Practicing yoga during your pregnancy is a wonderful way to ease the discomforts of pregnancy, prepare your body for childbirth, and bond with your baby-to-be. Pre-natal yoga requires no previous yoga experience! It's a practice specifically geared toward the changes a woman's body goes through during pregnancy, emphasizing poses that strengthen and relax, while easing the discomfort of pregnancy. Breathing techniques and quiet meditation also facilitate baby-bonding and awareness.
A pre-natal practice will help to strengthen your body and prepare it for the physical demands of labor and childbirth, while calming your mind and reducing stress. Plus, it's a great way to gain friendship and support, and to have some time away from the demands of regular life to be present with your growing baby. Whether you're a first-time mom or have several children already, pre-natal yoga can be a great benefit to any pregnancy.
Some benefits of yoga during pregnancy include:
- Reduced or eliminated pregnancy discomfort
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Increased energy and decreased fatigue
- Improved focus and concentration
- Stronger muscles and increased flexibility
- Improved posture
- Improved overall health
- Baby awareness and baby bonding
Be sure to speak with your doctor before practicing yoga, especially if you have any pregnancy-related health concerns such as preeclampsia, placenta previa, or gestational diabetes.
Reduced or Eliminated Pregnancy Discomfort
While pregnancy can be a wonderful and enlightening time in a woman's life, it also has the potential to be extremely uncomfortable. Yoga's gentle movements, combined with simple breath exercises and meditation, can help relieve many of the annoying effects of pregnancy, including swelling, sciatica, nausea, constipation, varicose veins, leg cramps, backaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fatigue.
The slow and smooth exercises of pre-natal yoga help to increase circulation, which reduces swelling and stimulates the digestive system. The use of props and restorative yoga poses help to deeply relax the body and mind.
Reduced Stress & Anxiety
One of the benefits of any yoga class — not just pre-natal — is a calmer mind. Practicing feel-good moves and conscious breathing can lead to a greater sense of awareness and peace in the present moment. Worries about the future and regrets about the past slip away more easily both on and off the yoga mat.
A group pre-natal class also provides community and support, which can help to ease concerns, provide perspective, and build a foundation for life-long friendships — all of which are proven stress-busters!
Increased Energy & Decreased Fatigue
By learning yoga postures and mind-body techniques such as breath work and meditation, you also gain tools to help regulate your energy throughout the day. Practicing a few restorative moves before bed can alleviate physical discomfort that may be preventing you from sleeping deeply; calming your mind with meditation can subdue insomnia. Sleeping well during pregnancy is a gift that leads to increased energy overall.
Improved Focus & Concentration
Anything that requires attention and conscious involvement can be especially challenging if you're dealing with the fuzzy-headed state known as "pregnancy brain" or "momnesia" — a common occurrence of lapsed memory and brain fog possibly brought on by increased hormone production. Lack of sleep and daytime multitasking only increase the odds of forgetting your keys, your parking space, or your middle name.
A distraction-free yoga and meditation practice can give your brain the break it needs. By focusing your awareness on your breath and your body, moving on your mat, you can regain the ability to filter out nonessential thoughts and replace your current mode of thinking with one that's tranquil and centered.
Stronger Muscles & Increased Flexibility
It may be no surprise that yoga can help you gain physical strength and flexibility. But if you haven't had children yet, you may be shocked how much they demand from you physically! Many pre-natal yoga classes focus on building upper-body strength — the "baby-carrying" muscles. Flexibility is vital for chasing young'uns around, but lower-body flexibility is also helpful during labor and delivery.
Just remember that yoga is not a competition — the amount of strength and flexibility you'll gain may be relative to your current level of fitness and overall health, while your neighbor's is relative to hers. So take it easy and allow yourself to enjoy whatever physical benefits you gain.
Improved Overall Health
So, you're stronger, calmer, sleeping better, and your legs are less swollen. What else can pre-natal yoga do for you? Well, it may be one of your only chances to relax deeply before your child is born. Many pre-natal yoga classes use restorative yoga poses to help students unwind — a practice that benefits your entire being.
Restorative yoga poses fully support the body with props such as blocks and bolsters, which allows the limbs and muscles to completely rest. This deep relaxation stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls our bodies' involuntary ‘rest and digest' responses (as opposed to the ‘fight or flight' stress responses of the sympathetic nervous system). Blood pressure decreases, heart rate slows, and digestion is activated. Regular and consistent stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system results in an overall state of health and well-being in body, mind, and spirit.
Baby Awareness & Baby Bonding
The most unique aspect of pre-natal yoga is the opportunity it offers to bring greater awareness to your growing baby, bonding with your little one as he or she develops inside of you. Every pre-natal yoga teacher will approach this in different ways, but some may include guided meditation, visualization, or even storytelling to help ease fears, inspire intuition, and encourage unconditional love.
Baby, I'm Yours
As you face the unique challenges of each trimester, yoga can be your ally, gently guiding you toward labor, birth, and motherhood. The tools you gain in pre-natal yoga can continue to benefit you well after your child is born — and will allow you to share the wonderful gift of yoga with your little one for years to come.