There are many reasons why doing yoga when you are pregnant is extremely beneficial, but in order to refrain from writing a series of novels or potentially losing your attention after the fifteenth chapter, I have briefly summarised my argument into four accessible main areas; Body, Brain, Breath and Baby. Yoga in its very definition is the journey to a state of union, of self-realisation and complete bliss with the greater universe, so what better time to practice than when you are already in a state of beautiful unification with your own baby! Or… if you are one of the few that find the 9 month journey a bit more challenging, then perhaps yoga may offer a method of connecting deeper with the experience and your baby. Coming together with a tribe of similar strong women to move, breathe, laugh and relax might seem like a no brainer to most people, but if you need more convincing – let’s break it down…
Pregnancy is a time when your body will go through one of its greatest physical transformations and a time that may present a wide variety of mobility challenges. But women are built for this experience and through the use of yoga, can further prepare their bodies to handle the physical strains of pregnancy and labour. It is not an illness. Yoga Asanas work on all areas of the body, strengthening muscles, glands and internal organs as well as making the spine and joints supple. The physiological benefits of yoga are tangible in comparison to say, how it affects your subtle body or emotional state, but - similar to an iceberg – its effects run deep and are intertwined with the whole ocean of other contributing influencers that result from your yoga practice. This leads me nicely into our next section, which reveals just how yoga can also work out our most influential internal organ, the brain.
A key element of nearly all poses in both a traditional yoga and prenatal class is the breath. In childhood we breathe from our belly, we breathe deeply as nature intended but somewhere along the way we began to only use part of our lungs, predominantly the top part. Somewhere along the way we take breathing for granted, until we need it most. From a basic physiological perspective, pregnant women find it increasingly more difficult to breathe due to the ever-growing guest in their abdomen. The diaphragm is pushed upwards to make way for the expanding uterus, as is the organs. The lungs have less room to expand/ contract and thus, it’s now more important than ever to garner strict breath awareness in order to fully
utilise the full extent of the lung capacity. The reason for all this breathing is not only to send much needed oxygenated blood flow around the already strained cardiovascular system but also breathing directly correlates to stress/ hormone management. Using breathwork we can not only calm the body and the mind but in turn it’s maintaining a healthy environment for baby to live and grow in.
Continuing the discussion on breath it’s important to note the role the breath has in connecting mother to the baby. There is the obvious necessity of oxygen flowing from mother to baby to sustain life, but it goes far beyond even the basic fact that you are ‘breathing for two’. The breath itself builds a bond between mother and baby. “Babies tune in to the rhythm of their mothers breath. They know when you are taking time to relax. Practicing yoga together in this way establishes the basis of a relationship with the baby once he or she is born.” Many yoga poses used in prenatal classes offer not only personal insight for the mother but through movement, mindfulness and breathing – offer a pathway to connect to baby that otherwise may have been overlooked. Through yoga women are shown new ways of developing a relationship with baby before he or she is even born.
I have only very lightly touched on some of the benefits of doing prenatal yoga but even if you have any doubts as to the extent of its validity, the fundamental nature of women coming together at this time in their lives should be enough to encourage you to attend some classes. Stocking up your toolbox with the essentials such as; moves to alleviate discomfort, breathing practices to ease stress and practices that develop a deep connection with your baby, will definitely result from attending class. Building endurance, coping with anxieties and methods of how to relax through challenging sensations – are all things you will garner through practicing yoga in pregnancy. But, what a lot of women find most empowering is the process of strengthening themselves through yoga alongside other women who are experiencing the same wonderful journey. A special yoga tribe, a women-only group of prenatal warriors who meet once a week to move, breathe and smile.