Pregnancy / prenatal yoga: could it help you to prepare for labour?
As an expectant mother it can be difficult to find the right fit when it comes to classes that help you maintain your fitness, destress and prepare for the journey ahead. If you hadn’t considered pregnancy yoga, here is why you should.
How can pregnancy yoga benefit you and your baby?
Pregnancy yoga incorporates exercises that encourage mobility and strength while focusing the mind on the breath. As a result, pregnancy yoga can:
- Improve sleep
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase the strength, flexibility as well as endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
- Decrease shortness of breath
- Offer relief from lower back pain, headaches and nausea
- Promote your baby’s health
Additionally, these classes offer a great opportunity to build a community to share you experience and bond with other mothers-to-be, supporting one another with the challenge of becoming parent.
What to expect of a typical prenatal yoga class?
- Breathing. Prenatal yoga breathwork brings your awareness to the breath, encouraging slow and deep inhalation and exhalation through the nose. These breath practices can help you with shortness of breath during pregnancy. However, they will also help you work through contractions during labour
- Visualisation. Connect and bond with your baby through practice of visualisations.
- Straching. Expect to gently warm up your body moving your neck and limbs through their full range of motion.
- Pelvic Floor Exercises. Pelvic floor muscle training will help the body cope with the growing weight of the baby. These exercises will help build strength. A healthy, fit pelvic floor before the baby is born will mend more easily after the birth and help to reduce or avoid stress incontinence after pregnancy.
- Postures. You will move through a variety of postures: standing, sitting or lying on the ground. Moving your body into different positions intended to develop your strength, flexibility and balance. Props — such as blankets, bolsters and blocks — might be used to provide support and comfort.
- Relaxation. At the end of each class, you will find a comfortable resting position in order to relax your muscles and return your hearth and breath to their natural rhythm. You may even be guided through a yoga nidra (meditation that promotes deep rest and relaxation) or encouraged to listen to your own breathing, noting any sensations, thoughts and emotions. At the close of the class you may feel self-awareness and a sense of inner calm.
Top tips for a safe prenatal practice!
- Talk to your GP or midwife. Before you start make sure you have your health care provider’s OK. You might not be able to do prenatal yoga if you are at increased risk of preterm labour or have certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or back problems.
- 1st trimester. Its not advised to practice in your 1st trimester.
- Be realistic. For most pregnant women, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity is recommended on at least five, if not all, days of the week. However, even shorter or less frequent workouts can still help you stay in shape and prepare for labour.
- Pace yourself. If you can’t speak normally while you’re doing prenatal yoga, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard.
- Stay cool and hydrated. Practice prenatal yoga in a well-ventilated room to avoid overheating. Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated.
- Avoid certain postures. When doing poses, bend from your hips — not your back — to maintain normal spine curvature. Avoid lying on your belly or back, doing deep forward or backward bends, or doing twisting poses that put pressure on your abdomen. You can modify twisting poses so that you only move your upper back, shoulders and rib cage.
- Use props. As your pregnancy progresses, use props to accommodate changes in your centre of gravity.
- Speak up. If you are unsure if a pose is safe, ask your instructor.
- Don’t overdo it. Pay attention to your body and how you feel. Start slow and avoid positions that are beyond your level of experience or comfort. Stretch only as far as you would have before pregnancy.
- Be safe. If you experience any pain or other red flags (bleeding, decreased foetal movement or contractions) during prenatal yoga, stop and contact GP or midwife.
How best to choose a prenatal yoga class?
Look for a class taught by an instructor who has training in prenatal yoga. Consider how comfortable you are with the activities involved, the instructor’s style, the class size and the environment.
Embody Wellness offers pregnancy yoga classes, Wednesdays 5.30 – 6.45pm, taught by Jo Harris. The class is friendly, fun and filled with the encouragement and support so important during this very special time in your life.