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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Prenatal Yoga

Yoga's popularity has exploded across the country in recent years. Many people find its mixture of strengthening, balancing, stretching, relaxation, and breathing to be a great way to stay in shape and feeling great. During your pregnancy, yoga can be an excellent way to tone your muscles, increase your stamina, and even prepare for labor.

The breathing and relaxation techniques used in most styles of yoga are ideal for managing labor pain. It also trains you to focus on different parts of your body individually, helping you become more connected with your body, which is particularly helpful during labor. In addition, many of the squatting positions help strengthen and open the pelvic floor muscles; and its non-impact aerobic component strengthens the heart muscles, increases lung elasticity, and improves circulation and digestion. Yoga can also help you maintain good posture throughout your pregnancy because it focuses on core, back, and shoulder strength.

Women go through many emotional and psychological changes during pregnancy and yoga can help ease some of the stress. One of the things that separates yoga from other kinds of exercise is the integration of each posture with an inhale and exhale. This connection helps you breathe more deeply, which can trigger feelings of deep relaxation and well-being. In addition, joining a prenatal yoga class can be a great way to meet other moms-to-be who may be experiencing the same emotions and provide a comforting community.

However, there are some special precautions you should take when practicing yoga during your pregnancy. Avoid poses that require you to lay on your back or belly, especially later in your pregnancy. Inverted poses are not prohibited, but probably should be limited to early pregnancy as the pressure of the baby against your lungs may make it increasingly difficult to breath and it may be harder to keep your balance in inverted positions as your baby grows. Don't push or pull yourself into a pose too far; remember that you are more flexible during your pregnancy because of the hormone relaxin, so you can actually overstretch your muscles and ligaments. Deep twists from the belly can compress your internal organs, including your uterus; instead, twist more gently from your shoulders. You should also avoid any jumping moves and skip any breathing exercises that require you to hold your breath or perform a succession of rapid inhales and exhales. Pregnancy is not the time to take your yoga to a new, more intense level. Take it easy and play it safe.

There are many different styles of yoga, each with its own focus, poses, and level of intensity and difficulty. With the exception of Bikram, which is performed in a hot room, yoga (with the modifications discussed above) is considered safe and beneficial for women experiencing a normal, healthy pregnancy.

Here's a quick look at some common styles of yoga:


Also known as power yoga, this style is preferred by many athletes because it focuses on strength, flexibility, and stamina. Students move quickly from one pose to another in a continuous flow that combines inhales and exhales with movement. The poses are usually more difficult than those performed in other yoga styles and Ashtanga is recommended for experienced yoga students and fit individuals.

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