As I head into the third trimester of my pregnancy, it occurred to me the other day that I hadn’t really thought about how my yoga practice had changed now that my body had. With the physical changes of pregnancy (hello constant-urge-to-pee and non-existent balance!) also thinking about the emotional side brought on by those friendly hormones meant that my practice had changed.
For me, yoga has been, as always, the one place that I can find a sense of calm. As I face the unknown of labour and impending motherhood, it’s helped me to focus on the present and now and clear my mind. It’s sorted out my aches and pains and helped me to remember to breathe. Touch wood, so far my pregnancy has been pretty drama free and I actually attribute a lot of that to yoga and feel that that it would be pretty beneficial to other expecting mothers.
So, what are the benefits of yoga in pregnancy?
1. Eases Morning Sickness And Back Pain
Any pregnant woman will tell you that one of the worst parts of this experience is the constant sense of nausea and morning sickness that befalls you. For me, I never threw up but had this constant sensation at the back of my throat that would leave me dry heaving into a toilet when certain smells would trigger it off. I would then practice my breathing and found that it helped to reduce my mood swings and nausea.
As the first trimester ended and the morning sickness faded, the back pain started up. That was when I started to do yoga more regularly and almost immediately I felt an improvement in my posture and back aches which is very common in pregnant women.
2. Preparation For Labour Through Deep Breathing And Calmness
Breathing forms the centre of all yoga practices and learning to breathe – deep and slow has helped me immensely in my everyday life. Focusing on our “Ujjayi breath” or “three part breath” we learn to breathe deep through our bellies which helps our core abdominal muscles and diaphragm to allow more oxygen into the body.
Breathing not only helps me get through the yoga poses (especially when there’s a belly in the way!), it helps me remember to be calm in all other aspects. Pregnancy is scary enough and remembering the techniques that I have learnt through yoga helps me feel calm in the midst of multiple doctor’s appointments, endless kicks from the baby and dealing with pregnancy brain.
Breathing has been a huge part of preparation for labour through many classes (Calmbirth, Lamaze etc) and there are studies that also show that strong, deep breathing can help prepare for a more anxiety-free childbirth (also it helps to distract while things are happening down the business end!).
3. More Flexibility And Strength (And Also Staying Shape!)
My obstetrician (bless his heart!) is an older, slightly conservative man that would look at me with fatherly concern and slight disapproval when I ventured to ask whether I could continue running.
Ok, fine. So that was out of the question.
What about yoga?
His face lit up and gave me his blessing to yoga away.
“It’s so good for you”, he said “It will help you for labour”.
So I did, firstly with a few classes at the gym and now currently at home with my downloaded yoga video that gives me a good stretch for half an hour a few times a week. Those who have practiced yoga know that while it can be a total body workout and low impact as well. With fluctuating energy levels, yoga is the one thing I know I can do that makes me feel like I am actively staying in shape (besides swimming). From what I have heard and seen as well, yoga has been said to have some benefit in keeping women in shape but also helping them get back to shape after birth as well.
And we’re all about preparing for labour with this and doing yoga is the perfect way to increase your flexibility and strength for the main event.
4. You Meet Other Mothers-To-Be
There is one difference between a prenatal yoga class and a normal fitness class – you’re all in the same boat. The social aspect of doing yoga is beneficial for mothers-to-be as it provides a safe, supportive space that caters to their specific pregnancy needs. Having a strong support network in this crucial time is essential for the health of the mother especially when facing the same challenges throughout the pregnancy, and yoga provides that place to connect.
5. You Connect With Your Baby
One of the best things about yoga is the me-time you get – the quiet, reflective time that you have to focus on yourself. The best thing I find about yoga is the time I have to connect with the growing baby inside me. I feel every kick and flutter as I breathe and send my wishes and thoughts down to him/her to be well and happy.