5 Ways Prenatal Yoga Prepares you for Birth

I often have phone calls from women asking if it’s ok to do yoga when they are pregnant and when can they start.  My answer is ABSOLUTELY and the sooner you start the better!  There is quite a process a woman goes through in pregnancy as she prepares mentally and emotionally for the birth and arrival of the baby.   Prenatal yoga supports this inner journey as well as the physical one.  If you were given your baby without notice, it would almost be too much to deal with.  In fact, women who have an extremely fast first labour can go into mild shock as they haven’t had the time to process the change – all of a sudden there is baby in their arms needing their undivided attention.  All of a sudden they are a mother.  It can be a “What the hell just happened” type of moment.  There is a reason pregnancy is 9 months and labour (especially the first) often takes a little time.  It all gives you time to for the necessary transitions to evolve and a specialised prenatal yoga class helps to support this process.

Other exercise programs like to tell women that yoga is “too asymmetric” or “too much pressure on the joints” but this could only come from someone who does not understand Prenatal yoga, which with the right practitioner is really a yoga therapy class, a Yin yoga class.

What does this mean?  It means that prenatal yoga class isn’t just about modifying regular poses to be ‘safe’ in pregnancy and it’s not just about a more gentle, easier practice.  There is a lot more to it, especially if you have an experienced and well-trained prenatal yoga teacher.

So what is prenatal yoga about if it’s not just about stretching and relaxation?

Stretching and relaxation are profoundly effective benefits of yoga.  It also helps you to slow down from your busy, busy life so that you can hear yourself think and perhaps even here the whisper of the baby.  This in turn helps you to listen to your higher self, your deeper self and your body.  All of which are needed during pregnancy, labour and to mother a newborn.  So not only will prenatal yoga help you feel better physically, mentally and emotionally, it also helps to facilitate the letting go and winding down that is needed to prepare for birth and a newborn baby.

In labour you need to switch off your busy thinking mind, you need to let go of the lists, everyone else’s demands and needs (including your work) and let the tide turn, let you be the one who’s needs are looked after. We call it Mothering the Mother.  When my clients walk in the yoga room, they can let their many identities take a break and just ‘be pregnant’.  You don’t want to be the one at the gym in the corner with the injured and indisposed.  You want to walk into class and be there for your needs – your needs as a pregnant woman.  You want to be respected, revered and honoured for the profound journey that you are experiencing.  After all, pregnancy is a profound journey like no other so why not allow yourself to enjoy it, to be present in the experience, which perhaps you will only experience a few times in your life.

Prenatal yoga helps with alignment and posture while respecting the needs of the ever-changing pregnant body that is preparing itself for birth.  Improved posture and alignment reduces lower back pain, upper back fatigue, hip and pelvic discomfort.  It also helps the baby to come into the optimal position for an easier birth.  However, postural needs are slightly different in pregnancy as your body releases relaxins and the ligaments soften, your pelvis becomes more mobile and the pelvic floor and deep core begin a process of releasing in order to accommodate the baby during pregnancy and birth.  We need to honour these two elements – finding strength and alignment while at the same time allowing the natural opening and releasing of the body.  A specialised prenatal yoga teacher will help you to honour both of these aspects of pregnancy, that at first appear to be polarized, but they work together perfectly to help bring your mind and body to birth.  Pregnancy, birth and motherhood require strength and grace.  In yoga we call this Stirra Stuka – Strength and Grace.

Prenatal Yoga also only teaches and improves your breathing for labour.  Women usually need to release their intercostal muscles and diaphragm so that you can breathe deeper and easier.  Your breath is one of your key tools in labour.  Women often reporting the deeper they breathed, the more pain relief they experienced.  This is because the breathing creates a relaxation response in the body helping your body to release maximum hormones for labour.

Positions for labour are made easier through the strengthening, releasing (stretching), letting go and acceptance that we practice in prenatal yoga.  You will feel more comfortable with your body, movement and your breath which all assist you greatly for an easier birth.

There are many other benefits of a specialized prenatal yoga class by a well-trained, understanding and experienced prenatal yoga teacher.  Many birthing and relaxation programs available include yoga practices.   Yoga is one of the prefect partners to preparing for birth and motherhood.

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Tara x

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