Three amazing benefits to practising yoga during pregnancy
I’m pregnant! Is it okay for me to practice Yoga?
Yes, yes yes!!
Yoga is one of the most accessible forms of exercise that is recommended to practice during pregnancy. I hate to refer to it as exercise, but often this is how your midwife or GP will talk about it. So let’s move away from that word and offer a few suggestions as to why you may wish to consider practising yoga during pregnancy.
The good news is, so long as you have the all clear from your midwife or consultant, anyone can practise yoga whilst pregnant from about 14 weeks regardless of whether you have been to a yoga class before or not.
Listed below are just three reasons why I feel practising yoga during pregnancy is really beneficial both physically and emotionally.
“When a woman learns the power of the breath she will naturally trust in her body more deeply, she will use the breath to create physical space within her body, to energise or relax her body, to calm and focus her mind, to communicate with her baby. The breath is a gift that will empower her, that will deeply support her through pregnancy, labour and beyond.” Zoë Martin, Yoga Leicester.
The breath is the most fundamental part of any yoga practice and will prove to be your greatest friend during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. The breath enables a sense of relaxation, focus and calm. Long exhalations have the capacity to drop the arousal of the sympathetic nervous system which in turn allows for a deeper state of relaxation and will prove to be extremely supportive and focussing during childbirth. The breath enables you to go inward, focus on yourself and acts as a stabilising force during labour.
The exhalation is also fundamental in allowing you to let go and to connect with the feeling of your muscles moving down and releasing through the pelvic floor. (See notes below on the pelvic floor for more info on this.) There are so many useful breathing practices (Pranayama) and visualisation techniques (meditation) that can be explored during pregnancy which provide you with your own beautiful array of tools in order to support you and cultivate focus during birth and post-natal recovery.
Increase physical and emotional stamina
Yoga for pregnancy “…aims to help women to give birth naturally and joyfully, without undue strain, resistance or fear. It aims to help them to feel fit and strong, and well prepared.” Francoise Freedman and Dories Hall, Yoga for Pregnancy.
A well-balanced yoga practice during pregnancy should include some strengthening based postures which will empower pregnant women to move more freely and confidently in their bodies. Strengthening the lower back muscles as the belly begins to expand will assist with postural changes and strengthening the legs, back, feet and arms will also go a long way to building stamina for childbirth.
It is also useful to learn about the changes that are happening physically, so that we can bring a greater focus to parts of us which may need more care than others. Sometimes it could be that we need stability, whereas other times we may prefer to stretch a little. A slow movement based practice allows us to have these insights. Listening and learning about ourselves and the nature of the ever-changing body during pregnancy.
But this stamina isn’t just physical, Yoga for pregnancy is feminine, fluid and soft, it helps us to connect to our inner power – sakti*. When we build our strength physically it is also building an inner resilience. Learning to understand our bodies and to know what we are capable of opens a space of deep inner trust. This trust and inner strength may prove fruitful when we are talking to a midwife or consultant about our birthing plans, or when we are faced with unplanned obstacles during pregnancy and birth.
Sakti – divine feminine, creative power. (pronounced Shakti)
Deepening awareness from the inside out
“Compassion is the very essence of an open heart and must be cultivated throughout our journey.” The Dalia Lama
Yoga always works from the inside out, it is a process of turning up the volume of your own inner awareness. In doing there is time and space to respond to it rather than react to what’s happening on the outside. The first thing we need to do is to tune into the now experience; asking simple questions such as ‘how am I?’ or ‘what do I need?’ will provide you with an internal response. This is a process of listening, observing and then reflecting. This may feel completely alien to us because more often than not our natural response is to be there for others, but this is THE time to be there for yourself.
As your self-awareness deepens so too will your bond with your growing baby, who is sharing this experience with you, through touch, sound and movement you can communicate on a very intimate and vibrational level.
Taking a practice that allows time for you to centre yourself fully, and to be present helps you to tap into the subtle realms of the practice. Yoga is an approach to self-care and this is a time in your lives where you can really start to develop an awareness of what it is you need most from one moment to the next, whether it is a yoga practice, rest or meeting up with your friends for support over a cup of tea.
Remove yourself from the demands of the pressure of a new baby coming into your life and allow yourself to have space and time to just ‘be’ and enjoy the moment. I always encourage plenty of time to rest, pause and reflect during a practice. Take care of yourself and enjoy the time that you have provided to explore your inner peace.
There are many other benefits for practicing yoga whilst pregnant, but we’ll start with these for now.
Here are a few practical tips to consider;
- It is strongly recommended to wait until you are 14 weeks pregnant before attending a prenatal yoga class and have the go ahead from your midwife or GP.
- Always make sure you allow plenty of time for yourself to arrive and leave for a pregnancy yoga class.
- Don’t be in a rush, this should be an enjoyable experience and not one that adds additional stress to your life.
- Wear comfortable clothing, bring blankets and cushions for extra support and cosiness during relaxation and for use during some of the postures.
- Ensure you drink plenty of water.
- Rest as often as you need to during the class.
- If you have any concerns always make sure you let your practitioner know.
- This isn’t an exercise class…avoid comparing yourself to others
This is your time so try to ‘be’ in that moment as much as you can, the breath will help you. Be spacious and enjoy the opportunity to connect with yourself. This is such a unique time in your lives, you so deserve to be held in a safe place where you can breathe and rest. Along the way, you may also make some wonderful friends too.
I am launching a new Yoga for Pregnancy class in my home village of Broadbottom, Hyde on Monday evenings from the 24th February! This will be a course based structure but there is also the option to drop-in option for those of you who can’t make it weekly. To find out more contact me, I’m really looking forward to working with you in your birth preparation and in offering you the space and time for yourself to slip into that inner space of self-awareness, strength and calm.
What you learn through pregnancy yoga will provide you with life-long tools for pregnancy, birth and beyond.
Thanks for taking the time to drop by and I look forward to re-connecting with you again soon,