It seems like every day we hear about more and more people touting the health benefits of yoga. It is true that a regular practice can increase muscle strength and flexibility, boost immunity and improve energy focus.
While these benefits certainly apply to people from all walks of life, the benefits of yoga can be even more pronounced for women that are expecting. At a time when the body seems to be changing daily, and often does not feel like your own, yoga can help a woman to stay active, healthy and connected to her body during this transformational time.
A consistent practice can also help prepare the mom-to-be for labor, delivery and motherhood. Here are five reasons why maintaining a regular yoga practice will benefit moms-to-be.
1. Ease the Common Discomforts of Pregnancy.
Talk to any pregnant woman and you will often hear about challenges such as swelling of the hands and feet, sciatic nerve pain, leg cramps and headaches.
Prenatal yoga classes are designed to address these specific issues by incorporating poses that can address and relieve the discomforts. Swollen feet? Try legs up the wall pose, which will encourage blood and lymphatic flow back to the body and out of the aching feet.
2. Alleviate tension from postural changes.
As the baby continues to grow, your body will be constantly shifting and changing to compensate. The curves of your spine will become more pronounced as the weight of your baby shifts forward, causing strain on the neck, shoulders and back.
By regularly incorporating poses like cat/cow to maintain spinal flexibility and gentle backbends like bridge pose, to open the chest and shoulders you can maintain both strength and flexibility as your body adapts to your growing baby.
3. Practice breath awareness.
Breath work truly is the key component of any yoga class. It is the combination of breath and movement that sets yoga apart from many other physical activities. As a pregnant woman, especially one living at altitude, the focus on creating space for the breath becomes even more important. As the space for the lungs becomes compressed as the baby grows, even everyday activities like climbing the stairs can be a chore.
Prenatal yoga classes often incorporate breath practices that help you focus on slowing and expanding the breath, bringing more oxygen to both mom and baby.
4. Decrease stress and anxiety.
We all know how challenging the effects of day-to-day stress can be on our physical body, we feel the shoulders creeping up into the ears or the low back becoming tense with worry. When you add the extra concern about becoming a parent, especially for the first time, it can be extremely taxing on the body. For many soon to be parents the mind may be running a mile a minute, it could be the concerns about finances, time management, or simply just the fear of the unknown.
Yet, one of the healthiest things you can do for your baby is to keep stress levels low. Yoga helps us with this in so many ways. When you take time to focus on your health you tune into your body and start to become aware of what you need. Poses such as child’s pose and puppy pose, are wonderful ways to pause and allow your mind and body to settle.
5. Prepare the body for childbirth.
You’ve spent nine, well really ten, months preparing for the big event. If you’ve maintained a regular yoga practice during that time, your body has developed the strength and stamina needed for labor. You have developed breathing practices you can use during your labor as well as techniques to help focus your mind. The hip openers and leg strengtheners you have been practicing have made the body open and strong. You have spent hours in yogic squats, and frog pose, preparing your body for this time. Thanks to your practice, the mind and the body are ready for your transition to parenthood.
While prenatal yoga has many wonderful health benefits, there are certain poses that should be modified or avoided while you are pregnant. To ensure a safe and beneficial practice, pregnant women who are interested in practicing yoga are encouraged to attend prenatal yoga classes with a certified prenatal yoga instructor.
Classes offer more than a time to nourish your mind and body, they give you the opportunity to connect with other pregnant women in your community. Many classes will provide the chance to ask questions and share what is happening in your own body. The support system created in prenatal classes can be as valuable as the physical benefits of your practice. Please consult with your doctor before starting any new physical activity when pregnant.