Medical practitioners often recommend Yoga to soon-to-be mothers and for good reason. Its benefits have long been established and documented. This ancient science and philosophy takes on a special role in pregnancy, working from the inside out to address the sudden and dramatic hormonal and physiological changes that characterize pregnancy. The Yoga practice is modified to meet the comfort levels of the expectant mother, so as to address the various big and small aches, discomforts and medical conditions that may have arisen due to pregnancy.
Prenatal Yoga as compared with other physical exercises
Yoga requires and encourages mindfulness, while general physical exercises can be done with a distracted mind and inconsistent awareness of the breath and body. Hence, asanas in a Yoga practice develop body awareness and steady the mind. Asanas work on the internal organs, alleviating digestive issues and hormonal imbalances. Physical exercises, on the other hand, focus on only the visible parts of the body. Hence the effect is largely external – losing the extra fat and strengthening the muscles. Asanas have a deeper effect, not only on internal organs but also on the emotions, thoughts and spiritual well-being of the practitioner. Also, Yoga has been around way longer than any modern exercise system.
Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
- Strengthens the pelvic muscles and improves blood circulation in the pelvic region. Thus prepares the body for labour and delivery
- Calms the nervous system and improves sleep quality
- Builds mind-body connection with the breath awareness in Pranayama and Asana
- Strengthens the reproductive system and exercises the spine
- Decreases low back pain, nausea and headaches
- Corrects postural issues, hence preventing aches and pains resulting from bad posture
- Helps prevent complications such as hypertension, gestational diabetes, preterm labour, intra-uterine growth restriction, etc.
- Offers deep relaxation and emotionally readies the woman for the various new challenges and changes a baby brings
- Helps restore hormonal balance
- Meditation enhances mental wellness and helps alleviate the fears and stresses of childbirth
How Prenatal Yoga addresses complications arising in pregnancy
Yoga helps prevent and reduce the severity of complications, but does not guarantee a cure. It cannot replace medical attention. For example, if a pregnant woman shows sign of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure and protein content in urine), the breath work and asanas in Yoga will help regularize the blood pressure, but the condition may not be cured.
Cautions and contraindications
Please make sure you have a doctor’s approval before you begin a Prenatal Yoga practice.
The general advice is to avoid a physical practice in the first trimester, as fatigue and nausea characterize this phase. Also, this is the phase when the foetus is implanting and hence the risk of miscarriage is highest.
In any prenatal practice, avoid deep backbends, closed twists, lying on the stomach, and any poses that entail pressure on the abdomen and uterus. Lying supine can also compress the inferior vena cava, a major vein responsible for blood flow between the lower body and the heart. Lying on the left side is recommended so that the vena cava is not compressed.
Pregnancy is undoubtedly one of life’s biggest challenges. It demands all of one’s strength, endurance, resilience and more. Physically, mentally and emotionally. A Yoga practice is one of the most empowering practices for anyone dealing with the various challenges of pregnancy. Be it the restorative Asanas which alleviate aches, the breathwork that enhances mind-body connection, the mindfulness aspect which puts you in touch with a deep inner calmness, or the improved sleep quality after a session, a prenatal Yoga practice will greatly smoothen the rough ride that pregnancy usually is, improving your health along the way and preparing you for a whole new chapter of life.
Books & DVDIyengar Yoga for Motherhood – Safe Practice for Expectant & New Mothers
by Geeta S. Iyengar, Rita Keller and Kerstin Khattab Yoga for Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond
by Francoise Barbira Freedman Pregnancy Health Yoga
with Tara Lee – DVD