It's no accident that prenatal yoga is gaining momentum. There are endless benefits expecting mothers receive from rolling out the mat. As a prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher, I routinely hear from my students how much yoga helped them though their pregnancy. Here are a few of the reasons why you should consider getting in on the trend if you're pregnant.
1. Breathing is key in yoga and during pregnancy.
Many pregnant women experience shortness of breath due to the fact that the body needs more oxygen, but their growing bellies limit diaphragm movement. With emphasis on the breath during a yoga class, prenatal students can find areas in the body where they can optimize each inhale. The focus of alignment in the spine creates more space for the lungs to expand, and stretches in the side body can be helpful for inviting more air into the sides of the ribcage.
2. Grounding yoga postures can help create a deeper mind-body connection.
Many of my students confess to me that they experience anxiety during pregnancy of not being prepared enough for when the baby arrives. The fear of the unknown leads to stress, and can cause a disruption to the mother’s and baby’s health. Incorporating grounding yoga postures and reminding students to get out of their heads and onto the mat during class can be a relief for any self-induced expectations that may not be necessary during this incredible personal journey.
3. Hip-opening postures are great preparations to loosen up the hips for labor and delivery.
In addition to easing the delivery process, the hips can cause discomfort during the later stages of pregnancy in day-to-day activities. By incorporating hip stretches into your routine, the hips release both physical and emotional tension, reducing pain associated with tight hips. Some of my favorite hip-opening postures are Warrior 2, Malasana or squat, Supported Pigeon and Reclined Baddha Konasana, or Bound Angle Pose.
4. Relief for low back pain from forward fold postures is extremely helpful.
As the belly gets bigger, it increases the arch in the lumbar spine, which can cause low back pain. Standing forward folds can be a huge help to relieve back pain. Moreover, when the hamstrings are tight, you can experience tightness in the low back. Stretching out the hamstrings in poses like Janusirsansa or Head to Knee Pose can greatly reduce back pain.
5. Pelvic floor-strengthening exercises are important in pre- and postnatal yoga.
A strong pelvic floor is important for control of the muscles during delivery. It also helps prevent tearing, urinary incontinence, bladder and bowel prolapse, and hemorrhoids. By strengthening the pelvic floor the muscles support the uterus as it enlarges. In the medical world the exercises are called Kegel exercises; in yoga we refer to this as Mulabhanda. The repeat action of tensing and releasing the muscles are done best when in a hip-opening pose such as Malasana or Squat Pose.
6. Preparing for contractions by learning to calm the mind is essential for labor and delivery.
By holding some difficult yoga postures like chair pose against the wall, students can practice finding some peace in the challenge. When the mind is in a furry it has a direct effect on the body and can create tension and resistance. By breathing through the pain, the mind can calm down to relax the body and move through the contraction.
7. Restorative inversions can relieve swelling in the feet and legs.
Retention is common for an expecting mother. Swollen feet can be uncomfortable. Taking a supported inversion like Viparita Karani, (legs up the wall) lying on the back can reduce swelling and varicose veins by reversing the blood flow and improving circulation. If it's uncomfortable to lie on your back with both legs at the same time, try one at a time with support from blankets under the sides of your back or belly.
Whether you take private yoga classes for more personal attention, or you participate with other expecting mothers in your community, yoga can improve your overall experience and bring more joy and bliss to you and your little one during this journey!