When you find out that you are pregnant, especially for the first time, you often start to wonder what you should and shouldn’t do.
There is A LOT of information out there. The list of what to do and what not to do during pregnancy seems so long. From food and drink choices, to saunas, hot tubs, medication and exercise. And when it comes to exercise, you might have heard that yoga is beneficial during pregnancy, but that not all yoga classes are suitable!
Perhaps you are a seasoned yoga practitioner and have regular classes that you enjoy, but you are not sure if you should continue during your pregnancy. Depending on the type of yoga class you attend, the depth of your experience and understanding of yoga and your own body, it may be possible, under the guidance of an experienced teacher, to continue practicing in your non-pregnancy-specific classes. You can do this by avoiding or modifying certain poses, at least for a while. However, you may start to find more and more poses uncomfortable for your changing body.
Prenatal Yoga, specifically designed and presented for pregnancy, is so much more than modified yoga.
Not only does it allow pregnant women to enjoy the practice of yoga safely, it can help address the physiological changes and the common aches and pains that come with them. It can provide mental and emotional support, so that people enjoy their pregnancy with greater ease, helping them to also prepare for the labour ahead.
There are so many benefits of Prenatal Yoga so I will focus on four key areas for the purpose of this blog.
1. Prenatal Yoga Supports the Changing Needs of Pregnant Women
Every pregnancy is different and they all go through a rollercoaster, small or big, of changes. These might be physiological as well as emotional or mental.
In terms of the physiological changes, during pregnancy we experience the growing uterus, changing positions of internal organs, increased blood volume, changes in blood pressure, increased hormone Relaxin (which causes ligaments and other connective tissues to soften), food moving more slowly through the digestive tract and so on.
Many of these changes can manifest as aches, pains and discomforts. For example, lower back pain, pelvic girdle pain (including SIJ and pubic symphysis pain), heartburn, dizziness, leg cramps, fluid retention, to name a few.
Prenatal Yoga can specifically address those changing needs and offer safe, appropriate and supportive practices to alleviate some of these complaints.
2. Prenatal Yoga Encourages Connection with the Self (and with the baby/babies!)
Just like any yoga practices, Prenatal Yoga encourages us to connect with our body and our breath.
I believe pregnant women have an enhanced capacity to be in tune with their inner wisdom, listen to their body and deeply connect within.
In addition, Prenatal Yoga can help women to develop and deepen their connection with their baby/babies through various tools such as touch, breathing, visualisations and meditation practices.
3. Prenatal Yoga Provides a Community
Prenatal Yoga is also about providing a safe and supportive space, a community. Being pregnant can be a very emotional journey, with many people experiencing significant anxiety around pregnancy, birth and parenthood.
In the Prenatal Yoga class, we often offer a time for sharing before or after class. Sharing or simply hearing another person’s story can help women feel they are not alone.
A lot of students who come to Prenatal Yoga end up connecting outside of the classes and their friendships continue after the birth of their children.
4. Prenatal Yoga Prepares You for Labour and the Postpartum Journey
Many aspects of the Prenatal Yoga class help women to prepare for labour, birth and parenthood on physical, mental and emotional levels.
Physical Asana practices can help build the stamina and strengths they will need for a prolonged labour. It can help create balance and suppleness in their body especially in and around the pelvis to facilitate optimal foetal positioning and the smooth descent of the baby. It can also help prepare the pelvic floor for birthing and the postnatal recovery process.
Restorative practices, which can form a big part of the Prenatal Yoga class, also support women to balance their nervous and hormonal systems.
In addition, breathing and meditation practices are great tools during labour to manage strong sensations and to keep you from going into stress a response. As birth does not always go to plan (and is by its very nature beyond our control), yoga can also help us let go of our expectations and surrender to the unknown.