5 Brilliant Benefits Of Pregnancy Yoga
Even if you have never stepped foot on a yoga may before, you may well be drawn to yoga during their pregnancy as many women are. Pregnancy yoga provides a safe and gentle way to move your body in pregnancy, working with your pregnant body as it grows and changes. But pregnancy yoga offers *SO* much more than just exercise appropriate for the pregnant body, and many mums to be discover they are reaping many many more benefits than they imagined from taking a pregnancy yoga class each week.
As a pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing & birth preparation teacher I am often asked what the benefits of pregnancy yoga are, and when in your pregnancy you should practice pregnancy yoga. So here is my guide to 5 brilliant benefits of pregnancy yoga from my Yoga For Modern Life pregnancy yoga classes in York each week (details here).
1. Pregnancy Yoga Helps Mother-to-be's Body
Pregnancy yoga is a great way to gently ease, to stretch and also increase flexibility in your pregnant body while also strengthening it too for the rest of your pregnancy and for birth. So we focus on moving the body to ease those pregnancy aches and pains, and also slow focussed postures to strengthen too. And moving in a slow, mindful and considered way and really paying attention to what you are doing when you are doing it also helps to calm the body’s nervous system (meaning you are lovely and relaxed) and improves circulation too (great in pregnancy).
Practising yoga each week, and if you can do a little daily at home can also help to ease and improve those pregnancy niggles by keeping the body moving. So things like lower back ache, sciatica, indigestion, heartburn, cramps, swollen ankles and hands, constipation can be eased with some pregnancy yoga. The combination of yoga postures, deep mindful breathing and relaxation in a pregnancy yoga class can help you to have a better quality of sleep too, reduce insomnia (so common in pregnancy) and help you get back to sleep when you women for *another* wee in the night!
Perhap the greatest benefit is to bring an overall sense of balance to the body and nervous system, allowing it to return to a more calm and stress-free state.
2. Pregnancy Yoga Helps You Bond With Your Baby
Pregnant women can sometimes find it hard to register that they have a new human being growing inside them! If your bump is quite small, or if you have not started feeling any movements, it can be difficult to feel a sense of connection with your unborn baby. But by connecting with your body in a pregnancy yoga class it starts this conversation with your body and your baby, and you start bring an awareness to what is going on inside you - growing a baby and nurturing a new life - and it gives you special time each week to focus in on your baby.
Babies also love many of the breathing exercises we do (as you relax with the deeper breathing, baby relaxes too), and also often respond to the relaxation at the end of the class by moving around or kicking. All of this helps you to realise that your baby is experiencing what you are experiencing - so very special. A weekly pregnancy yoga class also offers mums to be a safe place to send their focus inwards with no distractions, creating a special mum and baby bonding time – something that can be really hard to do in your own home as part of your busy life (you mean to do it, but you just don't get the time without leaving the house to come along to class).
The reduction in anxiety mentioned above also has been shown to have a positive impact on your baby too. And when mum has a strong bond with her baby before birth, then the chances are it will be easier to bond with baby after the birth, and so potentially reducing the possibility of postnatal depression too.
3. Pregnancy Yoga Helps Mother-to-be's Mind
Yoga practice brings mental strength through the combination of breathing and focus. By focusing on the moment, by being mindful in your yoga practice, it allows the mind to become more flexible and open to new ideas - not least coming to terms with the changes that are happening in your amazing pregnant body, but also the changes that will happen in their life once their baby is born.
There is also some scientific evidence that regular yoga practice in pregnancy can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, through relieving tension and stress in the muscles. Postnatal depression is a common concept but many mums suffer severe anxiety in pregnancy and can feel isolated and depressed, particularly if they are suffering a lot of pregnancy symptoms and they are not enjoying the experience. So coming along to a pregnancy yoga class each week helps to relieve some of this mental stress and tension, and meeting with other pregnant women really helps you to know you are not alone, and what you are experiencing is normal.
4. Pregnancy Yoga Helps You Prepare For Labour & Birth
In labour it's so important that you are able to connect with your body, to listen to it and to allow your body to guide you both physically and mentally. If you can tune into yourself you can make intuitive movements and positions that will help you labour and birth more calmly and easily, this is called 'active birth'. In our modern lives we live mainly in our rational, thinking mind and not in our instinctive and feeling 'animal' mind (more about your animal mind and why instinct is so important in labour and birth on my hypnobirthing courses), and very few people are able to listen to their bodies and connect with what it is telling them. So when it comes to labour, often women simply don’t know how to do this.
