Prenatal Yoga Breathing, Stretching, and Strengthening
Mayo Clinic medical describe prenatal yoga as “a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing.” Gently alleviating and improving numerous conditions, some of the most beneficial aspects of prenatal yoga for moms-to-be include:
- Breath Work: Yoga’s conscious breathing relaxes the body and helps still the mind from pain and strain — essential element in delivering a baby. In prenatal yoga, you will learn “ujayi breathing” or the “three part breath,” teaching you to breathe using use your abdomen, diaphragm, and ribcage, thereby increases the amount of oxygen in your body.
- Pelvic Floor Strengthening: The pelvic floor – the muscles attached to your pelvis – supports your reproductive and digestion organs as well as your baby while you are pregnant. Pelvic floor strengthening exercises are essential during pregnancy, as the pelvic muscle carries an increasingly heavy load. Moreover, women with a weak pelvic floor are more likely to experience health problems such as incontinence, constipation, painful intercourse, prolapse of the uterus or bladder, lower back pain, and abdominal pain. Conversely, a strong pelvic floor muscle will allow you to carry your baby more comfortably and help you during labor and delivery. In prenatal yoga, the practice of lifting and contracting the pelvic floor usually takes place during the second trimester.
- Abdominal Work: Your center of gravity changes as your baby and belly grow, as the extra forward growth of the belly stretches the abdominals out of their normal shape, weakening them and giving rise to low back pain. Prenatal yoga exercises strengthen your core abdominal muscles and helps alleviate pressure in the low back, which can be especially acute during the third trimester.
- Feet: As your pregnancy progresses, so does the amount of pressure on your feet, leading to edema and over-pronation, which in turn cause pain in the arch, ball, or heel of the foot. Furthermore, due to weight gain, leg cramping and varicose veins are also common during pregnancy. Prenatal yoga barefoot work helps with over-pronation and brings awareness to the feet.
- Back: Pregnant women are especially prone to pain and injury in the low back as their growing belly and shifting center of gravity can pull the spine out of its normal curvature. Prenatal yoga postures strengthen the back and lengthen the muscles that support the low back, helping the spine and relieving pressure and discomfort.
- Hips: Prenatal yoga stretches the ligaments in the hips, legs, and pelvis areas, making labor positions and pushing easier. It also increases flexibility of the bones and muscles in the front and back of the hips, allowing women to more easily open their legs and facilitating delivery for both mom and baby.
Benefits of Yoga During Pregnancy
Research cites the following benefits of practicing yoga during pregnancy:
- Increases flexibility and strength of muscles needed for childbirth
- Improves sleep
- Reduces nausea
- Helps prevent shortness of breath
- Reduces incidence of headaches
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Lowers risk of preterm labor
- Lowers risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Helps prevent intrauterine growth restriction
- Speeds up recovery time
Yoga, of course, is also a great way to get back into shape and start moving after you give birth! Daily gentle yoga sequences, even for 15 minutes, can do wonders for your energy level and body strength.
Prenatal Yoga for Relaxation and Mental Preparedness
Equally as important as preparing you physically, prenatal yoga helps prepare you prepare mentally for giving birth by helping you become more aware of your body and teaching you to listen to your body and be “in the moment.” You can help yourself by focuses on your breath, inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
Prenatal yoga sessions conclude with relaxation, a body scan, attention to the breath and inner sensations, and quieting of the mind.