Yoga is a popular workout among pregnant women—and for good reason. "Research suggests that prenatal yoga can reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and lessen lower-back pain during pregnancy," says Pavna K. Brahma, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at Prelude Fertility. What's more, many classes focus on breathing patterns that can help women manage labor contractions when the time comes, Dr. Brahma says. Less pain and an easier labor? Sign us up.
These benefits last beyond the day you give birth too. "It's really important to stay strong and flexible for delivery and also for postpartum," says yoga instructor Heidi Kristoffer. "The more you move while you're pregnant, the easier your body goes back to its shape after pregnancy." (Related: More Women Are Working Out to Prepare for Pregnancy)
Before you jump in, learn to tailor your practice to what trimester you're in. This timelapse shows Kristoffer practicing a back bending sun salutation every few weeks of her pregnancy and modifying accordingly. She incorporated some tweaks from day one; Kristoffer stands with feet slightly apart instead of together during all forward folds. She also avoided deep backbends every week, since bending back too far can cause or exacerbate diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles. (To avoid bending too far, she replaced upward facing dog with baby cobra during the first trimester, then cobra during the second.) Another cause for diastasis recti for pregnant women is contracting their abs too much. To steer clear toward the end of her pregnancy, Kristoffer stepped her foot outside—not through the hands—to reach a low lunge.
This article originally appeared on Shape.com.