While it’s only prudent not to engage in strenuous exercise during pregnancy, physical activity and strengthening exercises can help with some common discomforts of pregnancy and even help prepare your body for labour and delivery.

Prenatal yoga class is something you can consider gently introducing into your daily regimen. Apart from practicing deep breathing to consciously relax and to keep you limber, certain yoga asanas or poses can also help in opening up the pelvic region to relieve tension around the cervix, as well as alleviate symptoms like swollen legs and cramps. But of course, you’ll want to check in with your doctor before attempting any form of exercise while you’re expecting.

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We tapped Yoga Movement founder Alicia Pan, 37, to share her yoga tips for pregnant women, what equipment mums-to-be can use at home to make yoga more comfortable, her own pregnancy fitness routine (she’s a mom of two kids aged one and three), as well as juggling a business as a mother and entrepreneur.

If you find Pan familiar, you might remember her for her singing stint (she signed with a record label and flew to Taiwan at the age of 19), but these days, she is busy running a fitness empire of 100,000 Yoga Movement members and six yoga studios that include a new 6,000 sq ft flagship at Orchard Road. 

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What makes Yoga Movement different from other studios?

Photo: Yoga Movement

Alicia Pan (AP): Yoga Movement has always been about brand and service first. We put the client experience at the forefront, and make sure that the experience is consistent throughout — from the look and feel of our website and app, as well as our physical spaces, to the moment you book your class on the app, to checking in and being greeted by the front desk, to the class experience, and everything after!

We steer clear of trying to be everything to everyone – and try to keep our offerings simple and digestible.

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How do you stay motivated each day, between running a business, as well as mom to two young kids?

AP: Recognising that there are only 24 hours a day, I try to split myself up into different modes at different times of the day. Coffee and a workout routine help me get my day started, and get all the things on my to-do list sorted.

In the afternoon, my mum-mode switches on where it’s care and attention for my two young boys. That includes organising activities, dinner, bath, bed-routines. Occasionally I get to play and sing for them but these days it usually gets hijacked with them wanting to bang on the keyboards for fun.

I try and squeeze in a little bit of me-time after they go to bed, even if it means for 15 to 20 minutes – and I like to read or catch up on Netflix during that time.

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How do you kickstart your day and what do you do for self-care?

Photo: 123RF

AP: My day starts with getting up at around 6.45am with my two boys (aged three and one), having breakfast with the family, and getting Koda (my older son) ready for pre-school.

Pre-school starts at around 8.30am in the morning so I drop him off on my bike and then continue on to either the boxing gym, or for a class at Yoga Movement. I get my energy boost with a flat white with oat milk at Grounded after, and start checking off boxes on my to-do list after!

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You work together with Peter (her husband) to run the company. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working together as a couple?

AP: I can’t speak for other couples who wish to do the same but I think for the both of us, it was extremely complementary – we excel in two very different areas. And when that’s put together, it makes for quite an efficient team!

As with anything, there are always bound to be disagreements but I think the key to getting over them is to respect each other, and recognise each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Give the other party the chance to express their opinion before arguing that you’re not wrong.

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Did you exercise during your pregnancies? What was your regimen like?

AP: Exercise played such an important role in both my pregnancies and birth. I tried to do yoga and strength training (low intensity) on alternate days, for four to five times a week. On days that I didn’t get to do those, I would be out walking.

It was so important to keep my muscles and joints nimble, as well as to keep the blood circulation going. I believe that my post-partum recovery was quick and easy due to me keeping active during pregnancy, and not just trying to get back into it after giving birth.

What should pregnant women take note of when doing yoga or working out? What are the areas to strengthen?

Pregnancy Yoga, Fitness concept. Torso close-up of two attractive young pregnant yoga models working out indoor. Pregnant smiling fitness women practicing yoga at class. Prenatal Breathing exercises

AP: It is important not to overheat the body, as well as overstretch or overwork areas such as the hips. Always go for supported variations while doing poses such as deep lunges, especially in the later trimesters.

I think it is important to keep the entire body strong, so low-intensity weight training is always helpful. Of course, getting the green light from your doctor is key – and if you’ve never done a specific type of movement or training before, then pregnancy is not the right time to start!

Are there equipment at home that pregnant women can use to help make yoga more comfortable?

AP: I would say the yoga block, straps, and bolsters.

These are your everyday yoga props to help make your practice more accessible and comfortable. For different ways to use these props I’ve done up some newbie clips to show you some examples on our website and app – so do check it out for some tips and tricks!

Visit Yoga Movement’s website for more.

This story first appeared on Singapore Women’s Weekly