  • Before you embark on your first ever prenatal yoga class, it’s a great idea to drink a lot of water. Sometimes yoga can feel physically exerting, so it’s always good to keep your body hydrated. 
  • Take a deep breath after every movement. With each class, this will be easier to remember, and soon you’ll find your body just does it naturally after every rhythm.

Best yoga position: Side-lying position

This is one of the best positions to end a class, and is suitable for women in their first, second or third trimester. Feel free to take as long as you want with this position, and practice breathing.

Second-trimester

  • Your instructor will let you know which poses to avoid, and which to embrace since your joints will begin to loosen up due to pregnancy. As a general rule you should avoid lying on your back, since the weight of the baby isn’t comfortable and it could block blood flow.
  • Don’t rush into every position. Remember to take your time and listen to your body. If you feel extremely strained and tired, it’s best to take a break and ease back into the position later on.

Best yoga position: Cat Cow

This position is perfect for women who are in the early stages of their pregnancy. The exercise focuses on stretching the back muscles, and relieving any tight back pain.

Third-trimester

  • If you’re well into your trimester, you may feel that your sense of balance is compromised, and it’s harder to perform some of the standard poses. Use a chair to keep your balance, and remember to go slow and don’t rush into anything.
  • It’s important to keep your body moving, so don’t hold poses for a prolonged period of time.
  • Focus on breathing exercises which will help you in labor. Sometimes this could mean just reinforcing the ujjayi technique over and over again.

Image via Fitta Mamma

Yoga Can Reduce Your Fear Of Childbirth

It has been confirmed –  taking up yoga during pregnancy can ease stress and reduce a woman’s fear of childbirth. So all those celebrity mums (like Gwyneth Paltrow and Sienna Miller) were right to continue their dogward dogs while carrying a bun in the oven. The research has showed that yoga can be attributed to cutting anxiety levels of mums-to-be by one third.

Yoga has been gaining popularity with pregnant women over several years and has been recommended by doctors and midwives, but now there is real evidence to back up the theory.

Manchester University researchers looked at two groups of women who were 22 weeks pregnant. Half of them did a weekly yoga class for two months and the other half attended antenatal classes. The yoga sessions were adapted for pregnancy. The group attending the yoga class felt the amount of anxiety was decreased by a third. And stress levels after the session were even lower than when relaxing at home, according to the study.

Professor John Aplin, who specialises in reproductive biomedicine, even suggested yoga could help women cope with the pain of childbirth and reduce the number of emergency C-sections.

Top 5 Pregnancy Exercises

Gaining weight during pregnancy is an expected (but not always welcome) part of the process. But there’s no need for your fitness level to drop. Pregnancy exercise is important for maintaining not only your health, but also the health of your baby.

Exercising while pregnant will to help prepare you for the delivery. As all mothers will know, endurance and stamina go hand in hand with a natural delivery, so the fitter you are, the better your endurance will be. Keep in mind that maintaining an exercise regime will also allow for a quicker return to your pre-pregnancy weight.

Pregnancy exercises also help with back pain, water retention, constipation, sleeplessness, and they decrease the chance of varicose veins and even postpartum depression.

Here are our top 5 pregnancy exercises:

Jogging
Running seem like it should be off limits when you are pregnant, right? If you are not a runner normally, it’s best not to start the minute you get pregnant. However, if running has always been part of your life, then pregnancy should not impact your routine—merely the intensity of it.

Don’t overdo it! It is ill-advised to overheat your body while your baby is still forming, and you should never be too breathless. So say no to marathons!

Jogging takes a toll on your knees, so as you get bigger throughout the pregnancy, it may be best to switch to a lower impact exercise. For the non-runners out there, a daily brisk walk is perfect.

Swimming
Swimming is one of the best pregnancy exercises, particularly in the latter half of your pregnancy. It works your arms, legs, and cardiovascular health, alleviates joint pain and allows you to feel weightless.

Aqua-natal classes are always growing in popularity, as they are specifically designed for the needs of expectant mothers. They combine aerobic exercise and birth preparation exercises, and provide an interactive space for socialising with other pregnant women in your local area.

