(I loved this prenatal yoga DVD during my last pregnancy, and it even helped ease Braxton-Hicks contractions.)
Not only does yoga have numerous physical benefits during pregnancy, but can provide mental benefit as well. The stretching and toning of the poses will ease away aches and pains, improve circulation, strengthen your important muscles for labor, is easy on your joints, and can also provide you with a way to connect with your baby. It is also a highly effective form of relaxation and stress relief, with an emphasis on deep breathing and meditation.
Benefits for Pregnancy
As our bodies change during pregnancy, many discomforts may arise that yoga can help to ease. Certain poses can help stretch out our aching joints and ligaments that are holding extra weight and expanding for baby. Some poses can even help “make room” for baby in the pelvic area and encourage baby to move into the right position for delivery. Yoga also improves circulation, which helps us feel better and can reduce swelling.
As our bellies expand, our sense of balance begins to shift. Yoga poses can help you find and practice your new center of gravity.
Strengthening yoga poses will help your body bounce back more quickly after delivery.
Benefits for Labor
In yoga, when you are in a challenging pose, your mind is forced into the moment as you become fully aware of each area of your body and how it is moving and feeling. Learning to be in the moment and in touch with your body is a great practice for labor, when you will also benefit from being fully in the moment through each contraction, and listening to your body and what it needs to be fully productive.
Yoga also teaches deep breathing and relaxation while holding difficult positions or poses. When we become afraid or anxious, the tendency is to tighten up our bodies and breathe in a shallow manner, which could actually produce more pain. Breathing through anxiety and stress calms the body during labor and can help release more of the body’s natural hormones to not only help labor progress, but to reduce the pain of contractions. The more relaxed you can be, the more productive your body can be.
Meditation During Yoga
During most yoga routines you will have a chance to practice both moving and seated meditations. Many instructors have you put one hand on your heart, and the other hand on your baby, fostering a loving connection between mother and child. Deep breathing meditation helps you learn to tune into your breath, and thus, tune into the moment and your own body. Learning to meditate in this way can help you at any point in your pregnancy if you are feeling stressed or anxious, or just to help you relax to start or end your day.
Best Yoga Poses for Pregnancy
Cat-Cow – Performed on all fours, this gentle tilting of the pelvis helps relieve back pain and pressure. This is my favorite.
Butterfly – seated with your legs drawn in together and touching at your feet, leaning into this pose creates room in your hips for baby and also stretches out muscles that may be aching from the added demands and weight.
Squatting – squatting is an important pose because it will help prepare you for labor and delivery by strengthening your legs, opening the hips, and improving flexibility. Many women choose to deliver in a squatting position because the openness of the pelvis and gravity can make delivery easier.
More favorites – pencil stretch, child’s pose, and side lying pose. Here is my favorite online prenatal yoga video. Enjoy!
Note: Always check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program, including yoga.