Pregnancy and Yoga: An Expert’s Guide
Pregnancy. Arguably is the most beautiful part of humanity. It is creation in its purest form, a prime example of our ability to create something from nothing. However, with good often comes bad. Although pregnancy is truly wonderful, it can also be downright stressful. Your friends and family are constantly commenting on your ‘pregnancy glow’ and you are forced to answer the same questions at least 100 times a day. Your body undergoes massive changes, reminding you that your whole lifestyle is about to change, regardless of whether this is your first child or not.
Luckily, the answer to all your pregnancy problems may lie in a regular yoga practice. You might be thinking that yoga is for slim, athletic types – not waddling pregnant women who may need a bathroom break at any given moment. Whether you were already a dedicated yogi or you have never stepped on a yoga mat in your life (let alone when carrying a tiny human inside you), starting a prenatal yoga practice can calm your mind, keep your body active and prepare you for the birth of your child.
The Power of Breath
During childbirth, our breath becomes our most powerful tool. Active control of the breath can actually relieve pain and provide a more easeful birth. Most importantly, it stops us from panicking, freeing our energy to focus on squeezing a new, tiny life out into the world.
The best way to prepare for this is to practice deep, intentional breathing in the months leading up to your due date. In a yoga class, you will be encouraged to link the breath to movement, already building the respiratory skills vital for a (more) comfortable birth.
What’s more, controlling our breath calms our entire nervous system, relieving stress and anxiety. One of the hardest things about pregnancy is our battling with our raging hormones. We become more emotional and reactive to situations around – and inside – us. Emotional does not necessarily need to be taboo. In fact, having more emotions actually increases our connection with ourselves, others and the world around us. The problem arises when we are not able to consciously listen to our emotions and instead react to our new found feelings. Yoga helps to break this cycle of reactivity.
By focusing on the breath, we are able to give our mind some space to reflect on its habitual thought patterns. Once we take a step back from our emotions and view them as an observer, we can connect them to our situation and choose how to react. This kind of emotional intelligence will deeply connect you to your thoughts and feelings, allowing them to consciously guide you through your pregnancy journey.
The Magic of Movement
Many women worry about losing their fitness during their pregnancy, and many more find it difficult to come back to a routine during motherhood. Yoga can maintain a healthy, strong and supple body during pregnancy, and make coming back to a fitness regime after birth a whole lot easier.
Moving the body during pregnancy increases the circulatory, respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems. This means that blood, oxygen and food is not only flowing freely through your own body, but your unborn baby is also reaping the same benefits. Keeping the body supple makes a pregnant belly easier to bear. Many yogis report better quality sleep during pregnancy as the body is less likely to cramp.
The best thing about yoga is that it can be performed anywhere, at any time – all you need is your body and your breath. Moving at entirely your own pace takes the pressure off exercise, no amount of yoga is too little. If you are feeling tired and uptight, just 10 minutes can help to loosen your body and mind, setting you up for a better day.
After pregnancy, using yoga to get back into your usual routine will make the process smoother and less stressful. You can work it in around your needs, and the needs of your newborn child. You don’t have to schedule in time to do a yoga practice; you can stop, drop and yoga whenever you have a spare moment. Forget about finding a babysitter while you go to a fitness class, you can practice right next to your child’s crib, or even with your baby lying next to you. Many yoga classes actually encourage new mothers to bring their babies with them. Practicing with your child helps you connect to your baby whilst meeting other, like-minded parents.
What Not To Do
Of course, there are things to avoid in a yoga if you are pregnant. If you are in a prenatal yoga class, the teacher will be aware of this, but if you are practicing alone, it is important to be aware of what your body can do.
Never perform closed twists, this can decrease circulation as well as harming your baby.
Avoid poses that can work your abs until after the birth. Overly strong abdominals can pull apart as your belly expands.
If you are new to yoga, it is wise to avoid poses like wheel altogether. Stick to easier variations, such as supported bridge.
Practicing in heat can make you seriously dehydrated. Save the sweatier practices for after pregnancy, and keep a bottle of water close to you during any kind of exercise.
Yoga during your pregnancy period should be about relaxing, connecting and gentle flexibility and strength work. Avoid pushing yourself, or even trying to do what you were capable of before. Pregnancy is a time to take it easy and to be a little selfish. Embrace your changing body for what it can do now.
The purpose of yoga is to maintain flexibility, and prepare for an easier birthing process. Be kind to your body and to your unborn baby by taking a little time on your mat. With a regular practice, your pregnancy will be a special time full of joy and excitement, with as little stress as possible.
Article submitted by Kosta Miachin the creator of VIKASA Yoga method – a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online: http://www.vikasayoga.com