First, a disclaimer: The information in this article is to be used for informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of, or in conjunction with, professional medical advice. Anyone with questions regarding prenatal yoga must consult their physician for further information. I’m not a doctor, and can’t answer medical questions.
With that said, why would moms-to-be find prenatal yoga valuable? This low-impact type of exercise is specifically designed to promote healthy breathing, good posture, and helps you relax both physically and emotionally. These are all important benefits that women who are preparing for a natural childbirth actively seek. Staying physically and emotionally healthy during pregnancy is vital, and prenatal yoga can help expectant mothers to achieve this without physical exertion.
Prenatal Yoga: The Benefits
Lamaze breathing continues to be taught to women, promoting breathing techniques that make the pain associated with childbirth easier to deal with. Breathing techniques also tell the body to relax, which can further ease pain.
Taking this a step further, prenatal yoga combines a breathing technique known as ujayi with relaxation techniques. Not only will expectant mothers have a good grip on proper breathing, they will have specific methods for relaxing as much as possible. Pairing prenatal yoga with a cardiovascular exercise like walking, yoga keeps you limber, tones your muscles, improves your balance and circulation – and it’s extremely low-impact, making it safe for most pregnant women.
Here’s some science behind the idea of breathing techniques helping ease labor pain. When you’re in pain or afraid (both of which definitely apply to childbirth), your body produces adrenaline. While adrenaline starts pumping through your system, the production of oxytocin (the hormone that makes labor progress) starts shutting down. So if you’re relaxing, adrenaline slows down – and oxytocin remains more consistent – which helps the whole childbirth process less painful and should speed it up as well.
Beyond preparing for labor, prenatal yoga actually helps women return to pre-pregnancy weight more quickly than women not performing these kind of exercises. As any mom will tell you, the impact of pregnancy on a woman’s body can’t be underestimated, and the results can do a lot to a new mother’s self-esteem and self-image. Losing the baby weight takes patience, determination, and support from loved ones.
Another benefit that many women find in prenatal yoga is more spiritual. Prenatal yoga encourages a mother to connect with their unborn child and prepare for the new arrival, and aids in relaxation after the birth. Seriously, every mom needs to know how to kick in a relaxing mood after a week of catching three hours a night of sleep.
Finding a Prenatal Yoga Instructor
Before you decide to take the plunge and embark on a yoga journey, take a visit to your doctor. Make sure that prenatal yoga is safe for you – depending on the circumstances of your pregnancy, it might not be. In most cases, though, you’ll be given a go-ahead. While you’re at it, ask your physician if they have any recommendations. Doctors who work regularly with prenatal care are going to be aware of quality instruction being given in your area.
Next, consider whether or not you’d like a companion at the prenatal yoga class. Most moms-to-be prefer having someone attend classes with them for support and guidance. If this isn’t something you’re comfortable with, don’t feel bad. Just be honest with yourself.
Finally, it’s time to check out the types of instruction available. Depending on where you live, there might be both prenatal yoga classes and private instructors. Again, you’re going to need to ask yourself what you’re most comfortable with. The idea is to learn relaxation, and to enjoy yourself. If you don’t like the idea of being in a group of other women, don’t pressure yourself to do that. Find another method instead.
If you’re a woman who has performed regular exercise routines most of her life, you might find home video instruction to be useful. Just be sure to take it easy and if you start to feel stress anywhere in your body, stop whatever you’re doing immediately.
Prenatal Yoga Precautions
Any type of exercise performed while you’re pregnant must be done carefully. Your body is already under a lot of strain, and while it’s vital to keep up physical activity, it’s just as important to do it wisely.
Most women will find it better to not lie on their back for longer than a few minutes. This is especially true after 16 weeks of pregnancy, when lying on your back can put pressure on certain veins and cause dizziness, shortness of breath, and nausea. Your yoga instructor will probably leave the decision up to you, but it’s always better to play it safe.
Any exercise that causes you to stretch abdominal muscles should be avoided completely. During pregnancy, you’re more likely to tear and strain muscles because pregnancy hormones cause connective tissues to loosen in preparation for childbirth. Again – if you start to feel stress, stop right away.