Prenatal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focussed breathing. Much like other types of childbirth-preparation classes, prenatal yoga is safe and can have many benefits for pregnant women and their babies.
According to Dr. S N Omkar, Yoga Guru, Trustee, Yoga Mandir Trust, Bengaluru and Yoga Advisor to the Indian cricket team, “Normally, every mother wants to give a gift to their baby on their birthday. But doing Yoga during pregnancy will ensure that the mother can give the gift even before the baby is born”.
It is no secret that yoga is one of the best things you can do to relieve stress. Yoga lowers stress level, fights depression and reduces inflammation, among other health benefits. And for mothers-to-be, prenatal yoga practice can not only relieve stress but also contribute to a healthier pregnancy.
Prenatal yoga classes generally focus on poses that strengthen and increase the flexibility of the muscles used during childbirth, while also increasing stamina. Gentle targeted exercises can be practiced during the first, second and third trimester.
Prenatal yoga can also help:
- Improve sleep
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
- Decrease lower back, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, headaches and shortness of breath
It is important that you find the right yoga teacher as well as the right yoga practice for you. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
Given below are some of the benefits of practicing yoga during pregnancy and the recommended pose.
- Develops stamina and strength.
As the baby grows within the mother’s body, more energy and strength is needed to be able to carry the weight. Yoga poses to strengthen the hips, back, arms and shoulders.
Recommended pose: Sun salutation
As the fetus grows within the body, the mother’s balance is challenged. Emotionally she is drained due to the increase in progesterone and estrogen levels. As she tries to focus on holding and breathing through each yoga pose, she is able to fine tune her balance, physically and emotionally.
Recommended pose: Tree pose
- Relieves tension of lower back, hips, chest, upper back, neck and shoulders.
As the baby grows, more stress is put upon these specific muscle groups in the bodies. The hips get tighter due to the added pressure of the baby’s weight in the bellies of the expectant mother. As her breasts increase in size, the upper back and chest experiences more tension, along with the neck and shoulders.
Recommended pose: Goddess pose
- Calms the nervous system
Through deep breathing, the nervous system is able to relax. When the body is relaxed, the body is able to digest the food better, sleep better and the immune system is at its optimal.
Recommended pose: Deep breathing
- Preparation for labor
Conscious breathing during each yoga pose may sometimes be challenging. One should practice being comfortable through breath-work. As you deeply inhale you can acknowledge the tension that is felt and as you deeply exhale, you let go of the tension. With practice, this can be learnt easily.
Recommended pose: Cat/cow pose
- Connection with baby
A prenatal yoga practice allows the body to slow down and focus attention on what is going on within the body. Through working with the breath and doing each pose, one becomes more aware of what is going on within.
Recommended pose: Chest opener
- Increases circulation
Circulation is enhanced within the joints and the muscles are elongated during practice. Due to the circulation of the blood in the body, swelling decreases and the immunity is enhanced, creating a healthy environment for a thriving baby.
Recommended pose: Standing flow poses.
- Breath- work practice
This is a good tool for labor during contractions. When one is consciously breathing, the blood pressure and heart rate is regulated, keeping the body in a relaxed mode.
- Sense of community
It can be comforting to be with a group of women who understand what each of them is going through.
- Nurturing time
This is the time which allows the mother to stop and slow down from her busy days. Through the practice of yoga, the expectant mother is setting an intention in taking care of not only herself but of the baby too.
The yoga poses mentioned above are safe for every trimester and will strengthen, center and calm the body and mind. However, expectant mothers should practice them the under guidance of an instructor trained in prenatal yoga.