- Written by Crystal M. Hill, RYT, CTA, CYPT
- Wednesday, 31 October 2012 19:12
You may have heard how beneficial yoga is for the average person, but were you aware how fabulous it is for women who are expecting? The advantages of starting or continuing a yoga practice can provide strength, endurance, stress relief, aid in labor and just help you feel better overall. The best part is you can practice throughout your entire pregnancy and afterward!
Breath – Yoga teaches you to breathe deeply, fully and efficiently. This is the basis of yoga. This is helpful when you need to relax and it aids in dealing with the demands your body will face during labor and birth. Ujjayi breathing is a technique that will help you stay calm when you need it most. It involves taking air in slowly through your nose, filling your lungs with air and exhaling completely back out through your nose, allowing slight compression in your stomach. Using this type of breath will slow your breathing rate and lower blood pressure, educating the body to deal with stress. Ujjayi will come in handy when you are awakened for the fourth time in the middle of the night to the sounds of a hungry baby!
Increases strength & flexibility – Yoga stretches muscles and the tissues that support the muscles, stimulates circulation and provides an overall increase in range of motion and core strength. It stabilizes muscles of the legs and pelvic floor (do some squats and some kegals everyday and you will be ready to push that baby out!) and tones the upper body (for lifting and holding the little one postpartum).
Reduces back pain – Body alignment is critical during pregnancy to alleviate low back pain and prevent sciatica. Yoga provides awareness of body alignment so you can carry yourself and your protruding bump correctly to prevent injury and discomfort.
Decreases spinal pain – During pregnancy, maintaining proper spinal alignment can be a challenge, especially during sleep when it becomes difficult to maneuver and find a comfortable position. This puts stress on the spinal column via muscular tension, particularly in the mid and upper spine. Gentle rotations and flowing yoga sequences combined with focused breath stretch spinal muscles and help move synovial fluid in the spine to keep it lubricated. This encourages more breathing room and decreases compression in the spine.
Helps digestion – Most pregnant women have experienced difficulties with digestion. A growing baby = less room inside for internal organs to move and function = compressed organs and irregularity. Forward folds, careful twists and overall movement of the body in yoga help get things moving.
Reduces joint swelling & inflammation – The improvement of circulation of blood and oxygen in your body provided by yoga reduces and prevents swelling and inflammation in your wrists and ankles. Say good-bye to cankles!
Provides comfort – Yoga teaches you how to move and position your body for different purposes. This will be beneficial as you experience contractions and move through the stages of labor when you will want or need to change positions to be comfortable, ease pain or relax.
Ok, so if you are accustomed to taking a full-out, body-rocking power yoga class a few times a week, you may need to slow it down a bit, but there is no reason you have to stop attending regular classes! The key is to listen to your body, take breaks when you need them and alter a few of the poses a bit to protect the munchkin growing inside your belly. Simply ask your instructor for asana pregnancy options or pick up a good book or video for guidance.
If you are not comfortable attending “regular” yoga classes while you sport your baby bump, prenatal yoga classes are a fabulous way to still get in your yoga and also meet other women going through the same experience! Private yoga sessions provide another alternative for one-on-one attention and customized training. Most yoga studios offer private yoga sessions and some offer prenatal classes as well, or would be happy to refer you to a studio that does if they do not.
The key is to stay active and maintain your yoga practice so you can have a happy and healthy pregnancy!
Source: Natures Pathways Magazine. November 2012.