By Jessica Ladd Lefterova, 500RYT
Taking a pregnancy yoga or fitness class is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and spirit. A pregnancy-specific class focuses on preparing both your body and mind for birth. Lamaze teaches that birth is normal and healthy event in a person's life, yet there are certainly some ways to prepare for the big day, allowing for a quicker and easier birth, according to American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). ACOG recommends pregnant women work out most days of the week, if not every day, during pregnancy. This could include a 30 minute walk. Always talk to your care provider first and get an approval to workout, as there are some pregnancy complications that do not allow fitness.
You may have a current exercise class or studio that you would like to continue using, which is fine as long as it offers the appropriate modifications for your pregnant body, including guiding you in safe core and pelvic floor practices. Other pregnancy-specific modifications include guidance on proper alignment, which ensures you and baby are both safe so you can feel better and enjoy the other benefits of a community of others who are on the pregnancy journey.
If you are looking into a pregnancy fitness or yoga class and aren't quite sure where to begin, let me help guide you. I teach the largest prenatal and postpartum yoga and fitness program in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and have years of experience teaching helping people fulfill their pregnancy and postpartum fitness goals. When choosing a good class, here are some things to look for:
Tips for Finding a Good Prenatal Fitness Class
1) Most pregnancy-specific classes will guide you on fitness routines that keep your heart rate in the safe range while allowing you to experience wonderful physical benefits. To keep you and your baby safe, you should make sure you can still talk while working out. Here at Ohbaby! fitness, we call this the "Talk Test."
2) Look for a prenatal class where you will learn breath techniques to help you manage labor and contractions and to remain as relaxed as possible. The breath is one of the most critical tools for labor. It has a profound effect on keeping the body and mind relaxed via the parasympathetic nervous system, thus also controlling how we feel physically and mentally. Another remarkable aspect of the breath is that it is the only autonomic function in the body we can control. So learn to maximize the breath to control your emotions and find physical rest in the body.
3) You also want a class that will help you learn labor positions. A well rounded teacher will include these positions in class so on the big day, it comes very natural. Lamaze teaches that movement is one of the other key players at managing labor progress and contraction pain. A good rhythm, which includes movement, helps to distract your mind from uncomfortable sensations, and movement, along with using gravity, can help facilitate your baby navigating her or his way into the pelvis.
4) Look for a teacher who knows the physiology of the body and how to ease pregnancy aches and pains. For example, if you have back pain, she should be able to guide you on exercises to reduce the pain and find ways to avoid it, if possible. Your instructor also should be well versed in diastasis recti -- the abdominal separation that occurs in pregnancy -- including how to watch for it and what exercises to do and not to do in order to lessen the degree of separation.
5) To get the most out of attending a prenatal class, find one that cultivates a comfortable circle (or group or community) to talk, share how you are feeling, and connect with the other pregnant people. This is one of the biggest benefits of attending a group class -- it allows you not only to make new friends in the same boat, but it helps you learn and become more empowered for the big day. Another perk comes from your instructor, who will know the ins and outs of all the pregnancy and new mother/baby resources in your area, which can help you find things easily.
About the Author
Jessica is the new owner and operator of OhBaby! Fitness for the Dallas/Fort Worth area, partnered and located within 10 Texas Health Resource Hospitals. They are the largest exclusive pregnancy and postpartum program in their region and have guided thousands of women throughout the years.
Jessica has been a yoga and fitness instructor -- certified prenatal and postnatal -- for several years and has had a passion for pregnancy, birth and babies since she was a small child. She received her DONA birth doula training 3 years ago and has assisted many women through all different styles of birthing. She uses her doula experience, and DONA and Lamaze training, to help empower women with as much knowledge as possible for the big day.
Jessica has also received additional trainings led by famous neurophyschiatrists and doctors in the field of Mind Body practices and Yoga therapy. She incorporates many of these learned techniques in her classes, leaving her clients with a strong body and balanced and calm nervous system.
Jessica also created the first Fertility Yoga class in Dallas. Additionally, she teaches classes and workshops with Licensed Professional Counselors and Psychologists on overcoming anxiety. Her website for prenatal and postnatal classes can be found at Ohbabyfitness.com located in Dallas Texas.