You're pregnant and looking for ways to relax? To stay fit? Perhaps you are considering prenatal yoga. Did you know that prenatal yoga may also help you prepare for labour and promote your baby's health?
Like many other types of prenatal birth preparation classes, yoga combines various approaches such as stretching, mental centring and focused breathing. Prenatal yoga can:
· Reduce stress and anxiety
· Improve sleep
· Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of the birthing muscles
· Decrease lower back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath
But what do you need to consider before engaging in your practice?
Some general considerations include:
A pregnant woman may tire more easily than usual, more energy is required to perform day to day activities, and certain movements become more difficult to execute e.g. sudden stopping, changes in direction, rapid movements. - if/when you notice your energy levels begin to change/deplete, opt for a slower (Slow Flow) or restorative style of Yoga; begin to shift your focus away from fitness, and towards achieving a greater sense of inner well-being.
Morning sickness may interfere with regular exercise - listen to your body! If you feel unwell, rest. Pregnancy is not the time to adopt the 'she'll be right' attitude; but rather to feel empowered to trust your own instincts, and approach your practice with care and a curiosity about how the body is changing, and what it needs moment to moment.
Pubic symphysis becomes less stable due to hormone relaxin, women compensate with a wide gate and a slight waddle - avoid any Yoga postures that may contribute to an imbalance i.e. long held balancing postures, closed twists, or deeper backbends. Resist replicating your practice pre-pregnancy, modify and listen to your body.
Due to the hormone relaxin, it is recommended not to practice Yin yoga; exchange for restorative styles or meditation.
What are the best positions to try when your pregnant?
The rule of thumb which is applicable to not only a Yoga practice but to any form of exercise during pregnancy is that a Mother to be can continue with their practice (in a modified way) prior to pregnancy - however must not undertake any new exercise not practised prior to pregnancy. Unfortunately, there are no 'best' positions, as everyone's experience and limitations differ so greatly - but I do suggest delving a little deeper into your meditation practice; this is such a wonderful time to establish an emotional connection to baby.
What are the health benefits of regular yoga practice?
Continuing a regular practice contributes to the reduction of stress and anxiety; these commonly creep in during pregnancy - especially if it's your first! Safe movement increases strength, flexibility and endurance - as well as decrease lower back pain, and general 'growing' pains as weight is gained; controlled pranayama (breath work) promotes mindfulness, can be used as a focal point for a wondering or bothered mind, and also combat panic and promote control and calm during birth. Meditation, especially Yoga Nidra has the potential to increase sleep.
Any tips for practising at home? Don't attempt any new or unfamiliar asana; stay within the realm of what's familiar - and listen to your body! You don't need to invest in quality Yoga props i.e. mat, bolster and blocks - using a blanket and pillows is just fine if you're budgeting for bub's arrival. Be safe - if practising balancing postures, stay near a wall or chair for support. Rest when needed.
Can I access professional classes from home?
There are many online platforms available, and a simple Google Image search of 'Prenatal Yoga at Home' will provide you with a plethora of ideas and recommended sequences for the DIY Yogi; however every Trimester comes with new changes and potential challenges, so it's always recommended when starting out, if possible, to attend a face to face prenatal class - learn handy tips and important tips to implement at home.
Consider building prenatal yoga and other relaxation techniques – such as HypnoBirthing into your birth preparation.