Pregnancy is a special time in every woman’s life. Your mind rapidly expands — along with your belly — and while most embrace this from the beginning, others find it can take a while to get comfortable and balance the feeling of heaviness in their bodies and their minds.
I vividly recall the most challenging aspect of my own four pregnancies: carrying the load, both physically and mentally. Think about it. You go from being the only person who inhabits your body to having to share your space with another. And in your belly of all places, which in itself is a pretty personal and vulnerable place.
Over the years of teaching prenatal yoga and childbirth courses I’ve heard a common cry for help: Women seeking relief from the discomfort, and searching for freedom. While back pain is the number one side effect of the heavier front load, sometimes when our physical body feels heavy we just don’t feel as lighthearted, carefree and happy.
But there is a wonderful, nurturing solution: yoga So take a load off, elevate your feet, sit back and read up on the benefits of prenatal yoga practice.
1. Release your mind
There’s much to think about and prepare for when you are pregnant. For some women it can be a time of coping with anticipation, fears and all things related to childbirth or motherhood. Practicing yoga gives you the space necessary to let go of your thinking mind and move deeply into you body and your heart. Chill.
2. Take a deep breath
Breathing is something that comes naturally of course, but in Hong Kong many of us are accustomed to shallow and heavy chest breathing (as a result of stress and pollution among other reasons). Yoga class reminds you of the natural flow of your breath, which helps to bring about a more balanced state. And when you feel more balanced and at ease, you just feel lighter inside. Sigh. Life is good.
3. Back pain anyone?
Many women say practicing yoga helps them reduce back pain and increase their overall comfort level in their bodies. Practiced correctly – and when applied very specifically to pregnancy – yoga offers effective therapeutic benefit. In addition, your prenatal yoga teacher can help assess what might be the root cause of your discomfort and serve as a resource for local practitioners in your city who specialize in pregnancy issues. And in the meantime remember that this too shall pass.
4. Prenatal yoga can be an aerobic workout
The practice safely elevates your heart rate by getting you to move in a sequential flow of postures. The movements, when accompanied by some hand picked tunes are designed so that you leave class feeling lighter and more vibrant. On the physical level it is simple: an effective prenatal class should be challenging enough to get you lightly sweating and elevate your mood.
5. Eat a balanced and healthy diet
This one may sound strange but by connecting to your body you may actually decide to opt for a vegetable stir-fry instead of a pizza after class. Yoga makes you more conscious of everything in your life including your food choices. While pregnant you need to eat a bit more, but there are healthier ways to get in those extra calories: juices, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and clean protein choices will help you feel clearer and lighter. Staying healthy makes for a happier pregnancy, a healthier baby and easier labor.
6. Strengthen your body
Labor is like a marathon that requires strength; motherhood is a job that requires endless stamina. By strengthening key areas of your body from the inside out, you begin to feel empowered by your potential and better equipped to face any challenge. Go girl, you can do more than you know.
Labor is like a marathon that requires strength; motherhood is a job that requires endless stamina. By strengthening key areas of your body from the inside out you begin to feel empowered by your potential and better equipped to face any challenge.
7. Stretch to make space
You may have heard that in pregnancy you are more flexible. However, it is your ligaments that are more lax; your muscles tend to tighten to protect your body from over-stretching. Safe and engaged stretching keeps you feeling open and spacious. Not only does stretching feel good and improve your mood, it also helps in preparation for an easier labor.
8. Alleviate tired and heavy legs
There’s nothing more effective than inverting your legs above your heart to free up your legs. When I was pregnant, the only way I could find comfort at the end of a long day was by performing this simple and restful pose: Lay on your back on the floor beside your couch. Lift your legs up and rest the back of your knees on the couch. You can put pillows under your hips to elevate the pressure off of your back. Do not do this inversion past 35 weeks of pregnancy unless your baby is breech.
9. Know you are not alone
Finally, perhaps the most special part of taking on prenatal yoga is the unique connection that arises when two pregnant women connect. There is a natural relief in knowing that you aren’t alone on your journey. Deep sigh, no worries. Many women make lifelong friends (and playdates for their kids!) from friendships formed during pregnancy.