Whether you’re a yoga teacher considering prenatal yoga certification, or a pregnant mama who wants to do yoga to make space, for baby, and stay strong and relaxed and prepare for labor, you probably hear a lot of conflicting information about what’s safe.

For example, you may have heard that pregnant women shouldn’t strengthen their core, because it will make labor harder.

As someone who’s been teaching prenatal yoga and mom and baby yoga for more than 20 years, all I can say is “huh?”

Not only do pregnant mamas have to carry around a bowling ball in their belly for months, but during labor we call them contractions because we need our muscles to be able to contract. Yes, we need the ability to open and relax, but a strong muscle is not necessarily a tight muscle – and we can learn to relax and open them at the same time.

Just like a bicep curl, when we slowly bring the weight back down, lengthening the muscle in the “eccentric” contraction.

So what’s a safe way to tone the core for moms-to-be?

It can be as simple as how mama breathes. Try this:

· As you exhale, gently draw your low belly in and root down through your hips.

· Inhale into the side and back ribs, as well as the top chest. Don’t focus just on expanding the belly; expand all the way up to the heart center.

· Exhale and expand the back ribs even more, cradling baby (or imaginary baby) in the back of your body and rooting down through your hips and heels into the earth.

Notice how drawing into the back of your body engages your abdominals?

When we expand the back body on the exhale and use our power to ground down, we access the transversusabdominus, our deepest abdominal muscles, all the way down to the root.

You’re not sucking in your belly, so baby still has plenty of space.

And on the inhale, you’ll lengthen and release the muscles of the belly naturally by expanding all the way up to the collarbones.

Yes, just the way a pregnant mama breathes can help tone her core – OR increase the chances she’ll have recti, or abdominal wall splitting.

When we keep the belly relaxed all the time and do “belly breathing”, we add to the pressure forward on the belly and put ourselves at risk for diastasis recti.

But when we use the exhale to gently move baby toward the back and ground down into the support of the earth, we find support, we make space for a deeper inhale, and we reset the nervous system, sending a message that all is ok.

If you’d like to learn more about safe ways to tone the core for pregnancy, postopartum, and even to support healing for diastasis recti, join me for the Ma Yoga® Prenatal Certification Program (RPYT), an all-online, 85-hour Yoga Alliance registered teacher training.

Whether you’ve never taught before or you’re an established teacher, the Ma Yoga prenatal teacher training will give you all the principles and practices you need to know you’re keeping mama and baby safe – and helping her have a transformative, empowering journey.

Visit Ma Yoga Living for a free ebook, The Yoga of Pregnancy.

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