The Scoop on Prenatal Yoga
As a prenatal yoga teacher I naturally get a lot of questions about prenatal yoga. In fact, over the years I’ve come to realize that prenatal yoga may be one of yoga’s best kept secrets. Expecting moms are frequently surprised when they realize the full scope of the benefits prenatal yoga offers, not only for pregnancy but also for labor and beyond. So, let’s take a closer look at the things that make the prenatal yoga practice so unique.
Many prenatal yoga teachers set aside a few minutes of every class to simply talk as a group. Women are encouraged to ask questions, share resources, get and give support and make new friends. As women, and especially as new moms, this is an invaluable benefit. The connections made in class can last for years to come. Prenatal yoga is one of the few places pregnant women can go and simply talk to one another and express their feelings and experiences of pregnancy.
Prenatal yoga can make labor more easeful
Studies indicate that women who practice prenatal yoga generally cope better with the physical and emotional demands of labor. Further, researchers have noted that women who practice prenatal yoga seem to have a reduced perception of pain, and improved confidence during childbirth (Research Strategies for Normal Birth by Amy Romano and Henci Goer, Lamaze International, 2008). Perhaps this is because during prenatal yoga classes, moms actually practice a whole set of mind-body coping strategies that are practical and useful during labor. These include a whole range of flowing movements, many of which help to optimally position babies and reduce discomfort in coordination with breath, meditation and systematic relaxation.
Addressing the discomforts of pregnancy
The prenatal yoga practice is specifically designed to target and address the discomforts experienced in all trimesters of pregnancy. Since everyone in the class is pregnant, it is much easier for the teacher to really hone in on specific discomforts and help moms to find a some relief. In addition, specific tips on various day to day comfort measures are also provided during class; such as how to adjust your sleeping area to alleviate the issue of tingling fingers or sore shoulders, neck and hips, ways to make more “space” in the body and feel less compressed, or how to align your posture so there is less strain on the lower back.
More time for breath awareness and deep relaxation
Yoga is all about breath and relaxation. That’s as true in regular yoga classes as it is in prenatal yoga practice. But, in prenatal yoga, moms dive more specifically into the process of breath and relaxation within the context of pregnancy and birthing. “Teaching” the body exactly how to achieve a state of deep relaxation takes time and regular practice. Attempting to learn effective breath and relaxation techniques after labor has already begun is definitely not a good time to get a handle on this. Learning and practicing these techniques well before labor is strongly recommended. After all, the ability to consciously and effectively relax is absolutely the key to a more easeful birth.
A time to celebrate your pregnancy
Prenatal yoga class is a special time to engage in a beneficial practice for both you and your baby. The class is much more than just yoga as it provides time for connecting with other moms, bonding with your growing baby, learning about the rapid changes occurring in the body, gathering resources, asking questions, having a laugh or two, and dedicating a time to simply slow down, breathe and celebrate your pregnancy in the company of other moms-to-be.
You do not need any previous experience in yoga in order to participate in a prenatal yoga class. The practice is appropriate and recommended for women in all stages of pregnancy. So whether you’re in your first month or your last, now is the time to take advantage of this special class!