Growing that “baby belly” can be a wonderful, joyous experience, but it is often mixed with challenges for the body and mind. Developing a consistent yoga practice during pregnancy is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your body & your baby in preparation for childbirth. By linking yoga postures with breath as well as the use of guided meditation; yoga during pregnancy can help bring awareness to the mind, body, & spirit, as well as help connect you to the spirit of your baby.
Prenatal Yoga is specifically designed to help alleviate the most common pregnancy ailments. The postures chosen by an experienced, educated teacher will assist in adapting to the many emotional & physical changes that occur during pregnancy. Specific postures help strengthen & tone the uterus and pelvic floor, improve circulation in the legs & pelvic area, aid in digestion, exercise the spine, and increase overall comfort during pregnancy. Yoga can also help alleviate other discomforts such as low back pain, sciatica, swelling, varicose veins, and nausea.
As a society, we tend to focus a lot on the physical benefits of certain things. And while having a fit pregnancy has been shown to be beneficial for both mom and baby, there is more to yoga than poses, strength and stamina. So many of the yogic benefits come from the mental and spiritual practices as well.
Creating space to slow down and focus on your baby is vital for a healthy pregnancy. Finding stillness after a busy day can regulate your nervous system and lower your cortisol levels. Establishing a regular meditation or affirmation practice can build your confidence for your birth and help you in remaining relaxed and calm in labor. The "go, go, go" mentality of our society can be detrimental to some of us and yoga offers expecting parents a consistent time each week to drown out the rest of the world and bring full awareness to body, mind, spirit, and their babies.
An oft forgotten aspect of yoga is the social one, specifically in regards to prenatal yoga. It's not uncommon to build a strong community within these classes as you bond over heart burn, swollen feet, and waiting for the day your babies arrive. Prenatal Yoga can be a safe haven for many parents-to-be as they connect with others who truly understand the challenges they face in pregnancy. Many moms and moms-to-be find their tribe in yoga classes and create lasting friendships for years to come!
As you begin a regular prenatal yoga practice, please consider the following things:
- Let your instructor know what trimester you're in as some poses are acceptable & safe for the 1st trimester, that shouldn't be attempted in the 2nd or 3rd. Share any previous injuries or pre-existing conditions that may impact your practice or are helpful for your instructor to know.
- Second, remove all expectations. No matter your physical fitness level, prenatal yoga is unlike any other type of yoga. There are opportunities to build heat and opportunities for slow, restorative stretches. The goal of class is not to "get in shape" but to find balance in mind, body, & spirit. One week you may find the class extremely challenging mentally, another you may find it very easy physically. Whatever your experience, receive it for what it is and don't overthink it.
- Third, don't be afraid to ask for or use props to assist in your practice (blankets, straps, blocks, etc). As your body blossoms to accommodate your growing baby, you may find that some poses can be more challenging or awkward. By using props to assist in moving you deeper into the postures you will find it easier to relax and therefore get the most benefit.
- Finally, if you've had a consistent yoga practice prior to pregnancy, recognize & accept the fact that your practice may change. Be accepting of the beautiful changes your body is withstanding and keep an open mind.
Yoga is truly an ideal form of exercise for pregnancy. If practiced mindfully, it can increase flexibility, strength, circulation, & balance and has the potential to positively impact the birthing experience.
Prenatal Yoga classes begin September 11th and will be held Mondays at 5:30pm at the Doulas of OC office in Irvine. These times are super convenient if you work at or around John Wayne Airport as you can join us immediately after work or during your lunch break! New students can get 2 classes for $20 to try us out before committing to a larger class package. Additional packages are available on our website and pre-registration is strongly encouraged.