Yoga for Pregnant Women
Prenatal yoga is a great, low-impact exercise option for expectant moms.
Yoga is a traditional Indian art that has become increasingly popular throughout the world. In its many varieties, it promotes optimum health, both physically and mentally. Yoga postures and breathing techniques develop strength, stability, flexibility, and a calm composure. These poses can be adapted to people according to their age, their capacity and their disposition.
According to old yoga texts and cultural wisdom, yoga is best for women when they have started a practice at an early age, and therefore are strong and healthy before they become pregnant. A woman with an established yoga practice can then continue and modify her poses as she goes through the various stages of pregnancy.
Outside India, women are only recently discovering yoga, so consequently they are often new to the practice when they become pregnant. It is during this time that many women decide to take up yoga. If they learn from an experienced teacher who will know which poses to practice and which to avoid, and how to modify the poses, a simple yoga practice can be beneficial for them.
This is not a time to begin an adventurous, challenging course of yoga. The main focus for yoga during this time must be the successful outcome of the pregnancy: a healthy mother and baby.
Benefits of Yoga during Pregnancy
A good pre-natal yoga practice should feel nurturing for the mother-to-be. Physically it should help strengthen the back muscles as well as the muscles of the arms and legs. It prepares the abdominal floor for child birth; it opens the chest to free up breathing; it improves circulation of blood and fluids; and it keeps the digestive system moving.
Yoga improves posture, an important benefit, as so many women encounter lower back pain due to postural change during pregnancy. Yoga also promotes emotional and mental stability during a time of great hormonal changes within the mother. Relaxing breathing techniques and postures provide a calm oasis to help a woman slow down and unwind.
Stages of Pregnancy
The first trimester of pregnancy can be unpredictable. During this time it is not unusual for women to experience morning sickness and discomfort. It is not advised to begin a yoga practice at this time.
Women who have an existing yoga practice can continue, but they should not work so hard that they become fatigued.
In the second trimester, women generally feel better. Pre-natal yoga started now will help them create and maintain proper postural alignment and will help them develop strength and stability in body and mind, thus fostering a positive experience of pregnancy and motherhood.
In the third trimester, yoga can continue. For many women yoga continues until the very last days of pregnancy. Poses are modified, and the emphasis becomes more about resting and relaxing and letting go. Smooth free breathing and supported postures are a boon for women in this period.
Yoga prepares women for natural child birth. It also introduces a method for the mother to nurture and honor herself and to take time to be quiet and still to cherish the life she is carrying. It provides a way to step out of the hectic clamor of modern life and feel a deep connection to the primal rhythms within.
Many women who begin yoga during pregnancy return to it several months after their babies are born. Prenatal yoga can be the beginning of a lifelong love of this art for there are poses to fit every age and stage of life.
By Linda Shevloff of The Iyengar Yoga Centre
Reprinted with the permission of the author