This blog post is going to summarise what I feel are the 6 main benefits of pregnancy yoga.
I have 3 children of my own, and have taught pregnancy yoga (and postnatal yoga) for over a decade. I have also worked as an antenatal course facilitator in the past. With all this experience, both personal (and through teaching), I know how powerful yoga can be in terms of supporting you through pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.
So let’s look at these 6 benefits of practising yoga during your pregnancy.
1. Pregnancy Yoga Keeps Your Body Fit, Healthy And Free From Aches and Pains
Pregnancy is hard work on the body. It places great demand on your posture for a start, which is why many pregnant women suffer with aches and pains, especially during the third trimester.
Yoga is the perfect exercise system for pregnancy, because it is not too intensive (unlike other exercise systems). Plus, however far ‘along’ you are, pregnancy yoga can adapt to your body’s needs.
It is the perfect way to keep you strong, fit, and mobile throughout the whole of the 9 months.
Yoga is a practice which utilises the breath in a big way. Breathing well is the first vital step in helping you keep your core (and pelvic floor) in good working order.
In a typical yoga session, you flow from one pose to another using the breath as your guide. So, technically you are working your core for the entire time you are on the mat. In addition, the yoga poses are specifically designed to strengthen the key muscles which support posture, (the upper back and the pelvis area), so you will always be able to maintain a healthy alignment as you bump grows. Because, you are breathing for two, your time on the yoga mat will also feel like a cardio workout too. A double bonus!
I know I am being biased but there is no better way to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy.
One final note, because pregnancy yoga is entirely adapted for the pregnant body, you do not have to have any previous experience of yoga or of any other kind of exercise for it to benefit you. It is suitable for complete beginners and to be honest, many women try yoga for the first time when they become pregnant.
2. Yoga Helps You Cope With The Emotional Roller Coaster of Pregnancy
The second of the 6 benefits of pregnancy yoga, is that it can support your mental health. Pregnancy is a time when many strong emotions and feelings can arise.
It really can be a roller coaster journey. Fears and anxieties will spring up from nowhere. On top of that, you may find yourself experiencing a lot more emotions for which you have no explanations for. This is normal and nothing to worry about.
Why do they spring up?
Because pregnancy hormones affect your moods – simple as that.
Yoga has the perfect tools to help you navigate these rises and falls. Breathing techniques (also known as pranayama) meditation, visualisation and affirmations are all yoga practices which will support you in a big way.
3. Many Yoga poses Make Perfect Positions For Labour and Childbirth.
This one is a biggy for me. Many of the yoga poses which we practice in a typical pregnancy yoga session make perfect positions for labour.
The main reason for this is that the yoga poses put you in an upright, forward, and open position (or UFO for short). These positions are good for labour for 3 reasons:
- Gravity is able to assist with the birth process.
- The uterine muscles are able to contract more effectively.
- They enable the pelvis to open up to its maximum.
All these factors help to keep labour as straightforward and pain free as possible. They also help to speed the process up and who doesn’t want that?
4. Yoga Breathing, Meditation and Visualisation Tools Help The Progression Of Labour Too
Just as the yoga poses can help the process of labour along, yoga breathing, and relaxation tools can also be a big assistance.
Firstly, good breathing helps you cope with labour by making sure that both you and the baby get enough energy for the labour process. I mean after all, giving birth has been described as using the same energy expenditure as running a marathon!
Secondly, without getting too sciency about it, good breathing helps the labour hormones to work at their best.
Labour only occurs when you are in the rest and repair state (the parasympathetic nervous system). In this state the labour hormones are released in sufficient quantities for labour to ‘run smoothly’. The opposite state (the fight and flight or sympathetic nervous system), prevents the labour hormones from being released.
This is because the body starts to assume that it is not safe enough for labour to continue. This can cause labour to slow down or even stop. This is a great system for animals in the wild because it enables them to escape danger. When the danger is passed, they move back into the rest and repair state and labour can resume.
With ‘humans’ things can get a little more complicated. Often the fight and flight state is activated by fears generated in our minds (i.e. they are not physical threats like being eaten by a bear). Because the body cannot differentiate between a fear we create and a real one, it will react in the same way. As far as your body is concerned, potential danger means labour cannot go on. It will therefore, alter your hormonal chemistry, to slow down or stop labour, so that you can face the danger or run away.
This ‘imaginary’ or self induced stress, as you can see, is not helpful if we are looking for a nice straightforward birth experience. Learning to control stress and anxiety, will help keep the labour hormones working in your favour. Yoga breathing (and the other stress relieving tools of meditation and visualisations) can help keep the body in the parasympathetic state. When the body is in this state, for the most part, labour will continue, unhindered.
In addition, it will make labour less painful. This link was made by a famous obstetrician called Grantly Dick-Read (who was around in the 1950’s). He watched many women go through labour and discovered that the more anxious a woman was, the more tense her body became and the more pain she ended up feeling. This then created more fear, more tension and then more pain – and so it went on. He called this the Tension–Fear–Pain Cycle. When the women remained more relaxed, they felt less pain and labour was more straightforward.
Yoga breathing and the other tools mentioned can help you to relax – simple as that.
5. You will Make New Friends
There is nothing better than a tribe of united women, all going through the same life changing event. Some will be first timers, and some will be expecting their second or subsequent baby. Imagine having all this knowledge, support, and expertise at your fingertips. A pregnancy yoga class provides a safe place for you talk shop with other people who will really understand and give you the opportunity to make new life-long friendships.
6. Yoga Will Be There For You After The Birth (The Fourth Trimester)
Yes, there is a fourth trimester and yoga is a great friend for this often-challenging time. Not only have you got to recover from the birth physically and mentally, but you have to learn your new job as a mum quickly. This is a big thing as looking after a baby is hard work. Cue in the sleepless nights, endless feeding, and troubleshooting!
By the way, it is all worth it.
Yoga can help here by:
- Helping you reclaim your core and pelvic floor.
- Restoring your posture and in doing so reducing the aches and pains which come from your body trying to heal and the endless mummy jobs.
- Keeping you sane during all those new challenges as a parent.
- Giving you tools to help you relax and destress, and help with those sleepness nights.
So, there you have it. I hope that you can see that pregnancy yoga has so many benefits for the pregnant mama-to-be.
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