Pregnancy yoga: what are the benefits?
Pregnancy is a magical and exciting time. Alongside this, it can often be an intense experience for a woman, both mentally and physically. This article explores the benefits of pregnancy yoga for women. Discover more about the practice of yoga during all stages of pregnancy and how mothers-to-be can incorporate yoga principles into their life for a better pregnancy experience.
Pregnancy yoga for strength and fitness
Pregnancy yoga not only helps to maintain strength through what might be the most challenging nine months of your life, but it can also prepare you for a smoother, much more comfortable and empowered birth experience.
Yoga during pregnancy is suitable for those that already have an established practice. Should you wish to take up yoga for the first time, it is essential that you seek the advice of a medical professional.
The reason for the requirement of previous experience is due in part to the softening of ligaments during pregnancy. The pregnancy hormone, relaxin, which helps the uterus to expand, can also cause connective tissue across the hips and other parts of the body to become more supple.
This can lead to injury if you do not have a solid understanding and awareness of your body, if you hold poses for too long or try to go too deep into a pose, you could hurt yourself. First-timers, take it easy please!
Which poses can I do?
Unknown to most people, you are actually quite free to do most yoga poses when pregnant, it is best to avoid anything requiring you to lay on your back after the first trimester however as this can restrict blood flow to the womb.
Pregnant women are also required to exercise caution when doing inversions or any balancing poses so as to prevent injury. If (and a strong “if” here) you are a highly experienced yogi with a very well established inversion practice, you can continue your headstand practice after the first trimester.
What are the best poses for pregnancy?
- Hip openers such as bound angle pose (baddhakonasana) or lotus pose (advanced yogis only), will help stretch and open hips in preparation for labour and the baby moving out of the birth canal with ease.
- To help take the weight off, childs pose (balasana), slightly modified so that the knees are set wide apart to accommodate the baby bump, can provide great relief throughout pregnancy, promoting calmness in the body and allowing mummy-to-be to focus on her breath. This pose is also invaluable during labour, as it will allow you to rest and regain energy in between contractions.
- A final pose, which can greatly relieve back pain during pregnancy, is a wide-legged forward bend. In this pregnancy friendly variation of the traditional uttanasana pose, legs are kept wide to promote better balance. As you hinge forwards from the hips, hold onto opposite elbows and let your upper body relax as it hangs down.
Anything else I should know?
Plenty! Yoga philosophy goes beyond traditional postures and poses and can help during pregnancy in a variety of other ways. A consistent (and primarily comfortable) meditation practice can be hugely beneficial to pregnant women, helping to regulate the fluctuations in emotions caused by hormones, tiredness and physical changes. A relaxed mother makes for a relaxed baby and a calm nurturing environment for the baby to grow.
In addition, yoga promotes an awareness of breath and teaches various deep breathing techniques. Deep breathing is both calming and restorative, providing a deep inhale of life-giving oxygen to the growing child while replenishing mother’s energy. It can also help during bouts of nausea, helping to ground the mother so that she may regain a sense of agency over her body.
In conclusion, yoga can help you in a variety of ways during pregnancy. Ideally to see the most benefits, it is best to start practicing long before you even conceive, but even the most novice of yogis can benefit from resting poses, meditation and deep breathing. Good luck with your life-giving journey.
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