Benefits of yoga during pregnancy
“Motherhood means creating future generations of people. When you have such a privilege and responsibility, it must be conducted consciously.”
The benefits of yoga during pregnancy are immense. What better way to be conscious during your pregnancy than by practicing yoga? Recent studies have shown that being active during pregnancy benefits both the mom and future baby. A happy pregnancy means a healthier baby and a happier mom!
If you have been practicing yoga āsana for a long time and have solid practice there is no reason for you to stop during your pregnancy. However, it would be wise to adopt the practice according to the quarters and how you feel. Your body will change and you should adapt your practice to both physiological and morphological changes. Especially in the third trimester when the belly starts to take up a lot of space, you might feel discomfort and restrictions.
Whether you are a long-term yoga practitioner or whether you are new to yoga there are many benefits of practicing yoga during pregnancy. I am not a mother myself but I have guided more than 100 women during this phase of their lives in the last 3 years and I can say that practicing yoga helped them at the physical and mental levels as shared below.
What are the Benefits of Yoga During Pregnancy?
How does practicing yoga during pregnancy work?
- Practicing yoga during pregnancy works on several levels. It calms the mind, relaxes the body and gradually prepares for childbirth and postpartum. While living a privileged moment of connection with your baby-to-be.
- When you join a prenatal yoga class, the emphasis will be on breathing exercises and āsana (postures) aimed at gently working on strength and flexibility. Cultivating a pleasant environment during this auspicious time creates the foundation for a vibrant life for the baby.
- Unlike your regular yoga practice, a prenatal yoga practice will teach you how to move safely on and off the mat. Moving your body consciously allows you to better tame it and gradually get used to daily changes. To move without pain, whatever the situation is.
- The practice is suitable for dealing with ordinary inconveniences (false sciatica, back pain, feeling of constriction in the ribs, heavy legs, blood circulation problems, etc.). In short, all the slightly unpleasant things can affect pregnant women. Your teacher will provide you with alternatives for each asana so that everyone can choose the one that suits them at the moment. It is the best moment to develop your interoception (the feeling of knowing what is happening in your body) and learn what feels right for you and what doesn’t.
- Some traditional āsana may be too strenuous for the joints and the pelvis during pregnancy. We must not forget that hormones make the ligaments laxer during pregnancy. Be mindful of your range of motion and don’t push too hard. To support the body, we often use lots of props (blocks, straps, cushions). This allows everyone to feel really comfortable.
- If you choose to practice in a group it is also an opportunity to socialize with other extraordinary future mothers. Surrounding yourself with a circle of people who are going through the same thing is very precious. You can exchange the best maternity advice and feel supported when you need to.
During the first trimester, it is usually recommended to keep the practice as simple as possible. We avoid the most advanced postures. Of course, it depends on your feelings and the opinion of your gynecologist. During the first 3 months, many women feel nauseous and tired and this is the reason why it is advised to keep things simple. Your conditions are really not ideal for practicing. If you have low energy, simple prāṇayāma, yoga nidra or some form of concentration (dhāraṇā) might be helpful.
Second Trimester advice
The 2nd trimester is often the period during which women feel the best. If nausea disappears, you can resume a little more sustained āsana practice. You can even find postures that you already mastered before pregnancy. Often this is the time when women join a prenatal yoga class.
Third Trimester advice
For the third trimester, everything will depend on the evolution of morphological changes. Often women return to a softer practice and adapt it to the size of their lovely belly and the position of the baby. Your teacher will also offer you āsana that relieves tensions and unpleasantness that you might feel in your body. He/she might also teach you some massages and or self-massage to practice with your partner or some friends.
In all cases, the best advice would be to listen to your body, your baby, and the opinion of your physician.
Often we have a priority regarding postures on the back, especially regarding the compression of the vena cava which can lead to the supine hypotensive syndrome.
Science is evolving and it is no longer a definite “no” as it may have been a few years ago. Some women are very comfortable on the back, while others are not. It depends on the position of the fetus and other factors. First I would advise you to check with your healthcare team to find what works best for you and your baby. As I mentioned before yoga is also about developing interoception and pregnancy is the best time to learn to listen very carefully to your body. Stay alert and keep track of what is happening in your body, any signs of dizziness, nausea or rapid heartbeat should be taken seriously. If you feel any of these signs while on your back, come back to a sitter position, and if you feel it while standing find a place to sit down.
Don’t worry if going to the back is not for you, there are many alternative positions that you can use. Your teacher will guide you. You can use props to recline while keeping the upper body raised or you can even turn to a side (preferably left side – same vena cava issue) and use a nursing pillow to prop yourself up. If you’re not comfortable on your back, you can position yourself on your side and even prop yourself up with the nursing pillow.
Feel free to move anytime you need to, only you can feel what is happening inside and only you can feel your baby.
- The quality of the breath depends on the quality of the posture. Yes, it’s as simple as that! Well, most of the time… This is actually even more true for pregnant women, every time the posture is not correct there is a signal that enables the woman to be aware that something is wrong and correct it.
- You always want to be tall and proud, meaning that you want to elongate your spine. Having a long spine means moving the top of the skull away from the coccyx and the sternum away from the pubic bone. By doing so we create space for the diaphragm and therefore free breathing. Magical isn’t it? In addition, by opening the ribs, we come to make room for the baby. Furthermore better breathing brings more oxygen to the mother, the baby, the muscles, and the cells.
- Having better control of the breath is not only helpful physiologically, but it also works as a more subtle level since it is a way to channel the flow of prāṇa, the vital energy/life force. Controlling and moving prāṇa is very key to yoga and one of the limbs (aṅga) of rāja yoga is totally dedicated to this, it is called prāṇayāma.
- Controlling the breath helps calm an agitated mind. It is also a fundamental tool for managing the breath during childbirth, slow deep and long breaths. If you like to visualize things in your body, you can also focus on tense and painful areas and bring your breath there. To release the tensions.
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