This morning as I was working, I came across an interview Tracy Donegan did with Gail Tully from Spinning Babies (both wonderful ladies doing wonderful things). And I was so thrilled to hear the conversation very quickly turn to the awesomeness of Prenatal Yoga. Then Gail spoke this magnificent line:
Pregnancy Yoga is the new childbirth education
I squealed in delight shouting 'thank you'! I don't know who I was talking to?! So what did she mean by that? Well most ladies will come to me saying 'I've heard that yoga is good in pregnancy', or 'my doctor said it was good'. I'm just thrilled that this gorgeous lady is standing in front of me, not because it means dosh for me (you don't choose to become a yoga teacher if you want to be a millionaire!!!), but because she has just done the best thing she could possibly do for herself, her baby and her birthing experience. I don't say those words lightly. So why do the doctors and other professions think it's 'good'?
Here's why - there are so many physical benefits and also mental/emotional benefits that come with Prenatal Yoga. I'll try to describe them simply and quickly:
Stretching - due to our lifestyles and simply just getting physically bigger through pregnancy, we tend to get super tight and hold bucket loads of tension in our shoulders, hips and back in particular. These are the areas that can cause great discomfort and pain when you are pregnant, so in my yoga sequences, I focus solidly on releasing the stress in these areas with key opening poses. (You'll feel awesome afterwards).
Strengthening - a strong butt, strong legs and and overall strong body will make your pregnancy AND your birth a more enjoyable experience - trust me on this one. Don't forget, all our muscles are interlinked and connect different parts of the body to each other. So weak buttock muscles for example can actually lead to back pain.
Psoas Muscle - LOVE this muscle and for most people it is super dooper tight. In my prenatal yoga sequences I focus a LOT on lengthening this muscle. Lifestyle and poor posture make this baby really short. Why should you care about your psoas? It makes room for the baby to tuck the chin and move lower into the pelvis...crucial for allowing baby to engage and move swiftly through the pelvis. If the muscles are tight, there isn't adequate room for baby to move down, so baby will stay put, sitting into their comfy position...which won't lead to an efficient labour. Sitting correclty by dropping the knees down below the hips will also help to lengthen the muscle. This also opens up the brim of the pelvis.
Pelvic tilts - again all to do with creating more space in and around the pelvis. Pelvic tilts dont necessarily get baby into the best birthing position, but rather again it creates SPACE in the pelvis and keeps mamas muscles soft, so that when mama goes into labour and her uterus starts to contract, it can then move baby down and change baby's position for a shorter and more straight forward birth.
Circulation - as with all exercise, movement will bring increased blood flow all around the body, and therefore an improved oxygen supply. In the yoga, we focus our movement on the hips, pelvis and lower back...all those important areas! So not only will Mama benefit from an improved blood flow, but so too will baby.
Positioning - we discuss the importance of your posture during pregnancy, particularly at the end of your pregnancy...when the worst thing you could do is slouch back into your couch.
Movement - brings moisture to the muscles, keeping them soft and supple which increases space in the body for you and for baby.
Back Pain - this is such an enormous one - I adore seeing my Mamas walk out happily of the classroom after our time together, free of the niggles and back pain they had just one hour ago...amazing!
Core strength & TA - we bring awareness to this powerful deep core muscle - the Transverse Abdominis. It will help prevent back pain but it's also actually responsible in part for helping to push your baby down and out.
Breath Work - focusing on the breath has both a powerful physical and emotional benefit. Physcially it will calm the nervous system, decrease your heart rate to a comfortable pace, and ensure a good supply of oxygen to your baby...read that sentence again - how simple but how wonderful!
Endorphins - our amazing friends! Endorphins are our happy hormones and are released during exercise. They will boost your mood and help you fight off anxiety and even depression during pregnancy.
Sleep - now this is one which affects pretty much all pregnant ladies. Whether it is difficulty in getting to sleep or waking up during the night, I can't tell you how good yoga is to kick this to the curb. Your body and mind will be so well rested and ready for sleep after a class.
Keeping fit - combine yoga with another exercise like walking and you are sure to fight off the onset of gestational diabetes...which just isn't good.
Relaxation - most women in our modern society are drawn in about a million different directions. With the focus on the breath, opening up the body and letting all that good energy flow around, and ending with a relaxation, you will feel soooo relaxed after your yoga session.
Connection - as we live in such a busy world, sometimes we never actually sit down and spend time connecting with our baby and also connecting back with ourselves...precious and vital.
Breathing - we've touched on the physical elements already but mentally, it gives us clarity and focus and it's also amazing to practice techniques for our labour and delivery.
Education - you will learn SO many things about positioning, childbirth, parenting and a host of other elements when you attend a good prenatal class with a highly qualified teacher.
Tribe - sometimes you can find yourself so isolated once you've had a baby and you may find that your entire circle of friends changes immediately. Build your tribe both in person by attending a yoga class, and also online with NurtureMamas and other forums and you will feel so much more supported during pregnancy and more importantly in motherhood.
Visualisation - depending on your teacher, you'll learn different techniques at the start of your class which can help you during your labour and birth.
Sleep - we all know, if you can't sleep you can't function. I don't think there is anything else like Yoga and Relaxation / Meditation to ooze you into a sleep-ready state.
Mood - as you have seen from the exercising element above, Yoga can have a tremendously powerful impact on your positive mood and mindset for pregnancy.
So holy moly, that's a lot of benefits right?! I'd encourage you strongly to find a local class with a specialised instructor or you can also achieve all of these benefits and more by becoming a NurturedMama and becoming part of our community online. Please do explore the courses on offer but also join our Facebook Page here and get to know others in the group.
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What excites you most about the list of amazing benefits? Or if you are already practicing, what are your favourites? Please comment below - I'll be here!
Helen Plass works with women and their birthing partners to achieve a comfortable, healthy & happy journey into Pregnancy, Birth and Motherhood. She has built a successful business in Dublin, Ireland, as a Yoga Instructor, specializing in Pre- & Post-natal health and fitness, Active Birthing workshops, Baby Massage and Mama & Baby Yoga classes. She is known for her very practical & non-judgmental approach to pregnancy and the crazy times of motherhood! Helen has trained in the UK and Ireland, and is mega proud of coming first in her Yoga Teacher Training (she’s a bit of a swot) at the gorgeous Samadhi Studios in Dublin. She’s a proud wife, mama to two energetic little boys, former corporate marketing professional, keen runner and lover of all things related to sport…and is an avid supporter of Irish Rugby.
When she’s not becoming all teary and emotional with messages from her clients about their gorgeous births, you can find her walking along the rocks and beach with her boys, cheering on the sidelines of football and rugby pitches, experimenting with essentail oils, baking and preparing meals for the non-stop-eating men in her life…and in general just trying to keep it all together. Check out all her communication at NurtureMamas.com, and if you are in Ireland, her local business Mumandbaby.ie
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