With the beauty and magic of pregnancy, also comes the pain of a growing body and the anxiety of a busy mind. At first it's the nausea and morning sickness (more appropriately named all day sickness) combined with extreme fatigue.
Then you reach the second trimester and finally you feel a bit more like yourself; energy levels go up and you’re no longer praying to the porcelain god. It’s around month five that anxiety levels about labor start to go through the roof. My belly popped and somehow it became a reality that soon I’d actually have to give birth to this beautiful bubba: scared was an understatement. This is quite common, or so I’m told.
Third trimester hits and you can see the finish line. Excitement takes over and exhaustion returns while your belly expands more than you ever thought possible.
The only thing consistent throughout those glorious nine months is change (ok you’re right, that’s the only thing that is EVER consistent, but you get my point). A great way to experience these glorious changes is to tune into your pregnant body with yoga.
Physical Practice and Benefits
Yoga asana helps relieve common aches and pains. It creates space for the baby to grow, lengthens the side body, opens the pelvis, builds stamina and strengthens the lower back to support the growing baby. By strengthening the muscles in the lower body, yoga prepares you for the marathon of birth.
Extended Side Angle (above left) is fantastic for lengthening the side body, just be sure to modify by resting your front elbow on your front knee. And rest easy into Butterfly (above right) to open the hips, relax the mind and activate the root chakra.
Asana isn’t the only limb of yoga that can help you tune into your pregnant body. Pranayama exercises will increase lung capacity and help you practice breathing techniques for labor. Make sure you do NOT practice any of the breath retention Pranayama techniques like kumbhaka.
I like alternate nostril breath during pregnancy. It cultivates an inner awareness, calms the mind, balances the hemispheres and relieves tension headaches. It’s also safe because oxygen continually flows.
From heartburn to back pain, sleep whilst pregnant can be few and far between. Apparently this is nature’s way of preparing you for endless nights of interrupted sleep from a hungry newborn, or teething toddler. “Thanks a lot nature,” said No One, EVER. But add a bit of yoga asana to the mix and chances are that the sleep fairy will visit you a bit more often than without it.
One of the many reasons yogis devote themselves to yoga asana is the opportunity to practice living mindfully, or consciously. By living in the moment, you’ll be more in tune to the tiniest movements, the daily changes in your body and the fluctuations of feelings.
When we practice gratitude, we combat stress. ~Jacqueline Buchanan
So for me, by consciously noticing and appreciating the power of my body during this incredible time, I calmed my mind, my nerves, and my anxiety around labour. It connected me to the inner confidence hiding in the shadows. This is the most powerful reason to practice yoga whilst pregnant. It cultivates a mindset of power, gratitude, love and allows you to discover what lies in the intersection of the body, the breath, and the mind.
Yoga practice can help you connect with the baby. Tuning into what’s happening physically, mentally, and emotionally enables you to bond with the soul growing inside you. If you attend a prenatal class in your community, you can connect with other mamas going through the exact same thing.
While yoga can help you tune into your pregnant body--physically, mentally and emotionally--there are a few things you should keep in mind before you get started. Definitely get the all clear from your doctor or midwife first and remember to be gentle on yourself, and only do what’s nourishing.
What Not to Do While Pregnant
- Hot yoga
- Major backbends
- Lower spinal or deep twists
- Too much ab work
- Belly down postures (Cobra, Locust, Bow, etc.)
- Lying on your back for a long time
- Overstretch--Your body, clever little thing it is, produces a hormone that softens tissues and ligaments in the pelvic floor (trust me you’ll be grateful for this when b-day rolls around!), which increases your risk of pulling a muscle if you stretch further than usual.
- Breath retention (kumbhaka)
What to Do While Pregnant
- Get the all-clear from your doc or midwife.
- Be present in your body and with your baby.
- Be gentle and kind to yourself.
- Listen to and love your body.
- Check all judgment at the door.
So there you have it, find a prenatal class near you or a video to practice at home and see these benefits in action. Or checkout out this ten minute sequence.
How has yoga helped you during your pregnancy? We’d love to hear from you!
Image and Yogi Credit: Jacqueline Buchanan