Exercise may be one of the last things on your mind right now, especially if you’re coping with morning sickness or other first trimester gripes. However, keeping fit and active can help you feel good during your pregnancy and beyond.
That said, experts generally don’t recommend hot yoga during pregnancy.
Here’s more about how hot yoga differs from more traditional forms, what the safety considerations are for pregnancy, and what questions you should ask your OB-GYN before you (and baby!) sign up for a class.
In its most simple definition, hot yoga is yoga performed in a heated room that’s set to a temperature between 90 to 105°F. The added degrees and humidity crank up the intensity of this workout and may help participants move deeper into poses.
There are many different types of hot yoga classes, though, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you grab your mat.
For example, Bikram is a particularly vigorous form of hot yoga. It’s performed in a room set to a sizzling 105°F with humidity at 40 percent. In this 90-minute class, you move through a specific series of poses — both standing and stretching —that stress sustained holds and powerful muscle contractions.
Other forms of hot yoga involve doing the usual Hatha or Vinyasa poses in a room that’s warmer than normal. The experts at Arizona Pain explain that some instructors may only raise the temperature to 80 degrees to add a “gentle detoxification and free-flowing ambiance” to what’s otherwise a more “traditional” class.
Again: Experts generally
Heat and pregnancy can be a dangerous combination, especially in the early weeks when your baby is just forming. Plus, the added heat may affect your body differently with all the changes you’re experiencing (increased blood flow, hormones, etc.).
That said, there may be some exceptions, particularly if you’re accustomed to this form of exercise and have practiced it for years.
Even so, it’s a question to bring up with your OB-GYN to ensure you’re on the same page when it comes to the definition of “hot” (as well as any other health concerns you may have).
These complications include:
- Added stress for the baby. High heat tends to make people sweat, and exercise also involves sweating. Over time, sweating causes your body to lose fluids — all while your heart rate increases and your blood volume decreases. Combined, all these issues may cause you to feel unwell — and your baby to become stressed.
- Neural tube defects. Your baby begins forming at conception. The first trimester is a particularly delicate developmental time. Things like overheating (hyperthermia) may increase your core temperature enough to cause neural tube defects (spina bifida, anencephaly, etc.). More specifically, scientists estimate that hyperthermia may
doublethe risk of neural tube defects.
- Miscarriage. It has been suggested that hyperthermia may increase your risk of miscarriage, but more research is needed.
- Joint issues. In pregnancy, your body produces relaxin, a hormone that loosens joints in preparation for birth. With less joint stability comes the potential for injury, particularly with activities that involve vigorous stretching. Add heat into the equation, and the potential to overextend your stretches increases and makes injury an even greater possibility.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) shares that there are numerous benefits to exercise during pregnancy. Along with maintaining your overall fitness and helping promote a healthy weight during pregnancy, being active may help you shed pounds faster after your baby is born.
- helps with aches and pains, like back pain
- promotes good digestion, easing constipation
- decreases the risk of potential health issues, including preeclampsia and gestational diabetes
- decreases your chances of delivering via cesarean section, also known as a C-section (note, though, that sometimes this is not preventable)
- keeps your cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) strong
Experts from the ACOG recommend that you engage in moderate exercise for 150 minutes each week. This equates to five 30-minute sweat sessions throughout the week. How can you gauge your intensity? Well, you should be moving your body enough to raise your heart rate all while being able to carry a normal conversation.
Alternatively, you may also choose to do more vigorous exercise if you’re used to it. Contact your OB for specific guidance given your background.
And if you’re new to working out, start small and increase your exercise slowly for the best results. Even a 5- to 10-minute workout can benefit you, and you can build up to longer sessions as you become more comfortable.
While hot yoga may not be the most ideal pregnancy workout, the good news is that yoga in normal temperature rooms can be a great part of your routine.
Benefits include things like:
- better sleep
- lowered stress and anxiety
- increased strength and flexibility
Furthermore, regular yoga practice can also help ease back pain, morning sickness, headaches, and even breathing issues as you get farther along.
Look for classes labeled prenatal yoga, Hatha yoga, or restorative yoga. One bonus of prenatal classes is that you may meet some like-minded parents-to-be for future playgroup get-togethers!
If you’re looking for other ways to move your body during pregnancy, try taking a walk around your neighborhood. The ACOG says that “brisk” walking is a great way to work your whole body without taxing your muscles and joints. It also happens to be inexpensive and only requires a good pair of walking shoes and some motivation!
Other workouts to consider:
- Swimming or water aerobics. Pool workouts take the weight off your body (quite literally!), helping you avoid strain and injury. Consider swimming laps or taking a group class. And while you may feel cool in the pool — don’t forget to stay hydrated!
- Indoor cycling. Stationary bikes are stable and safe from hazards like busy traffic. Even better, you can keep cycling on a stationary bike even when your center of gravity changes in later pregnancy without fear of falling.
- Pilates. Like yoga, Pilates can help with stress, flexibility, and endurance. It also focuses on your breathing, which may come in handy during labor. Try to find a prenatal Pilates class that has special modifications for more complicated abdominal moves.
- Running and other vigorous exercises. Speak with your OB-GYN. If you’re an avid runner, it may be safe for you to continue running. The same goes for your other favorite exercises. Once you get the all-clear, be sure to pay attention to your body, but keep it up if it feels good!
Your OB-GYN is another important resource for you on all things exercise and pregnancy. Again, if you’ve practiced hot yoga for years, bring it up and see what your OB says. There may be some cases in which continuing or modifying your practice may be OK.
Alternatively, your OB may point out other aspects of your health that make hot yoga a no-go, at least for the time being.
Some questions you might ask include:
- Are there any restrictions regarding activity that I should know about in my pregnancy?
- How hot is too hot when it comes to room temperature? (Remember, the range for “hot” yoga can be anywhere from 80°F to 105°F.)
- Is hot yoga OK to do after the first trimester?
- Is yoga in a regular temperature room a good option for me?
- What other forms of exercise do you suggest I try?
- How much activity should I aim to get each week?
- How much water should I aim to drink with exercise?
- How soon after my pregnancy can I start doing hot yoga again?
Go ahead and sign up for that yoga class! Just save the heat as a treat for after delivery.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about a class or how to strike certain poses, simply consult the instructor. It’s a good idea anyway to let your instructor know you’re pregnant, as they can also suggest modifications that may help you avoid issues with joint laxity, as well as make other poses more comfortable as your belly grows.