Practicing yoga during pregnancy has many benefits. The celebrated effects that yoga has on releasing stress from the mind as deep tensions are released throughout the body is even more important as your body goes through the increasingly difficult stages of pregnancy.

The essence of yoga is the breath, and regular practice with proper breathing technique will carry over to other activities in your daily life, helping you to lower your heart rate and control anxiety. Pregnancy invites many of these moments, and the aspect of breathing is reason alone to begin or continue yoga practice while pregnant. In yoga, mastering the breath through ujjayi breathing, helps one master the mind.

Yoga breathing is very effective during childbirth and pregnancy, but is not learned overnight. Ideally, your yoga practice will begin before you become pregnant to give you time to learn, but do not let lack of experience keep you from the benefits of yoga.

Taking yoga classes is an excellent way to meet other pregnant mothers-to-be, and get your body ready to go through child birth. Pregnancy yoga will keep your body in shape while relaxing your mind, helping you bring a healthy baby into the world. Pregnancy yoga should always be practiced with the help of a certified prenatal yoga teacher, especially after the first two months. As the fetus starts to develop, postures that require back bending should be avoided or modified.

If having a prenatal yoga teacher at your side is not possible, consider joining a pregnancy yoga newsletter, or find a certified teacher that has an online program. For experienced yoga practitioners, it may suffice to have a list of acceptable postures to perform, from which a comprehensive yoga routine can be developed.

Prenatal yoga DVD's are another excellent resource. Find one that features a reputable yoga teacher, and whom you are comfortable following.

Although intense back bending should be avoided, there are several recommended asanas that include gentle back bending, such as bridge pose. With a bridge pose, the degree of lift can be controlled, and easily stopped if it is too uncomfortable.

Asanas that strengthen and stretch the back are wonderful therapy, and include:

  • Cat pose, which begins on all fours, alternately flexes and extends the spine, while gently strengthening the abdominal wall, and lower lumbar.

  • Staff pose, with your legs straight out in front of you, your back straight, and chest lifted.

  • Cobbler's pose, seated with your feet together, back straight. Regular practice of this asana helps keep the hips and groin open.

  • Standing balance poses like tree pose or half moon pose (ardha chandrasana.)

Pregnancy yoga is a safe and beneficial exercise therapy, but if morning sickness or other complications arise, allow yourself to rest and resume yoga when they have passed.