Congratulations! You’re pregnant! It is an exciting time in your life, whether it is your first pregnancy or you are a seasoned pro. With all the excitement also comes changes and uncertainty. Your body is changing, your emotional and mental states have become inconsistent waves rolling across the mind. Spiritually, you feel lost in a world of philosophies, myths and – at every turn of the page – different advice. You have become a sponge for any information regarding pregnancy, yet you question everything.
One major question you may have regarding your health and well-being is whether exercise is safe during this time. The undeniable answer is exercise, when practiced safely, is one of the greatest components for a healthy and happy pregnancy. The body is going through incredible and amazing changes – changes exercise can help ease the body through. Exercise also helps to decrease stress, negativity and uncertainty.
Yoga has increasingly become the most popular avenue for facilitating the various needs of pregnancy by including physical, emotional, mental and spiritual activity. Yoga helps a mother-to-be learn about her body, how it works and moves throughout her pregnancy. Strengthening and stretching the muscular system and learning breath control prepares her for birth. Emotionally and mentally, yoga helps to relieve stress and improve confidence at a time of so many uncertainties. It also helps to develop trust in self, in the baby and in the birthing process. On a spiritual level, yoga allows the expectant mother to connect with her baby and trust her mother’s intuition to provide a safe environment during pregnancy. It will teach her the skills to stay calm and focused during labor.
Relaxation is not only key in coping with and overcoming the fear of labor, it can also play a major role in the health and relationship you have with your pregnancy, both physically and mentally. Relaxation methods can develop trust between mother and baby and in the birthing process, provide ways of dealing with pain, discomfort, and mental and physical endurance by cultivating awareness and mindfulness of the body. By learning about the body and how to relax it, an expectant mother can overcome her fear of the unknown and learn to accept the changes that will be taking place. Through acceptance, a mother-to-be will become able to live in the present moment, whether it is holding a yoga pose for one more breath, feeling the first movement from her baby or staying present throughout contractions and labor, knowing the pain will eventually subside.
Deep relaxation and even hypnosis have become a most effective way of staying focused and calm throughout the challenges of pregnancy and labor. Yoga classes are always completed with Shivasana, a full body and mind relaxation.
Through pranayama, or breathing techniques, expectant mothers can learn to control their minds, moods and even heal and overcome physical pain and discomfort. Physically, deep breathing is so powerful that when practised, a person can acquire the skill of sending healing breaths to specific places in the body making it an incredibly powerful modality of pain management.
Mentally, it is equally as effective as a method of calming, focusing and connecting with your physical body, as well as separating yourself from it when needed. A mother’s breathing plays a major role in how an unborn baby is trained to breathe throughout their lifetime. It is a wonderful gift to offer a child in the womb that can benefit them for their entire life.
Three part yogic breathing is an incredibly powerful technique in yoga and benefits pregnancy. It guides movement, thought, nutrients and healing though the body and mind. This is extremely important for baby’s crucial growth. Labor is a time when pain and stability can feel insurmountable and breath is the perfect guide to walking through it with optimum health and a calm sense of sanity.
Yoga classes generally start with three part yogic breathing and the breath continues to guide one through the practice. Once mastered, this technique can guide you through many other areas of life.
Meditation encompasses many powerful techniques to tune in and out, find stillness in the mind, body and soul throughout a pregnancy and escape pain and fear during labor. Setting intentions for a meditation is a wonderful way to send positive energy to a situation or emotion that one may be struggling with. There are many components and methods of meditation, which include visualization, mudras, chakras, chanting, toning and vocalization. Visualization is an increasingly used and celebrated tool in dealing with pregnancy worries, labor fear and pain management. It is the highest possible endorsement of pure inner confidence and creates the most personalized serene environment for a woman to return to when she needs. Specifics women visualize are empowering births and healthy and strong babies inside, they create sacred sanctuary retreats and release negativity and stresses.
Regular exercise throughout the pregnancy is vital to a woman’s health, both in terms of physical fitness and body image. Yoga is considered a form of eccentric-strength conditioning. It eliminates some of the risks associated with other types of exercise and training. The physical side of yoga is a very personal and non-evasive practice that uses ones own body strength to lengthen, tone and help maintain flexibility. It allows for an acute sense of body awareness that provides the inner knowledge of when to pull back, thereby giving the body what it needs during various stages of the pregnancy. This awareness can become so specific that a daily practise can be altered to benefit many different areas. For example, during the first trimester when the hips are tight, fatigue and physical ailments are high. Second trimester when women feel stronger, a yoga practise can create a hyper-awareness of a body’s limits and what to watch for. In addition, during the third trimester, when movement and exercise become increasingly difficult, yoga can alleviate discomfort, which becomes crucial during the birthing process. This awareness takes on a life of its own in the stages of labor where a woman, who has yoga training can use her strongly developed body awareness in making the process of learning how to push and physically respond to the foreign demands of labor seem innate. Yoga can also be a great comfort to return to after birth. It can help both mental and physical well-being and decrease post partum depression. It is a gentle and comforting way to work a body back to shape, and where most classes even allow the convenience of including the baby!
Together, all the key elements of yoga work in a poetic harmony to provide countless benefits for pregnancy and labor. It is a gift to yourself and to your baby by creating a strong connection between body, mind and spirit.