Yoga/Pilates
Miranda Kerr claims yoga was the secret behind her post-baby body, so make it yours too! The stretching involved in yoga can ease your body’s aches and pains, and the breathing patterns and mind relaxation aid in physical and mental preparation for the birth.  Just avoid Bikram Yoga!

In a similar manner, Pilates improves coordination and core strength. Most importantly, it strengthens your tummy muscles so that you are better equipped to cope with the physical strain of a baby. Improving the strength of your pelvic floor is vital for maintaining your bladder, bowel and uterus, which often cause discomfort and embarrassment during pregnancy.

Aerobics
Doing regular low impact dance aerobics (i.e. no high kicks or leaps etc) does wonders for your cardiovascular health, as does water aerobics.

For more experienced athletes, it’s simply best to reduce the intensity of your aerobic workouts, as leaving yourself breathless also leaves your baby breathless. Essentially, low impact is the way to go.

Pelvic Floor Exercises
Not only can you do these at home, pelvic floor exercises will stop the likelihood of urine leaks during and after your pregnancy. The benefits include a shortened second stage of labour (when the baby is pushed out) and increases of blood to the perineum after birth, which is often traumatised by the delivery.

As an added bonus, strong pelvic floor muscles are linked to an increased likelihood of orgasms during intercourse!

What did you do to stay fit during your pregnancy? 

3 Easy Pregnancy Exercises For The Third Trimester

During your third trimester it’s completely normal to feel exhausted by even small amounts of exercise. However, as you get closer to your little one’s delivery, exercise is an important part of making sure your labour goes smoothly. Try these easy pregnancy exercises to stay in top shape during your third trimester.

As easy as a walk in the park
You might notice it’s a little harder to breath as you slip from the second trimester to the third; it’s normal for the baby bulge and swelling to compress the lungs. Despite how much harder that makes walking, it’s important to find a way to keep a little bit of cardio in your routine. It will help to reduce physiological stress, making labour much easier.

But when you can barely get off the couch, how do you handle the treadmill? First, consider a change in scenery. By walking through a local park or just around the block, you can spend time with nature, helping to reduce stress by spending time outdoors in the fresh air. Not only that, but it’s easier to go at your own pace.

At this stage of pregnancy, t’s best to keep walks down to 10 minutes, at around half of the speed you think you can walk. It’s still important to squeeze in a half hour to an hour, but spread it out over the course of the day rather than all at once.

Take to the water
Like the last exercise, this pregnancy exercise keeps things simple. With all of the extra weight and the swelling, the water helps to relax your muscles by providing a sense of weightlessness. During this time in your pregnancy, you’re probably dealing with pain from swollen ankles; spending some time in the water will help to reduce the soreness.

Stretch it out with prenatal yoga
Prenatal yoga is one of the best ways to spend the last trimester of your pregnancy. This form of yoga helps to not only prepare your body for labour physically, but also mentally. Even after the yoga session is over, your body will be in a greater state of relaxation, and mentally you may feel less anxious. Yoga will give you a handle on deep breathing long before the delivery date. As you near your due date, focus less on the stretches and more on deep breathing.

The key thing to remember about exercise in the third trimester is to keep it simple and short. It’s best to focus on easy exercises. Most importantly, check in to make sure you aren’t overdoing it; always bring water whenever you exercise, even on a short walk. Space out your exercise, working out every other day, and as you get closer to your delivery date relax!

What are your favourite third trimester exercises?

The Best New Pregnancy Exercise DVDs

Whether you workout at the gym, or at home, it’s important for pregnant women to find the right pregnancy exercise for them. With prenatal workout DVDs, you can exercise at any time with trained professionals that work within specific trimesters. We look at the best new pregnancy exercise DVDs from celebrity trainers to prenatal fitness experts.

Tracy Anderson: The Pregnancy Project
Tracy Anderson is the celebrity trainer to the stars (and Gwyneth Paltrow’s business partner). She recently released Tracy Anderson: The Pregnancy Project for a total of nine workouts that focus on each month of the pregnancy.

