How can pregnancy yoga help?
Becoming a mother is a very personal, transformative and profound experience. Practicing yoga during pregnancy can help a woman to cultivate strength, awareness and emotional wellbeing, to embrace the changes taking place, to feel empowered and to prepare for childbirth and motherhood, physically, mentally and emotionally.
As your baby grows, pregnancy yoga can help to strengthen, tone and make more space for your growing baby.
Pregnancy yoga can offer a little piece of sanctuary, providing a safe, supportive space to cultivate connection and awareness.
Many women who practice yoga during pregnancy, comment on the positive impact of yoga in building their awareness of their breath and praise the use of conscious breathing techniques to manage and even eliminate pain, intensity and anxiety during labour.
Pregnancy yoga is a safe and highly complementary practice during pregnancy, helping to foster a sense of calm, strength and inner balance so women feel empowered and equipped to navigate the many changes and challenges of pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
What is pregnancy Yoga?
Yoga is a wonderful practice to do during pregnancy as the essence of this ancient practice embodies the ‘union’ of mind, body and breath. The developmental, physiological and emotional changes which happen during pregnancy are supported by the practices of movement and asana (poses), breath awareness and breathing techniques (pranayama), meditation and relaxation. These practices can help to support the many transitions of pregnancy, alleviate common symptoms throughout this transformative time and help you to feel more connected and in tune with your body, your baby and your breath.
There are many different schools of yoga, but all emphasise the importance of breathwork, relaxation and mindful movement. Pregnancy is not a time to overexert yourself but rather a time to cultivate deep respect and self-love. Practising yoga during pregnancy can help you to prioritise nourishing and caring for yourself and your baby, making space just for you and acknowledging just how precious pregnancy is as a time in your life.
When can I start pregnancy Yoga?
Most pregnancy yoga classes may specify that you can attend any time from 12 weeks of pregnancy. This will depend on the teacher and it is best to connect and discuss this directly with a specialised pregnancy yoga teacher
It is important to find a teacher that you trust and feel comfortable with, so you feel both supported and at ease within the class. Think about what you would like to get out of the class and let that be your focus rather than a class which is nearest or at the studio or centre you already attend. Some pregnancy yoga classes may incorporate birth preparation, relaxation and visualisation and open discussion whereas some classes may focus primarily on a yoga sequence of movements or poses adapted for pregnancy.
I’ve never done yoga before.
Anyone can do yoga during their pregnancy, in fact it is a really wonderful time to start and can offer such a powerful opportunity to really embrace all that is happening and use the practices of breathwork, movement and relaxation to feel a little more ‘at home’ in the physical body.
Why should I do Pregnancy Yoga?
The practice of yoga should evolve with you as you journey through your pregnancy and prepare for life as a mother.
During your first trimester it is vital to listen carefully to your body and take this time to really connect with the body’s innate wisdom, letting that be your guide for any activity. It is advisable to avoid any strenuous exercise during the early stages of pregnancy, as your baby develops from an embryonic cell into a growing fetus and makes its home in your uterus. This is a great time for a more meditative practice and very gentle movement. A perfect opportunity to give yourself space and time to really absorb, acknowledge and reflect on the changes taking place.
In the second trimester most women feel more energised and often find sickness and tiredness abates. This is a great time to build both physical, mental and emotional strength and stamina exploring standing postures, squats and poses that focus on building awareness of the freedom around the hips and pelvis, to prepare physically for birth. Gentle movement and exercising your body using asana can help to cultivate deeper awareness, trust and intuition for the needs of yourself and your baby.
During the final trimester towards the end of pregnancy the emphasis is on cultivating a more restorative and meditative practice, exploring the power of the breath and its relative influence over both the mind and body. The use of breathing techniques, meditation, visualisation and positive affirmation is a really powerful way to prepare for the process of birth and motherhood. These practices are ones which are often dismissed in our very goal orientated society where ‘doing’ and productivity is viewed in the highest regard and more contemplative, inner work can be viewed as lazy, easy, boring or pointless. It is these subtle and intricate practices which can be the most challenging and subsequently which can have the deepest cellular effect on a physical, mental and emotional level and these breathing and mindfulness practices which can provide such support during birth and motherhood.
