It has been said in the ancient scriptures of Hatha Yoga Pradipika that “the young, the aged, the diseased and the weak – all may take for the practice of Yoga and derive its benefits without hindrance”. With this in mind, the practice of yoga postures is accessible by everyone, including pregnant women.
Pregnancy is nature’s most miraculous way of bringing forth a new life into this world. During the 9 months, the mother goes through various physical and emotional changes as her brain sends signals throughout her body to nurture and create the most ideal environment for the new life growing within her.
Prenatal yoga session, when conducted by trained yoga instructors can be a boon for all pregnant women irrespective of their existing fitness level. Additionally, prenatal yoga sessions can readily complement other general antenatal classes offered at most hospitals so that the mother can be both physically and emotionally prepared for birth.
So how exactly does prenatal yoga benefit pregnant mothers?
1. It reduces anxiety
A study conducted by Manchester University compared the effects of women attending prenatal yoga against those who only attend antenatal classes. By the end of the first prenatal yoga class, the study found that levels of anxiety in pregnant mothers decreased by a third. Relaxation techniques and breathing exercises often carried out in a prenatal yoga class equip the mother with tools she can easily use to help her to stay present as well as assist her during the delivery.
2. It builds strength
Geeta Iyengar, the eldest daughter to one of the most well known Yogis of our time, Yogacharya B.K.S.Iyengar wrote “it is absolutely essential for a pregnant woman to maintain her physical and mental well-being both for her own sake and for the sake of the child within”. Simply, a strong and physically fit mother is more likely to give birth to healthy and happy child. Those who lean toward the weaker side may experience uncomfortable pregnancies typically described as back pains, water retention and labored breathing.
Suitable yoga postures practised consistently throughout pregnancy help to strengthen the pelvic muscles, improve blood circulation to the pelvic region, exercise the spine and strengthen back muscles.
3. It assists in the process of delivery
Prenatal yoga teaches mothers-to-be breathing techniques and helping to build strength. There are also specific yoga postures that helps to ease off some of the discomfort as soon as labour begins. More and more doctors are now open to idea of “Labour Yoga” or yoga postures practised in the labour room, sometimes assisted by a trusted yoga instructor by the mother’s side. Postures such as Cat/Cow pose, performed slowly and integrated with deep breathing helps to relieve the pressure experienced during delivery. Cobbler’s pose, with soles of both feet touching helps the hip and pelvic region to relax and gently open up.
It goes without saying, that any form of exercise or physical movement practised during pregnancy should be learned under the careful guidance of a qualified instructor. It may be tempting to refer to a Youtube video because that appears as the most convenient method.
Without an instructor by your side however, it is often very difficult to know if certain postures are performed correctly and safely.
Just as there are many beneficial yoga postures for pregnant women, there are many more that are contraindicated and even dangerous if performed on your own, especially if you do not have a strong practice prior to conceiving.
Always consult with your doctor before beginning any prenatal programs to ensure that your pregnancy can progress safely, smoothly and most importantly, stress-free!
What’s your take on prenatal yoga? Yay or nay? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!