A pregnant Anderson does all the exercises for the DVD set, which also contains interviews with doctors and a nutrition plan for mums-to-be. Anderson has a really encouraging manner that you’ll enjoy working out to. She suggests doing the exercises five to six times a week, but as long as you can fit it into your schedule, you’ll benefit from this DVD.

hilariabaldwindvd

Home with Hilaria Baldwin: Fit Mommy-to-be Prenatal Yoga
Hilaria Baldwin (yep, Alec’s wife) is a professional yoga instructor who teaches prenatal yoga movements. Her new DVD aims to keep the expectant mother active until delivery with exercises for each trimester. A bonus feature is available with partner stretches, featuring her famous hubbie.

Within each of the three whole body segments, the workouts focus on easing aches and pains with improved posture and alignment through toning of the muscles. In the second workout, the hips are opened to prepare for delivery and alleviate any pain that is experienced. Finally, Hilaria finishes with a workout that promotes relaxation for reduced tension to ensure a successful delivery with less discomfort involved.  

pilatesdvd

Pilates-4-Pregnancy
For pregnant women who want to stay active and maintain their physique during their pregnancy, this DVD offers effective core strength and stability exercises. At just under an hour’s length, the video is easy to follow. The matwork exercises accommodate a growing belly for a comfortable workout that doesn’t feel too strenuous.

Pilates experts Jennifer Kutch and Julie Clark perform modified Pilates exercises to lengthen and strengthen the muscles. It also focuses on breathing pattern to help the mother relax and stay comfortable during her pregnancy and childbirth.

mammadvd

Can’t Stop The Mamma: Prenatal Workouts For The Active Woman
Perhaps one of the most versatile pregnancy exercise DVDs on the market, Can’t Stop The Mamma is a well-rounded program that works to maintain every part of the body. Fitness expert Katalin Rodriguez-Orgen leads six different segments that are safe for both the mother and baby.

The DVD focuses on cardio, flexibility, sculpting, toning, and strengthening of the pelvic floor. Yoga Pilates is also incorporated with a gentle blend of kung fu and tai chi movements – don’t worry, no ninja moves here!

What pregnancy exercises did you enjoy the most?

3 Easy Pregnancy Exercises For The Second Trimester

Exercising may seem challenging or risky during your pregnancy. However, exercising is crucial in maintaining good health for you and baby, and there are many safe pregnancy exercises that you’ll enjoy doing. Here are three easy second trimester exercises.

1. Walking 
Walking is the safest exercise you can practice in your second trimester. Walking, as a low-intensity form of exercise, is great for burning calories and staying active in the outdoors without falling too short of breath or getting dehydrated. Walking around your neighborhood where there are slight hills is even better for achieveing a stronger, more sculpted butt, and firmer legs and thighs. Aside from the physical benefits, walking also promotes cardiovascular health, which is essential for a safe, healthy pregnancy.

2. Prenatal yoga 
Prenatal yoga is specifically designed for pregnant women throughout their pregnancy. Yoga is not only excellent for improving your strength and balance, but also for mental relaxation, stress and anxiety relief. Yoga is also effective at alleviating cramps and the chronic lower back pain often experienced during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Another advantage of prenatal yoga is the breathing practices. Yoga emphasises proper breathing techniques, making it the ideal choice for pregnant women as proper breathing is imperative when giving birth.

3. Free weights 
While heavy lifting may seem risky, using light dumb bells to work out is a great way to stay fit during pregnancy and to prepare you for lifting and carrying your baby. Use 1.5kg or at most, 2.5kg dumb bells to perform 10 reps of bicep curls, tricep curls, military presses, lunges, squats and more. You can even incorporate free weights into your walking routine for an increase in the amount of calories burned.

What are your favourite pregnancy exercises during your second trimester?

5 Easy Pregnancy Exercises For the First Trimester

The first trimester of pregnancy can be exhausting, thanks to all the changes happening in your body. Regular exercise will help you to stay limber and flexible and help you to return to your pre-pregnancy shape and weight faster.

