There can be many positive gains for mum and baby with appropriate practising of yoga during pregnancy.
Here are three main benefits worth exploring:
1. Social Connections and Support
Pregnancy can sometimes be an uncertain time in a woman’s life, especially when sufficient emotional or social support is lacking. Dedicated prenatal yoga classes offer pregnant women the opportunity to connect with others who are at a similar stage in their lives. This provides first-time mums the chance to be supported by mums who already have children and to receive advice from their prenatal yoga teacher in a nurturing and safe manner. Prenatal yoga classes are also the perfect place to establish friendships and support networks that may extend into Mothers’ Groups after baby is born.
2. Preparing the Body for Birthing
Pregnant women are strong and confident yoga practitioners! Prenatal yoga offers mums the opportunity to maintain strength and increase mobility during pregnancy that may contribute towards a more satisfying birthing experience. Helpfully, many yoga practices are naturally designed to help rectify imbalances in the lower back and pelvis, and this may contribute towards experiencing fewer interventions during the birth of baby. It is important to seek the help of a qualified prenatal yoga teacher to receive the most up-to-date advice on the yoga practices that can improve difficult birthing situations that may lead to emergency C-Section deliveries unwanted interventions.
3. Supporting the Nervous System
It is natural and normal to be apprehensive before the birth of baby. Prenatal yoga is rich with strategies to help mum to approach the birth of her baby with a positive mindset and the tools to help calm her nervous system. It is well understood that when mum feels scared, worried, unsafe etc., an increase of tension is felt in the body and this heightens her sensitivity to pain. Yoga breathing exercises and mindfulness practices are key contributors to down-regulating an over-active nervous system when it is in fight/flight mode. When mum is feeling calm, her hormonal system will be working optimally to support her to birth her baby in a safe and peaceful way.
It’s always best to seek the advice of a yoga teacher who is qualified to teach prenatal yoga, as there some key modifications necessary for the student to follow during pregnancy. A summary of these modifications are:
– avoid practising in hot, humid rooms. Extreme heat, in places such as saunas, can be harmful to a developing baby. Heated yoga rooms are often poorly tolerated in pregnancy
– avoid yoga poses where the belly is compressed either against the floor or towards another body part. Examples are poses where mum is required to lay prone. Deep forward folds and closed-belly twisting poses where the legs and belly come together should also be avoided.
– avoid poses that present a risk of falling. Poses may include headstand, shoulderstand and handstands. This is especially important if these poses were not in mum’s practice prior to becoming pregnant
– avoid poses and practices that involve extreme movements through the belly. These actions include arm balances and core strengthening poses such as boat pose. Also avoid holding the breath and breathing practices such as breath of fire, bellow’s breath and the cleansing practice of uddiyana bandha kriya.
Of course, mum can follow her mothering instinct and engage in yoga practices that makes her feel safe and peaceful. Mum should be encouraged to reach out for extra guidance and be reminded to enjoy this very special bonding time with her baby!
Melanie Mackintosh is a long term yoga teacher, Hypnobirthing Australia practitioner and co-owner of Australian Yoga Academy in Melbourne, Australia. Melanie is passionate about using yoga and meditation to support women during pregnancy, so they are best placed to have a positive birth experience and to prepare for a healthy postnatal period.
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Melanie Mackintosh is a heath-enthusiast, long-time yoga and meditation teacher and Hypnobirthing Australia practitioner. She is co-owner of Australian Yoga Academy (www.australianyogaacademy.com) in Melbourne, Australia, where, with her business partner, Adele Conti, she has been teaching yoga since 2006. Melanie is an industry leader in providing tertiary-level, yoga teacher training programs for those wanting to become teachers and professional development courses for already qualified teachers. Melanie specialises in prenatal and postnatal yoga and is passionate about assisting mums and their birth partners with evidence-based practices to help prepare them for a positive birth experience. Melanie aims to share the love and benefits of yoga and meditation with everyone she meets!