More and more we see, hear and read news stories or studies about yoga’s benefits for ailments from diabetes to depression, and rightly so. Anyone who has practiced knows how much of a total body workout yoga can be, as well as a way to quiet down the mind and gain control of your body and breath.
Up there on the list of people who should give yoga a try are expecting mothers. Prenatal yoga can be a great way to not only work the body in an essential way for moms-to-be, but also provides a good preparation for the breath and mind for delivery and beyond.
Medical experts at the Mayo Clinic have even touted prenatal yoga as “a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing.”
Looking specifically at a pregnant woman’s body, yoga can specifically work the areas with the most need in a class geared toward pregnant women. Below are some of the most important pains, areas of interest and common pregnancy issues yoga can safely and gently alleviate and improve.
1. The Breath: Breathing is not something we often think about throughout the day. It is a mechanical function of the body. We never really have to remind our selves to breathe, but we should, especially to prepare our body for the process of labor. Breathing is a very important part of delivering a baby, it helps to relax the body and take your mind from the pain and strain.
That is exactly what the breath work, pranayama, part of yoga will do, even if you are not pregnant. Yogis use what is called conscious breathing to help “still the mind.” Yoga breath work also increases the depth of the breath. By learning “three-part breath,” or “Ujjayi breathing,” we learn to breathe to our bellies, which really means we learn to use the abdominals to breathe and use our diaphragm and really work the ribs to breathe. This allows us to get more oxygen into our bodies. Also, the exhalation of the breath is a natural relaxation for the body. If you notice, when you take a deep breath, on the exhale you can feel the muscles move down and release, that is because they are doing just that.
2. The Pelvic Floor: The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles that form a bowl attached to the pelvis. This muscle supports the vital reproductive and digestion organs, as well as the baby during pregnancy and plays a vital role in sexual intercourse for both men and women.
During pregnancy it is especially important to exercise your pelvic floor muscle as it has to support a greatly increased load at this time. Although pregnancy is not the only factor for a weakened pelvic floor, aging and inactivity can play a role; it can weaken from pregnancy and childbirth. Although not the cause, a weak pelvic floor can be the start of some health problems. That is why it is very important to work with these muscles, especially after childbirth. Like any other muscle in the body, the pelvic floor can be re-strengthened. The symptoms of a weakened pelvic floor include: