We all have heard of the many benefits and positive effects yoga can bring into our lives. We hear about it on TV, read about it in magazines, see it on the Internet and probably have friends that cannot stop commenting about it. We also have heard that in order to experience some of these benefits, we need to practice on a regular basis.
It’s not surprising to me that a good number of women today want to continue or start a yoga practice during their pregnancy, while others are surprised to hear how prenatal yoga can be very beneficial. The average person on the street, when they think of yoga, imagine individuals twisting like pretzels, sweating and performing advanced and difficult poses. No wonder why many expecting mothers are surprised to hear they can practice yoga during this special time of their lives.
We need to remember that it has taken the Western world many centuries to acknowledge that movement is good for the body, especially for mothers-to-be. In the past, many doctors treated the mother-to-be with extreme care like she was ill or had a medical condition. This view was based on the fear that movement and exercise could be dangerous to the mother and unborn baby.
It was not until 1985, when the American College of Obstetricians made the first recommendations of exercise and pregnancy. Thankfully, today we know how exercising and in particular yoga, not only bring benefits to the mother but to the baby as well.
Why Prenatal Yoga? Prenatal yoga can ease the discomforts of pregnancy (moodiness, swollen ankles, shortness of breath, etc). It gives you the opportunity to bond with your baby, other pregnant Goddesses and helps prepare your body for labor. Many of my prenatal clients are new to yoga but I also get some clients that are familiar with yoga but now are interested in a gentler feminine approach.
Prenatal classes are not to shape the body or avoid gaining weight. Prenatal classes are meant to celebrate this special time in your life, your femininity, your beautiful changing body, the bond you are creating with your baby and the connections and support you establish with other women during this period. These classes are very powerful and can help many women reclaim their physical and mental power while becoming receptive and confident during labor.
Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, co–founder and director of Golden Bridge Yoga in Los Angeles says “Somehow, as women, we think we will automatically know how to give birth, but we are so detached from our instinctual selves that sometimes we need to be reminded of what we already know.”
What can you expect during a prenatal class? Each class varies especially from teacher to teacher but some of the common things you will find are: breathing exercises, meditations, gentle warm-ups, standing poses, some basic balancing poses, seated poses and a modified savasana. It sounds like a regular class doesn’t it? Well yes and no. One of the things we need to remember is that now we are sharing our bodies with our babies so we cannot push as hard as we do in regular classes.
During pregnancy, the body changes and prenatal teachers guide their students safely while they explore and expand their threshold for discomfort without overdoing it. Prenatal teachers explain to their students that during pregnancy the ligaments in the pelvic area and lower back loosen due to an increase in the hormone relaxin, which is thought to help widen the pelvis and facilitate labor. Knowing this is crucial to avoid over stretching and injury since the warning signs telling them to stop stretching isn’t there.
With all this said, don’t be fooled into thinking that prenatal yoga is for wimps. Even though we are not here to master Handstand or any other advanced poses, the level of intensity might surprise you. These classes are meant to help the mothers-to-be uncover hidden sources of stamina while maximizing their hip flexibility preparing their bodies for child birth. Pregnant ladies can expect to hold poses for a minute or longer to build mental and physical strength needed to endure the length of an average contraction. As a prenatal teacher, I’d like to encourage my ladies to stay present, use their breath and remind them that for thousands of years women have been giving birth.
Prenatal yoga not only helps you during pregnancy and delivery but it can also help you recover faster from child birth and get you back to your normal self a lot quicker.
Before you start a prenatal yoga practice make sure you get permission from your doctor and you find a Fully Certified Prenatal Teacher.
Love and Peace,
This article has been featured in Elephant Journal.com