Yoga & Pregnancy
Posted on September 7, 2016 - 2:48pm
Yoga is a very popular form of exercise during pregnancy due to it’s relaxing and gentle nature, not to mention the kaleidoscope of physical and mental benefits that it can bestow upon new mothers to be.
Here at Sydney Mother & Baby we offer a range of classes to suit everyone’s needs. Whether it be a relaxing and gentle restorative class designed to release tension and quiet the mind or a dynamic vinyasa class to awaken and invigorate, we have the class for you! The classes are all led by our qualified prenatal teacher Portia, who will passionately lead you through the classes with guided prenatal modifications for a safe, yet strong prenatal practice.
What is yoga?
Yoga in it’s very essence stems from the ancient Yogi belief that in order to be in harmony with oneself, we must integrate the body, mind and spirit.
Yoga is formulated with three main elements: breathing, exercise and meditation. ‘Pranayama’, the practice of breathing, being the fundamental element, to which we then synchronise our movement, and from here moving mindfully into meditation. Certainly the later stage is often never fully realised. Let’s be honest, few of us turn up to our prenatal yoga classes hoping to achieve enlightenment through meditation! At best just taking an hour out of our busy day to breath deeply can in itself be merit enough and certainly fulfills the fundamental step. For this reason, I feel strongly that yoga can in no way be an exclusive form of exercise and is accessible for anyone, of all ages and all physical fitness levels.
During pregnancy the body changes rapidly, but if we use our yoga practice wisely, we can support these changes, making us strong and flexible in all the right places for easier labor, delivery and recovery. When we slow down and take time to make mental imprints of our alignment in a posture, we can tune in to the changes and modify our practice to open or strengthen muscles to find more support and ease in our bodies through the journey of pregnancy.
Benefits of yoga for pregnancy and birth
- Promotes relaxation and stress management.
Awareness and control of the breath is an effective tool during pregnancy to help calm and reduce anxiety. It is also a wonderful technique to help with pain management, allowing women to focus and relax during labour.
- Improves general fitness and health for the pregnancy and birth.
The calming practices are beneficial for the nervous and hormonal system whilst the more energising and strengthening practices are great for the cardiovascular system. Many poses are therapeutic for the circulatory system and can help to reduce blood pressure. All of these benefits are shared between the mother and her growing baby.
- Promotes emotional wellbeing.
It enhances the woman’s enjoyment of the journey of pregnancy as a special and sacred time and encourages her to honour herself and her baby within whilst cultivating the benefits of self-love and nurturing.
- Increases strength and flexibility.
Differing from regular yoga classes in our prenatal class we focus more on building strength and stability rather than necessarily increasing flexibility. Due to the increased levels of the hormone relaxin in the body we are mindful not to over stretch in certain areas, however holding certain poses such as ‘malasana’ (Sanskrit term for squat) are a great way to increase flexibility and stamina whilst strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. The strength and flexibility focus of the postures can help ease back, neck and hip pain, which is often caused by the increasing stress on the spinal nerves by the growing baby.
- Deep toning of the abdominal muscles.
One benefit of proper abdominal toning is that it can decrease the chances of diastis (the separation of the “6 pack muscles”) allowing space for the abdominal muscles to stretch and release as the baby grows inside. In prenatal yoga we focus on the engagement of the deeper group of abdominal muscles known as the transverse abdominus and oblique muscles rather than over toning the more superficial muscles known as the rectus abdominus.
- Pelvic floor strengthening.
A strong pelvic floor can enable a woman to carry her growing baby more comfortably during pregnancy and aid in a healthy birth and swift recovery.
- Promotes body awareness and relaxation.
Yoga encourages an awareness of the various muscle groups and how to isolate, engage and relax them. This is empowering for any pregnant woman as it helps encourage the idea of taking an active role in the birth. Isolation and activation of the pelvic floor muscles is useful in conscious birth preparation. Not only does yoga introduce various comfortable resting and active postures that can be used in birth, but it can also provide cognitive breath patterns for optimal rest and recovery between contractions. This is a subtle, yet integral thread that loops through all of my prenatal yoga sequences.
- Teaches breathing beneficial for the physical demands of labour and birth.
When we are anxious and afraid, our bodies produce adrenalin, which can inhibit vital hormones needed to progress through labour. The breathing techniques taught in yoga promote relaxation and therefore focus on a deep full body breath, that directs the breath all the way down into the abdomen first before then filling up into the chest. This full and expansive breath helps to ensure good oxygenation of the blood that is then directed to the vital organs as opposed to shallow chest breathing when we are anxious or afraid that can trigger the production of adrenalin and directs pumps blood to the extremities in preparation for ‘fight and flight’ mode. This deep breath may then assist in the progression of labour when the time comes, ensuring a good supply of oxygenated blood to be pumped to the baby.
- Improves balance and coordination.
The shift in centre of gravity can lead to poor posture and it is important to become more mindful of our stance in order to avoid problems such as lower back pain, pronation and edema. In order to improve posture, we encourage a slight tuck of the tailbone to try and avoid lower back pain and ensure that the weight of the baby is contained and supported within the pelvic girdle. This alignment minimises the prenatal lordotic curve of the lumbar spine, which in turn can help alleviate back pain.
- Improves overall circulation and can help with fluid retention.
Some common discomforts in pregnancy are swelling in the ankles/legs, and also the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrists caused by compression of the median nerve. Yoga takes a holistic approach to try and reduce the discomfort associated with these discomforts.
- Yoga can empower women.
Yoga in pregnancy offers the tools for a woman to birth consciously and powerfully. More specifically it celebrates a holistic and intuitive essence of feminine wisdom. Pregnancy in itself is a time of transformation both physically and mentally as we prepare for motherhood. It is therefore the optimum time to start listening to our bodies and become empowered though the process. Yoga essentially teaches you to awaken the intelligence of your body and put you in touch with your intuition and as such it provides preparation for your birth which is truly empowering.
At Dr. Morris | Sydney Mother & Baby, we offer weekly morning, lunchtime and afternoon classes of yoga in our beautiful studio on level 2 of BMA house. The studio is equipped with mats, bolsters and props to make your experience as comfortable as possible. Our range of different style yoga classes are designed to suit everyone – offering a range of gentle, moderate and advanced exercise levels to suite all different fitness levels and gestations of pregnancy.
Our new morning vinyasa class starting this week is a flowing and dynamic class where we move with our breath through the classic sun salutations with guided modifications for a safe, yet strong prenatal practice. This class is designed to be an energising and awakening practice to set you up for the day ahead.
Read more about our different classes that we offer as well as a biography of our yoga teacher and some personal words in our next newsletter. In the meantime please visit our website for more details and class timetables, or call our rooms on 9251 8550 to speak with Portia about which class might suit you.
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