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10 things you didn't know about yoga during pregnancy

As much as you may have wanted to become pregnant, it can still create a number of conflicting emotions when those two little lines appear on the pregnancy test, explains founder of YogaBellies and Director Perinatal yoga teacher Cheryl MacDonald.

Practicing yoga during pregnancy can help you work through these emotions and help you stay healthy.

Here are some things you probably didn't know about yoga for pregnancy and birth.

1 Yoga is not a cult!

People have lots of preconceived ideas about what yoga is and who 'should' practice it. Anyone can do yoga, it helps you become flexible and calm so don't be put off by serene-looking photos of people with their legs around their neck! Perinatal yoga is gentle and the focus is about turning inward and connecting with your baby while staying fit, flexible and calm.

2 Your choice of teacher is vital to your safety

It's important to find a yoga teacher that's right for you especially if you're new to yoga. Look for a teacher that can cater for all levels and make you feel comfortable wherever you are in your pregnancy or your yoga journey. It is important to attend a class with a fully qualified teacher for pregnant women accredited by Yoga Alliance or the IYN. If your prospective teacher does not hold a reputable Perinatal Yoga Teacher Training qualification then look elsewhere!

3 You don't need to be able to stand on your head

Don't worry if you've never tried yoga before. It's very likely that the rest of the class will be in the same boat and haven't done yoga before. Your pregnancy yoga teacher will set a steady pace to suit everyone. The focus is on practising at the level you feel comfortable at - everyone will be at a different stage of pregnancy and feel differently, so it's important to focus on what feels best for you (and your baby).

4 It's about listening to your body and your baby

The most important thing is not to force yourself (or the baby) to do anything you don't feel comfortable with. It's important to listen to your body's signals and slow down, even if you had a regular dynamic yoga practice before pregnancy.

5 You can allow yourself to slow down

If you have practised yoga before or perhaps have been a dedicated runner or gymnast, prenatal yoga can help you come to terms with the fact that it's no longer just about you! Super-fit mums can often find it hard to slow down during pregnancy. Realising that you can't do everything the way you used to before you were pregnant is the first lesson in being a parent.

Pranayama (yogic breathing) will be a big part of your pregnancy yoga class. This has been shown to lower blood pressure, help you sleep at night and relax during labour.

6 Yoga can help you prepare for labour and birth

A pregnancy yoga class isn't just about keeping fit. As well as especially adapted yoga postures which are safe and beneficial during pregnancy, pregnancy yoga helps you to learn breathing techniques to calm and soothe the mind. These can be used during pregnancy, birth and beyond.

7 Yoga can help get baby into the correct position

During the pregnancy yoga class your teacher will lead discussions on useful postures to help get your baby into the correct position for birth and to help turn a breech baby.

8 You will learn about positions for birth

Your teacher will look at postures and positions you can assume during labour and birth to assist the baby's entry into the world. She/he will also be able to advise on which postures are best suited to any specific conditions you may be suffering from as a result of pregnancy, such as pelvic girdle pain.

9 You can enjoy relaxation and self-hypnosis

At the end of class you will be able to enjoy a deep relaxation (savasana) and self-hypnosis session. Which, practised regularly helps mums remain calm and positive about pregnancy and birth. And yes, we do have lots of sleeping mummies during this part!

10 You will get to meet like-minded mums

Pregnancy yoga classes are the perfect place to meet other likeminded mums. It's so important to meet other mums locally who are at the same stage in life as you and going through the same thing. Peer support will help you through the ups and downs of pregnancy and parenthood and reassure you that you and your baby are 'normal' and that someone else has probably had the same issue.

Cheryl MacDonald is the founder of YogaBellies which specializes in perinatal yoga and natural birth preparation. She created the Birth ROCKS natural birth preparation method and has trained over 70 YogaBellies teachers across the world and has been working with birthing women for almost ten years. She is mother of a lovely three year old boy and lives with her husband in the west end of Glasgow.

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