What is pregnancy yoga good for?
The yoga practices of asana, breathwork and meditation can help to nurture positive qualities such as courage, acceptance, trust and patience and encourage women to really listen to and trust their natural instincts, let go of the need to control and to surrender to the moment. These qualities are some of the most powerful and positive tools during the process of birth. By exploring and integrating these yoga practices before labour, the effect is that women then intuitively use what they need during birth, as the benefits of practices have been embodied. The emphasis within any yoga class and not least in pregnancy yoga is that there is no prescribed perfect sequence, pose or set of techniques to learn. Yoga is such a great practice during pregnancy as it supports you to find movement and deep connection with your body, your baby and in labour to work with the natural hormones released and to discover and embrace your own power and intuitive knowing.
Becoming comfortable and at ease with different breath techniques and incorporating sound into these practices has a physiological impact on the body helping to relax the jaw and muscles around the pelvis and in particular sound vibration and releasing tension in the lips can impact upon cervical dilation and the physiological progression of labour.
Say hello to your pelvic floor
The pelvic floor muscles provide a multi plex hammock which attaches to your lower back and abdominal muscles. These muscles undergo significant changes during pregnancy to support your growing uterus and other organs. Deep breathing and specific stretches help to increase the elasticity of these muscles. Learning to locate, activate, isolate and relax these muscles is an important process in supporting a physiological birth and improving the efficacy of uterine contractions.
The breathing practice and adapted yoga postures used to tone and connect with your pelvic floor in pregnancy can continue to benefit you through birth and beyond and help to boost energy and relieve pelvic pain.
Managing change, intensities or pain in the body - Breath is Boss
The use of breathwork and in particular the extended exhale achieved when practising the golden thread breath is the bodies antidote to pain. The exhalation is when tension and anxiety are released, reducing the feeling of pain in the body.
Yoga offers us the opportunity to both connect and discover, leading to greater self-awareness. The breath is tone rhythm of the body we can consciously influence. Calming the breath, slows the heart rate, and moves the body into the parasympathetic nervous system and away from a ‘stress’ alert or fight or flight response. So the impact of conscious breath work techniques such as the golden thread breath help us to connect with a state of ‘feeling’ rather than ‘thinking’. This helps to shift the focus from a ‘doing’ state, to a ‘rest and digest’ response. This can actually boost vitality, and support women to honour to the emotional, spiritual and physical adjustments during pregnancy, birth and the post-natal period.
Learning to listen to our bodies - Moving intuitively
Awareness of breathing rhythms helps to relax and nurture your wellbeing which directly extends to your baby, this is significant throughout pregnancy and beyond but particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy where heightened levels of cortisol in the mother’s body can actually inhibit the onset of labour.
Yoga tunes us into our instinctual nature, so invaluable in pregnancy, birth and motherhood. Rather than relying on willpower and a need to control, yoga and use of conscious breath techniques can help us to listen to the bodies cues, to connect and bond more deeply and intuitively with our baby and respond to changes taking place calmly.
Give it a go!
I encourage any mama to be, to explore pregnancy yoga as a means to really embrace the full spectrum of their pregnancy journey to prepare for birth and life as a mother. It can provide opportunity to feel the power and impact of community and support from a circle of women and the space and sanctuary to come home to our truest nature as we nourish and celebrate the new life within us.
Check out my Next post - 5 of my favourite yoga poses during pregnancy
Be sure to check out my next post on 5 yoga poses for pregnancy & birth preparation, understanding these poses are doing on a physical level and the benefits regular practice can have on an emotional and spiritual level in preparation for birth and motherhood.
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Looking for a class?
I offer weekly pregnancy yoga and birth preparation classes, for full class details check the website.