Women who are already in shape should continue their exercise routine to stay strong and healthy. Women who aren’t in shape should begin working out with simple pregnancy exercises. It’s the ideal time to begin preparing your body for the changes it’s going to undergo and to stay fit and healthy.

Exercise #1: Cat Squats
This warm-up pregnancy exercise is ideal for strengthening the body to prepare you to give birth. Stand up straight with your hands on your head. Legs should be slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lower your body as slowly as you can at a 90 degree angle. Push yourself back into the starting position. While perfect for strengthening the body in the first trimester, it’s also good later in pregnancy and can help get the baby into the correct position to push.

Modify this exercise by leaning against a wall and lowering into the squat position.

Exercise #2: Prenatal Yoga
Yoga is a low-impact full-body exercise. Although it can be done at any time during pregnancy, it’s best to start during the first trimester, before your growing belly throws off your balance. Although most forms of yoga are safe for the developing baby, the movements in prenatal yoga are specifically designed for pregnant women and their changing abilities. Yoga also has the added benefit of teaching you how to breathe, which can help during labour.

Exercise #3: Pliés
This ballet move works out the quads, hamstrings and bottom, which prepares the body for labour and delivery. It also helps improve balance. Standing beside a sturdy chair, spread feet out so they’re more than shoulder width apart and turn out your feet and knees about 45 degrees. Slowly bend your knees and lower your torso without leaning forward. Keep one hand on the chair to maintain balance.

Exercise #4: The Clamshell
To complete this move, a popular Pilates thigh firming exercise, lie on the ground on your side, with your knees bent on a 45 degree angle. One leg should lie flat against the ground. Slowly separate your top leg, raising the knee as you leave your ankles together. Try not to move your pelvis and don’t lift your lower leg off of the floor. Do one set of 15 repetitions, then switch sides.

Exercise #5: Modified Push-up
Strength training is also important, particularly for the arms, because once the baby arrives, you’ll be carrying him or her all the time! The modified push-up involves bending your knees and crossing your ankles behind you, then bending your arms to lower your chest until it nearly reaches the floor, then pushing back up. As you get better, pause with your arms bent.

Remember to include a warm-up and a cool down every time you exercise. Walking is another excellent cardio activity because it works out the whole body in a low-impact manner. Stretching is a great cool down because the muscles are already warmed up and less likely to be unintentionally injured.

What pregnancy exercises do you recommend for women in their first trimester?

Fit Mum: The Best Pregnancy Exercise DVDs

Every mother-to-be cares deeply about staying in good health while pregnant. Pregnancy exercise isn’t just crucial for the health of your baby, but for your own wellbeing and vitality as well. If you don’t want to join a gym or sign up for any expensive classes, there are plenty of pregnancy workouts that you can do in the comfort of your own home. Here are our favourite pregnancy DVDs.

Prenatal Yoga with Desi Barlett ($16.36, The Nile)

This DVD contains both floor and standing poses that are designed to help women stay healthy and flexible throughout each of their three trimesters. The gentle yoga exercises are meant to help you stay stress-free, flexible and have an easier delivery.

Preggie Bellies ($44.95, BumpStuff)

Billed as Australia’s most successful pregnancy exercise DVD, Preggie Bellies mixes pilates and yoga techniques to give women the perfect workout through the entirety of their pregnancy. This DVD is designed to alleviate common pains associated with pregnancy, like lower back pain.

Davina McCall: My Pre and Post Natal Workouts ($31.64, The Nile)

The Big Brother star is joined by her personal trainer, Jackie Wren, to lead her viewers through her favourite pre and postnatal workouts. The exercises are fantastic for the woman that wants to invest in a program that will not only keep her healthy during her pregnancy, but give her a way to drop the kilos after she gives birth.

Jane Simmons Pregnancy Exercise DVD ($29.95, BumpStuff)

This DVD is led by one of Australia’s leading physiotherapists. Jane Simmons specialises in prenatal workout techniques, and in this fantastic DVD, she borrows from yoga, pilates and physical therapy to provide women with an easy but effective workout that will ease pregnancy aches and pains.

Have you tried any of these DVDs? Tell us your story in the comments!

Win a brand new Audi
Win a holiday to Bali