5 Amazing Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
By: Kelly Swails, ERYT, RPYT, CCCE
As a prenatal yoga teacher I naturally get a lot of questions about prenatal yoga. In fact, over the years I’ve come to realize that prenatal yoga may be one of yoga’s best kept secrets. Expecting moms (and fellow yoga teachers alike) are frequently surprised when they learn the full scope of the benefits prenatal yoga offers, not only for pregnancy but also for labor and beyond. So, let’s take a closer look at these benefits and what makes the prenatal yoga practice so unique.
One of the overlooked perks of prenatal yoga is how it helps build community for new moms. As women, and especially as new moms, this is an invaluable and far-reaching benefit. The connections made in class often last for years to come. Women are encouraged in prenatal yoga to ask questions, share resources, to get and give support and make new friends. Prenatal yoga is one of the few places pregnant women can go and simply talk to one another and express their feelings and experiences of pregnancy. I have seen numerous mom groups, play dates and long-lasting friendships develop from the prenatal yoga experience.
Addressing the discomforts of pregnancy
The prenatal yoga practice is specifically designed to address the discomforts experienced in all trimesters of pregnancy. In a regular yoga class, pregnant women do not receive a targeted practice. But, in prenatal yoga, the teacher can really hone in on specific pregnancy discomforts and help moms to find some relief. In addition, specific tips on various day to day comfort measures are also provided during class; such as how to adjust your sleeping space to alleviate the issue of tingling fingers, sore shoulders, neck and hips, how to make more “space” in the body and feel less compressed, ways to reduce swelling, reduce round ligament pain, or how to align your posture in daily life so there is less strain on the lower back.
The practice also offers suggestions and techniques for getting babies into the best position for birth. This includes tips on how to sit at your desk, or behind the wheel, sleeping positions, and a range of “homework” movements and positions that help to nudge babies into the path of least resistance.
Lastly, the prenatal yoga practice is unique in targeting the emotional and mental changes that occur during pregnancy. This helps women understand these frequently overlooked aspects of pregnancy and view them in a wider context as indicators of the body’s vast intelligence.
Prenatal yoga can make labor more easeful
Studies indicate that women who practice prenatal yoga generally cope better with the physical and emotional demands of labor. Further, researchers have noted that women who practice prenatal yoga appear to cope with labor pain more effectively, and exhibit improved confidence during childbirth (Research Strategies for Normal Birth by Amy Romano and Henci Goer, Lamaze International, 2008). Perhaps this is because during prenatal yoga classes, moms actually practice a whole set of mind-body coping strategies that are practical and useful during labor. These include a whole range of flowing movements, attention to pelvic alignment, pelvic floor awareness, as well as postural and positional suggestions that help reduce the challenges of labor in coordination with breath, meditation and guided relaxation.
More time for breath awareness and deep relaxation
Yoga is all about breath and relaxation. That’s as true in regular yoga classes as it is in prenatal yoga practice. But, in prenatal yoga, moms dive more specifically into the process of breath and relaxation within the context of pregnancy and birthing. “Teaching” the body exactly how to achieve a state of deep relaxation takes time and regular practice. Attempting to learn effective breath and relaxation techniques after labor has already begun is definitely not a good time to get a handle on this.
A time to celebrate your pregnancy
Prenatal yoga class is a special time to engage in a beneficial practice for both you and your baby. The class is much more than just yoga as it provides time for connecting with other moms, bonding with your growing baby, learning about the rapid changes occurring in the body, gathering resources, asking questions, having a laugh or two, and dedicating time to simply slow down, breathe and celebrate your pregnancy in the company of other moms-to-be.
You do not need any previous experience in yoga in order to participate in a prenatal yoga class. The practice is appropriate and recommended for women in all stages of pregnancy. So whether you’re in your first month or your last, now is the time to take advantage of this special class!