YOGA is a great way to stay active and fit during pregnancy. It is also proven to ease the labour process and is said to improve your baby’s health.
Do consult your doctor before embarking on any exercise or fitness programme.
Here are some of the benefits of prenatal yoga:
Assists in stress management
Prenatal yoga brings out better body awareness and better control of our breathing. It is an effective tool that helps calm and reduces anxiety in expecting mothers as well as aid in pain management during labour itself.
Improves general health and fitness levels
It is very beneficial to the nervous and hormonal system. Prenatal yoga is a rather energising practice. The cardiovascular system benefits greatly from prenatal yoga which in turn reduces high blood pressure expecting mothers commonly experience.
Increases strength, flexibility and agility
Prenatal yoga gets an expecting mother into the best shape possible, preparing her for the rigours of labour and aids in much faster and better postnatal recovery.
Deep toning of the birthing muscles
It deeply tones the birthing muscles, which facilitates a quicker and more effective postnatal recovery, preventing issues of incontinence and prolapse and even aids in the healing of stitches.
Reduces fluid retention
With prenatal yoga practice, circulation improves, reducing fluid retention which causes the swelling of the legs and ankles.
Reduces and alleviates back problems
It improves strength and flexibility in posture, which helps greatly ease back, neck and hip pain. These issues are often caused by the additional stress on the spine and spinal nerves as the weight of the baby and size of the breasts increase.
Prevents and alleviates pregnancy-related aches and pains
These pregnancy-related issues include problems like heartburn, oedema (fluid retention), carpal tunnel syndrome (tingling, numbness, weakness or pain of the fingers caused by pinched wrist nerves), muscle cramps and also constipation.
Helps with a more conscious and easy birthing
Finally, it brings about better awareness. This “yoga awareness” assists mothers in staying both calm and grounded. It builds up mental and physical strength needed for the challenges ahead. This strong yoga awareness helps break that intense fear, especially in first-time mothers, of the cycle of pain involved in birthing. With prenatal yoga practice, mothers are more mentally, emotionally and physically prepared for situations where things become more challenging and demanding.
Here are some guidelines for a safe practice:
- Avoid any strong twists, although cross-legged twists or open twists are acceptable.
- Avoid abdominal contractions or abs exercises.
- Avoid putting any strain on the pelvic area.
- No strong backbends, especially in the last two months of pregnancy.
- No prone poses from the second trimester and onwards.
- Avoid lying on your back for prolonged periods of time. Some women tend to feel discomfort or faint due to vena cava compression. The inferior vena cava is the major vein that controls the blood flow from the lower extremities and abdomen to the heart. When pressure is placed on the vein, it can prevent blood from returning to the heart, causing a decrease in the mother’s oxygen supply to the baby.
- Avoid any active inversions, especially if you are not an experienced practitioner.
- Hold any standing one-legged balance poses for no longer than 30 seconds. This helps avoid excessive pressure on the veins of the standing leg.
- Don’t overexert yourself. This causes your heart rate to raise. Do not stay in standing poses for too long if your pulse rate is already rapid.
- Do not overstretch, as the body produces high levels of relaxin hormone during pregnancy. This will make the joints become overflexible.
- Avoid holding poses for extended periods of time. Standing motionless for a prolonged time will decrease the blood flow to the uterus and cause venous pooling (the accumulation of blood in the veins of the legs). This can cause dizziness. To avoid this, switch positions more frequently.
- Move from lying or seated positions slowly and carefully. As pregnancy progresses, the centre of gravity shifts and your blood pressure also changes. Getting up too quickly may cause dizziness.
* This is an excerpt from the book Prenatal Yoga by Josephine Chan, published by MPH. Josephine is a certified yoga instructor. The book is available at MPH and other major bookstores, and available online at www.mphonline.com.