During my pregnancy 2013, I took the opportunity to train as a prenatal yoga teacher in San Francisco and I have been trying out almost everything when it comes to prenatal yoga, both at home in my yoga studio (read garage) and at various yoga studios around where I live. The availability of prenatal yoga was really poor during my previous pregnancies and I had to settle for a book on how to modify different yoga poses to better suit my pregnant body. I would have much rather have gone to a yoga studio and practiced with other pregnant women back then. I know that in recent years the range of prenatal yoga has improved in Sweden too, which makes me very happy.
Below is a brief introduction to prenatal yoga and its benefits.
What is prenatal yoga?
A form of yoga especially designed for the pregnant woman's body and needs.
What makes prenatal yoga different from regular yoga?
The focus is on breathing, light stretching, poses adapted to the pregnant body and relaxation exercises. Regular yoga is not based on a pregnant woman's body, needs and the physical changes one goes through.
What are the benefits of practicing prenatal yoga?
1. Builds your strength and endurance
It takes more energy and strength for you to carry your growing baby around the further into pregnancy you get. Practicing prenatal yoga strengthens your hips, arms, shoulders and back.
2. Improves your balance
Your balance and posture will change as your baby grows. Your hormonal balance also changes during your pregnancy. In yoga, when we focus on holding different poses and working on our breathing, we can fine-tune both our physical and emotional balance in the body.
3. Relieves tension in shoulders, neck, chest, hips and back
As the baby grows, certain muscle groups are put under more stress. You tend to sway more as your belly gets bigger. Your hips become tighter because of your growing belly. Your breasts are growing, the upper back and chest muscles are under more stress, as are the neck and shoulders. Prenatal yoga focuses specifically on these muscle groups.
4. Increases circulation
Yoga practice improves circulation in your joints and muscles. Increased circulation reduces swelling in the body, which is good for both you and your baby.
5. Calms the nervous system
Yoga focuses a lot on breathing and by breathing in the right way, you turn the parasympathetic nervous system on, which is responsible for relaxation. When you're relaxed, you feel better and your digestion, sleep and immune system function optimally.
6. Preparing you for your birth
During each yoga pose you work with conscious breathing, which can be extremely challenging. Getting used to being "comfortable in the uncomfortable" by working on your breathing can be very helpful when the time for the birth comes. Using conscious breathing during contractions can help you stay calmer and makes labor easier by relaxing and allowing the baby to be born without straining and feeling scared. The aim is to use the parasympathetic nervous system as much as possible, even when it feels uncomfortable and painful.
7. Gives you closer contact with your baby
Prenatal yoga allows you to slow down and focus more on what's going on in your body. By practicing different poses and focusing on breathing, you become more aware of what is happening inside you.
8. Gives you a group connection and new friends
During pregnancy you may feel very lonely and it can be difficult to find someone in the same situation as you are in. Going to a prenatal yoga class can give you a sense of group belonging and maybe even new friends.
9. You make time for you and your baby
You give yourself the opportunity to disconnect from your everyday life for a while and just take care of yourself and your baby. It's important that you take the time to get to know who it is that's growing inside you, and prenatal yoga gives you a great opportunity to do this.
What is the best way to practice?
It's important that you do what feels right for you, whether that's finding a suitable yoga studio, a personal yoga teacher, a good online course and/or whether you choose to develop your yoga practice at home in your living room. You'll get the best results if you practice for 20-90 minutes at a time. Pay attention to how you feel and what your body is asking for and then decide how often and how/where you choose to practice. The way you practice will probably differ quite a lot during different stages of your pregnancy.
For those of you who are pregnant and wondering how to stay in shape while preparing for childbirth and parenthood, I would just like to say:
- Try prenatal yoga!
If you have any questions or would like to know more about prenatal yoga, please contact me.