Yoga is valuable to everyone, including expectant mothers. A beautiful opportunity for self-growth, the positive effects of prenatal yoga are both immediate and long-lasting.
I went to my first prenatal yoga class at six-weeks pregnant.
(I am pretty sure the other mamas-to-be thought I had stumbled into the wrong class.)
I had yet to tell many of my friends and family members that I was expecting, but was extremely motivated to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. I believed yoga was a low-impact way to stay active and help with fatigue, but it was not until I started my own yoga studies recently, that I made a connection to just how beneficial this time spent on my mat was.
I believe yoga (which is so much more than asana–or yoga postures!) is valuable to everyone, including the parents among us. The time right before we become parents is a beautiful opportunity for self-growth, and cultivating a yoga practice will be extremely beneficial for all—mother, her partner and baby. The positive effects are both immediate and long-lasting, revealed only after your little one is born.
12 Reasons to Practice Prenatal Yoga:
1) Improved Mindfulness
Practicing yoga encourages us to slow down and connect to our breath. When practiced often, along with meditation, you may develop improved clarity of mind—or a sense of mindfulness. Pregnancy and parenthood come with many difficult decisions and stressful moments, all of which may be better handled while staying attuned to the present moment.
2) Enhanced Self-Awareness (of Body)
The last few months of pregnancy beg for enhanced proprioception—a.k.a large baby bump awareness. Yoga requires us to acknowledge how our body is moving in space and a prenatal yoga class will give you tools to move gracefully (well, as gracefully as possible) with your growing figure.
3) Increased Patience (& Acceptance)
The first time you step on your yoga mat might be difficult. You may lack balance. Or strength. Or focus. That is okay! Be patient with yourself and accept where you are practicing, not how the experienced yoga-mama with seemingly effortless movement is practicing next to you.
You can pull from this practice in patience later on when you need it. When the grocery line is long and your newborn is crying. When you are waiting for your toddler to climb into his car seat by himself. Maybe even years later when your child is learning to drive.
Svadhyaya is one of the ethical guidelines gifted to us from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It refers to self-study, or paying closer attention to ourselves. I like to think of it is as recognizing my own habits and beliefs, and then determining whether or not they serve me, on and off the yoga mat. Recognizing our own less than desirable habits can improve parenting skills, and prevent these habits from being passed on to our children too.
5) More Stamina for Labor
I recently read an article by a yogi who shared that, “during labor, I reminded myself that each contraction was simply a difficult yoga pose and that breathing, relaxation and persistence would get me through it. (1).” I believe that #1, #2, #3 above will also be helpful for enhanced stamina during labor. In addition, many child-birthing positions are similar to yoga poses (squats, on hands and knees etc.).
6) More Stamina for Motherhood
Motherhood is demanding! Holding and practicing yoga postures often will strengthen your body so carrying your child will be a breeze (my nearly three-year old still requests to be carried long distances and I simply cannot resist).
Savasana*. That is all I will say about that.
*During pregnancy it is NOT recommended to practice corpse pose lying flat on your back. See #8.
8) Less Fatigue
A sidelying relaxation pose can assist with fatigue and is a great option for savasana during pregnancy. Taking a little “nap” in this pose for 20-30 minutes per day may help fight fatigue. To try it, lay down (on your side) on a soft surface. Place a pillow under your head and neck and drape your upper arm over the pillow. Bend your knees and place a blanket or pillow in between them. A qualified yoga teacher can assist you into this pose so that you feel completely comfortable, without any lower back strain (1).
9) Reduced Nausea
Reclining Hero Pose has helped many women reduce the nausea and indigestion that unfortunately often accompanies pregnancy. A qualified yoga teacher can assist you into this pose so that you are well supported and comfortable (1).
10) Less Pain
Learning simple wall stretches can help reduce the misery of calf camps (that often visit during the night), while other yoga postures (such as Cat-Cow pose) can assist with reducing lower back pain (1).
11) Bonding with your Baby
You can read an article that I shared on the importance of prenatal attachment here. Yoga is just one way to do that.
12) Community and Connection
A regular prenatal yoga class may very well just introduce you to your new circle of friends. You will bond over pregnancy symptoms and birth stories. You may even choose to connect later on for play dates or a yoga class (with or without baby)!
What benefits have you gained from prenatal yoga?
**It is recommended to discuss starting a prenatal yoga practice with your healthcare provider. If you are new to yoga, start slow, and be sure your class is specifically designed for pregnancy (many poses must be modified).
Photo Credit: Brian Tomlinson/Flickr.com
Reference: “Yoga for Pregnancy” by Judith H. Lasater. The Yoga Journal (January/ February 1994).