Without wanting to add to the confusion, I wanted to let momas- and aspiring momas-to-be know that one of the most beautiful and useful things you can do while pregnant (and while trying to get pregnant) is yoga. All you need to do is google benefits of yoga to come up with endless lists of amazing things that yoga does for your health in body and mind. The benefits of pregnancy yoga is just as well recorded and I will summarise them for you here – I know how many other ‘what-to-expect’ type reads there are out there – so let’s keep this simple!
- Know Your Body: I feel I bang on about this in every article I ever write about yoga. It’s just that it is so significant. The way that yoga teaches you to connect to your body is even more valuable during pregnancy. With so much information on what is good and what’s not, it’s hard to know what would work for you. The reality is that every single body is different and the wisdom that exists inside you is more valuable to you than any expert opinion. When you know your body and are tuned in to the signs your body gives you – you will know exactly what works for you and what doesn’t. Yoga helps you build that connection. Don’t underestimate the value of your inner voice and wisdom. Tap into it to give your baby the best nourishment and care during pregnancy.
- Get Stronger, Flexible and Better Balanced: We know yoga makes us stronger, more flexible and balanced, and just think about how important that is during pregnancy. Not only are you carrying so much extra weight as the time passes during the pregnancy, but things get extra tight and restricted as your body changes to prepare for birth. You become more wobbly and off balance, leaving you feeling quite out of sorts and like your body is no longer your own. A yoga practice will make you strong for carrying baby during and after pregnancy. It will help you be aware of the tight spots and help you open it up, and with postures like tree pose and half moon, you will find your new centre of gravity, leaving you feel solid and grounded for the duration of these amazing months.
- Get Open and Loose for Childbirth: Being strong for childbirth is a huge bonus but in the months running up to your big day, your practice can work specifically to open your hips, helping in pushing and the actual delivery of your baby. Women who practice yoga find child birth easier – it could be as simple as that.
- Abolish Lower Back pain: As you core weakens during pregnancy the lower back takes a lot more strain, resulting in lower back pain being a common issue during pregnancy. The sciatic nerve is often irritated during pregnancy as well which can be very uncomfortable and even painful. Yoga postures designed to stretch out the lower back helps to release tension, alleviate compression in the spine and again – just frees things up so you feel open, spacious and free in your own body. Not the type of sensations women generally report feeling while pregnant is it? Well with yoga, it’s a reality…you can still feel damn good while pregnant!
- Bonding with Baby: Pregnancy classes often have a meditative aspect to them allowing you time to bond with your baby. You will do so by becoming still, focusing on your baby, connecting to your feelings about the pregnancy, aspirations for your child going forward and the type of parent you want to be. One would think this is all we think about while pregnant but life doesn’t stop just because we have a heart beating inside us. It’s essential to take the time out to contemplate your emotions in relation to the baby and communicate them while baby is still inside you. There is now ample research to show babies pick up on moma’s state of mind while they’re in the uterus. Give your baby a flying start by connecting to him/her this early on already.
- Support in Numbers: Being pregnant, especially for the first time, is associated with many fears and anxieties, which momas-to-be need to find a way to channel. Being in a group with other expectant mothers provides much needed, release as it offers you the opportunity to share fears, get advice and support and be completely understood right here – right now. Your sister or mother or aunty’s experience many moons ago will always be different to yours. With the best of intentions from all of those who love you, sometimes its nice to be around people who are in exactly the same place as you right now. In a non-judgmental and openly kind and sharing environment such as that created in pregnancy yoga classes, you will not be left to feel like you’re on your own in this.
- Take a Breath….and sigh it out…:
Breathing exercises in yoga have many benefits for our momas-to-be, least of all calming the nervous system. By regulating your breath you can calm your entire body down in seconds whenever you need to. You can stop yourself in those moments of irrational fears, or emotional turmoil which is so common in pregnancy – and it can probably help you save relationships with partners and family members who are around you at the time. Breath management is also invaluable in pain control during child birth – or whenever you need it really!
- Relax Relax Relax: Every time you come to yoga you will stop and guide yourself into a beautiful state of relaxation. Purposefully relaxing your body in this way is essential in a busy daily life – and especially important during pregnancy. Not even when we sleep do we let go of tension and with baby being so tuned in and dependent on you being happy, relaxed and soft, it is so important to take time for this part of the yoga practice. Having the noise in your head turned down – even if just for a while – is so valuable. Being completely relaxed and free from all the demands of the world out there helps you to be fully present for yourself and for your baby. When you connect to the present like that, amazing things happen in your soul and your levels of well-being soar inexplicably. Guaranteed.
- Rest on Demand: Needing to learn to relax whenever you can is excellent practice for when baby will grace you with his/her presence. ‘Nap when baby naps’ is one of the most common and most valuable pieces of advice given to new momas and in yoga you will be practicing to do this. In fact – this will probably be the part of practice you will look forward to most because we all need it so much. Savasana is that space – when you become so still, yet aware. You rise from that feeling rejuvenated energized and ready to … get pregnant again!
- Encourage Confidence: Pregnancy and parenthood is an exciting but scary time. How good a parent will you be, will you have enough money to meet the demands of a new baby and will you ever have your body back again? Yoga has an amazing way to bring you back to what really matters. It brings you to here and now and you begin to recognize more and more, that you are on a journey. No amount of worrying about the journey will solve the problems along the way. It will however rob you of your peace, your freedom and the joy in the journey. These kinds of wisdoms that will be shared by your yoga teacher will often be exactly what you need, to get perspective and calm your raging mind. Because yoga builds confidence and strength in your body, it transfers to your mind. An open expansive body, leads to an open and expansive mind. We all need a confidence boost at the best of times. Yoga will give you that when you need it most.
Here is an idea for how to structure you prenatal Yoga Practice:
Gratitude: for the stage of pregnancy, the baby and the beautiful belly that goes with it
Surrender: to the process of pregnancy, the changes in your body and the impact on your mind and rest of your life. Coming to terms with and being at ease with what is ,will free you.
Love: Learning to love yourself and your body will better equip you to love your baby and your partner. Connect back to your feelings, assume responsibility for those feelings and leave your practice, a more balanced loving person.
There are many things you can do to make your pregnancy more meaningful and enjoyable and set you up for childbirth and child rearing. There is something for everyone and I trust that taking up prenatal yoga will be something that will transform your experience wherever you’re at.