As a woman’s body changes rapidly during pre-natal pregnancy, practicing yoga with care can be incredibly beneficial. Yoga teacher and birth educator Deanne Liew explains.
The initial news of being an expecting mum is likely to bring on a jumble of experiences and emotions; anything from shock, elation, joy, panic and perhaps even an inkling that you are constantly worrying about worrying!
These thoughts are completely normal because, whether it’s the first or fifth pregnancy, news of having a growing a baby inside of your body is BIG. You may notice how your feelings and body are now in the hands of this new dance brought on by your hormones; a dance between you and your new growing baby. Often, it can feel as though you are flowing lightly through it with ease and grace. At other times, it can leave you feeling out of synch, clumsy and supremely out of time.
These 40 weeks we’re given are a true gift from the divine mother. We need this time to come out of a place of shock, to find our feet, to manage conscious shifts, to strengthen and soften our body as it constantly adapts and grows. It is indeed a beautiful opportunity for bonding and grounding, a time to work out what you need to feel nourished and loved.
Why Prenatal Yoga?
What your body is managing during pregnancy and birth is of course phenomenal: the levels of intelligence, instinct, integration, strengthening and softening are breathtaking! Managing all of these shifts – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – as your baby develops and grows can be a great challenge, and doing what’s ‘best’ can be a real drag.
This is where prenatal yoga can really help to make a difference. It can ease your ability to manage the stress so that you are always able to find a baseline, stay grounded and present.
Nowadays, prenatal yoga is popular choice among young mothers as it teaches you to engage more with your own health and wellbeing, as well as that of your baby. It’s often advised by doctors, physiotherapist’s and midwives to women at the beginning of their pregnancy.
From boosting your energy levels to strengthening your birthing muscles, there are many benefits to practicing prenatal yoga. By giving yourself a chance access your breath through movement, you can experience a release, an opportunity to relax and feel restored.
Movement and Creating Space
Practicing asanas, or yoga postures, on a regular basis really helps to prepare the body for birth. You don’t even need to visit a yoga studio – with online yoga classes you can do your movement practice in the comfort of your own home.
This prenatal practice is not just for stretching or building stamina for the endurance of birth. It is about evolving and taking care of yourself, so that you and your baby feel grounded through each new phase of pregnancy together. It is about connecting to our own instincts, so that we can explore and rediscover a need for movement within our bodies.
Accessing our body’s natural strengths helps us to listen, respond and react from a natural and true place. Gaining new perspective can be hugely liberating, and can help us maintain confidence and trust in our instincts. At first, this may seem like a quiet whisper among the loudness of the external. Because we are so engaged and overstimulated in modern life, coming to a place where we are guided by our internal wisdom can be tricky.
By incorporating movement into our pregnancy, this stimulation can have an effect on our nervous system, blood pressure, immune system, breath and energy levels. Ultimately, it can help you manage if your body is struggling through a pregnancy and find the joy in it.
Importance of the Breath
We breathe automatically. You’d think that since you’ve been doing it for so long, you know what you’re doing. But why is then that a woman who is nearing the birth of her baby needs to learn how to breathe properly?
Conscious breathing can alter our experience and reaction to the idea of pain and discomfort, which is why breathing techniques are taught in prenatal classes and birth pre-courses. The breath changes the rate and depth of respiration, which in turn affects the quantity and types of peptides released from the brain stem. When endorphins are released, our sense of pain decreases.
In other words, our breath can activate natural pain relievers in our bodies. In fact, this can release more endorphins than an epidural!
In our modern day lives, we tend to forget how to breathe deeply. Life experience can leave imprints on our breathing: posture can restrict or limit our breath, as can tightness and tension in the body. We tend to manage on the minimum, missing out on the chances to bring energy and restoration inwards. The good news is that you can remember and re-discover how to breathe deeply through practice, which is where yoga can be hugely beneficial.
It’s important that we don’t get anxious about the specific techniques of breathing during pregnancy. By experiencing prenatal yoga classes, lengthening the breath and being more aware of it becomes instinctive.
Let’s also remember that the uterus is a large muscle that needs oxygen to function efficiently. By breathing deeply, a woman brings oxygen to this muscle and allows it to relax between surges, so that it can effectively contract to push your baby into the world. The breath also gives strength and movement to the diaphragm, another major muscle involved during pregnancy and labour.
In more practical terms, focus on the breath can also give women something to focus on during their pregnancy. By observing the breath, we can stay in the moment rather than worry about what is coming or panic. We can begin to notice that nothing is permanent; we cannot hold on to our breath forever as it naturally changes and passes, just as our experiences. During labour, staying with the breath can act as a guide so that it can steer its course without hesitation.
Through extensive experience teaching yoga and birth education, I have had the opportunity to observe, practice, learn and share the wisdom and instincts of the female body enduring pregnancy. From my own pregnancies and expert advice from teachers and birth specialists, to the yoga classes I teach and birth partnering (doula) women during their home and hospital births, I can say that the magic that unfolds within a new mum is infectious. The strength of motherhood is a true inspiration!
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This post was written by Deanne Liew. She has been teaching Yoga for 13 years in London’s top yoga studios. Her further teaching qualifications include teaching yoga to children and those with special needs, pre-natal and post-natal yoga for women, including a two year course as a Birth Educator. Inspired, she continued her training as a Doula and has supported over 30 parents through this unique experience. Find her on Facebook.