The Benefits of Yoga During and After Pregnancy

Yoga Essentials

The most important element in yoga is your breathing. Something that separates yoga from other kinds of exercise is the fact that each posture is linked to an inhale and an exhale. Why so much heavy breathing? Breathing and moving together sets the pace of your practice. It also helps you move more deeply into postures, says Larson. Deep breathing -- long, full inhales and exhales -- also brings oxygen to the entire body, which energizes your system. Here are the basics of yoga breathing:

Inhale through your nose; fill your belly, ribs, and upper chest with air so that they puff out in front of you.

Exhale through your nose and tuck in your belly button as the air is being released.

Make sure to pick up these items before you get started:

____ A sticky mat

Mats provide a barrier between you and the floor and prevent your hands and feet from slipping.

____ A blanket

Blankets are used as padding to make certain poses more comfortable. Choose one that's made of nubby material and folds easily; wool and Mexican-style blankets usually work best.

____ Blocks

Blocks can help novices experience poses they may not have the flexibility to achieve. If you can't touch your toes, for example, you can use a block to bridge the distance between your hands and your feet.

____ A strap

Straps can help deepen a stretch or bridge a gap, similar to the way blocks do. If you can't keep your feet together in a pose, for example, wrapping a strap around them can bring them together.

____ Comfortable clothes

It's important to wear clothes that move with you so you don't have to constantly readjust them. Cotton and Lycra tops and bottoms are clingy yet comfy.

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