Pregnancy yoga not only encourages this dialogue with your body, by focussing on a posture, through breathing into it, and finding stillness there. But it also opens up a wonderful conversation between the mind and body, allowing you to tap into and to make friends with their subconscious and helping you recognise the way their body is talking to them. This conversation is carried through into labour where your body will often encourage them to adopt certain positions or movements that will help their baby be born based on their unique circumstances – such as baby’s position. So practicing yoga based birth preparation techniques during a yoga class, such as active birth positions and movements help to create intuitive muscle memory and to strengthen muscles you may use in labour (a lot!), so that you don't have to 'think' about what position might be comfortable or how you might move - your body already has that knowledge to draw upon. This again helps you to keep your thinking, rational mind at bay during labour and so enabling the intuitive, animal or 'primitive' brain to take centre stage and this has a very positive impact on birth hormones and so a smooth, calm and positive birth experience. Yay!
In pregnancy yoga will also do movements and postures that are all about opening the body, and so a regular pregnancy yoga class encourages the mothers hips and pelvis and all the muscles and ligaments in that area of the body to be ready to open for labour.
In addition the breathing techniques we practice in pregnancy yoga classes help to teach mums to be how to breathe properly not just for labour, but also for life! We practice yoga breathing techniques that can be very beneficial in your pregnancy to calm and relax you and to aid sleep too, and breathing techniques for labour that help you to help cope with surges (contractions) and stay focussed and grounded on each one at a time (always remember each surge is bringing you one step closer to meeting your baby). These yoga breathing techniques can be applied in many everyday situations too in modern life, helping us to find balance and peace when everything around us seems chaotic and hard to cope with. And they are great postnatally too - for getting a baby or toddler to sleep too - as you breathe deeply and calmly they will follow your breathing pattern which encourages sleep (always great to know!)
5. Pregnancy Yoga Helps Meet Other Local Mothers-To-Be
Attending a regular pregnancy yoga class provides a friendly, welcoming, safe and non-judgemental place for mums to be to share their experiences of pregnancy. Whether it is delighting in news of a baby’s progress, or being able to moan about constipation, swollen ankles and heartburn! Having a safe place each week to share and vent any worries, fear, anger and happiness is an incredibly important way for pregnant women to be able to enjoy, enbrace and to and cope with pregnancy. As you are surrounded by other pregnant women, you won't be boring anyone with your pregnancy schizz - everyone loves to find out what's been happening within the group in the last week.
More often than not when a woman shares something the mothers nod in agreement - and so you realise that you are so not alone. There is friendly support from other mothers to be who are going through exactly the same experience. I witness the amazing power of this support every week in my classes and it delights me to see women exchanging numbers, setting up WhatsApp groups, connecting through my Facebook group and making friends. This brilliant support network that you are creating tends to be local to them, and with mothers who will have babies around the same age - and genuine lifelong friendships can be made in a pregnancy yoga class (I know this first hand!).
Pregnancy yoga really does go beyond the weekly classes
So how does all that sound? So many amazing benefits for you in your pregnancy from just a little bit of time each week. Although I have mentioned “just” 5 benefits of pregnancy yoga, the benefits stretch well outside of the weekly classes and into the daily bodies and minds of the pregnant women who come.
Also to say that you are NEVER to old, too young, too stiff or too inflexible, or too heavy, or too inexperienced or too unfit to enjoy all of the benefits that pregnancy yoga can bring to your mind, your body and your baby. Do please let me know if you have any questions, comments or feedback at all.
More details here about my pregnancy yoga classes in York. I teach pregnancy yoga every Monday and Wednesday evenings at 7.15pm. Mondays at Manor Studios in Poppleton and Wednesdays at York Yoga Studio. For all the details of my weekly classes in York please head over to www.yogaformodernlife.com/pregnancy-yoga or email firstname.lastname@example.org You can also find out more at my YouTube channel www.formodernmothers.video
There's more information online here too - http://www.yogajournal.com/article/parenting-motherhood/labor-love/