I started regularly practicing yoga when I was living in Japan over 10 years ago. I couldn't understand a word of what the teacher was saying, but I loved it anyway!
I knew that my body absolutely loved being gently stretched and strengthened. I felt peaceful, calm, and like everything was going to be okay.
Who would have known it would be my most valuable tool for having a truly enjoyable labor and birth with my daughter?
The list of benefits of prenatal yoga are endless, but here are 3 that will make you want to jump on a mat and give it a try:
1) Breathing makes everything EASIER and MORE ENJOYABLE (including Contractions)!
In a yoga class, you mindfully move into poses and then breathe into the sensation. Instead of having to focus on the feeling in your body, you can use your breath as a way to tell your body that everything is okay.
Your body may feel tired, tight, or achy in some yoga poses, but you learn not to attach so much weight to those feelings. Sure - they are there; but instead you start to listen to your breath instead of your mind chatter. You relax and soften to the sound of breath moving in and out of your body.
Of course you are going to feel a contraction, but what if it could just be a sensation moving through your body as your baby makes its way down the birth canal?
Sound a little less intense than what they make it seem like in the media? There is a whole other possibility available to you if you choose it.
The ancient art of yogic breathing, or pranayama, is perfect for mamas!
You can use it to ease labor and facilitate when to push or not to push during birth.
It allows you to fully relax between contractions so you feel ready and open for the next one.
It provides a great way to connect with your newborn as they snuggle on your chest.
2) Prenatal Yoga Poses are selected to reduce back pain, open the shoulders, increase energy and circulation, and strengthen the pelvic floor.
Several squatting poses in yoga help to develop a stronger and more flexible pelvic floor. What does that mean? Basically - an easier time pushing the baby out, less chance that you will pee every time you sneeze, and a much smaller chance that you will have a perineal tear or need for an episiotomy. Also they are great postures to use during the actual labor and birth too!
Poses that strengthen the legs and back relieve strain on the back, bring new energy in, and reduce leg cramps and swelling in the feet.
Hip and groin openers increase the ability for you to relax during labor, release fears about birth, and gently open up to receiving the energy that will contribute to your baby gracefully making his or her way into the world.
All of the poses are also a great preventative for most common pregnancy complaints as well. In my experience, pregnancy was one of my most favorite times of life. I felt buoyant, joyful and full of life and energy. I know this was in part due to my yoga practice.
3) Prenatal Yoga is Great Mental and Emotional Prep for Birth and Motherhood!
One of my favorite things about yoga is that by just doing it, everything else takes care of itself.
By taking a class once a week or taking a few minutes a day to do a pose or two, you are laying the groundwork for a self-care practice that connects you to your center, your heart and spirit.
As things get turned upside down as you become a new mom, you will have tools to use to calm down, center yourself, and get some much needed 'me' time (when you only have 5 minutes!).
There are yoga poses that are wonderful for nursing babies. Shoulder opening poses that counteract the effects of carrying and feeding babies. Poses to ground you when you are feeling like things are way too fast and busy. Poses to bring in new, fresh energy when you need to be uplifted. Poses that can bring you peaceful sleep when you need it most. The list goes on!
From practicing breathwork during yoga, you will be a master at using your breath to calm your body and mind. This helps during labor but also during motherhood as well ;)
One of the coolest things about a yoga practice is that is can always be changed and modified to meet you exactly where you are and give you what you require in that moment.
For me, prenatal yoga was one of the most nourishing things that I did during my pregnancy to care for me, my body, and my baby.
Would you like to give it a try?
Have you tried it already? What's been your experience?
Emily teaches Prenatal Yoga, Mommy & Me, Gentle, & Family Yoga. See here for schedule.