Yoga for Pregnancy
Firstly it may be useful to explain what exactly is yoga as not everyone has popped on their best leggings and sat cross-legged on a rubber mat. (spoiler: you don’t need fancy leggings or any type of equipment for that matter – an old t shirt and a soft floor is very adequate)
The first thing about yoga is it’s not just exercise or stretching. The word yoga comes from the ancient language of Sanskrit and translates to mean unite or join together and what we can understand by this is that it implies the union of our physical body, mind and breath. One of the easiest ways to better understand what we are working with in a yoga practice is to introduce koshas – another Sanskrit word meaning sheath or layer.
To use an analogy of an onion koshas are essentially different layers of our being, peeling away to reveal the next.
The five koshas include:
*Anamaya kosha which means foodstuff – our physical body
*Pranamaya kosha which means energy – our energetic body
*Manomaya Kosha which means mindstuff – our mental body
*Vijnamaya Kosha which means wisdom – our intuitive body
*Anandamaya kosha which means bliss – our blissful body
So it may come as a surprise that the physical practice is just one element and just as yoga might seem daunting and best left to ‘those spiritual types’ luckily the way that we move and breathe in a yoga class can transcend to all of the other layers. Considering that pregnancy seems to weave its way into every cell of our bodies, yoga and the opportunities of depth seems highly appropriate.
How do I work this pregnancy body?
The most obvious changes to a woman during pregnancy occur in her physical body. The shape changes and increases, the space for digestive and respiratory organs is reduced and this can result in a myriad of pregnancy related symptoms.
The physical aspects of prenatal yoga can help to reduce and even alleviate symptoms like heartburn, joint swelling, aching, fatigue and insomnia.
Sometimes pregnancy can mean that fitness and exercise preferences pre baby are no longer appropriate or even pleasurable. Pregnancy yoga is a practice entirely tailored to a changing and shifting pregnant body. It strengthens muscles of the lower body to stabilise the pelvis whilst also relieving tension around the pelvic floor and inner groin, both of which being pivotal in supporting birth.
If you are used to keeping up a good fitness regime before pregnancy then prenatal yoga can absolutely assist in keeping up a supple and toned body in a way that is suitable and safe.
Lastly for most women moving from A to B or simply getting up from a seat can become problematic as a baby bump grows and weight is increased with a shifted centre of gravity. Pregnancy yoga teaches a mindful approach to movement and transition of position so that you no longer have to spend an awkward 5 minutes getting up from the floor.
Learning how to breathe
Luckily breathing is an automatic function of the human body (hooray). What isn’t so obvious is the power that can be unlocked by awareness on the quality of breathing.
A full and steady breath can help the body and mind to function better as well as being the difference between a wave of anxiety and having a moment to gather perspective and clarity.
Breathing practice (known as pranayama in yoga) is a huge part of prenatal yoga. It can make the act of breathing a little more comfortable as your baby’s home starts to move up into the ribcage and it can help to ease new or existing anxieties related to birth.
And the best part is wherever you go you will always have the tools available to practice a breathing awareness exercise. So once you have mastered a simple version and felt its glorious effects it is there to be used time and time again.
Learning meditation and relaxation
At a time when life can feel as if it is evolving and morphing at the speed of light (and actually, it is!) it can sometimes be tricky to feel grounded. Meditation and relaxation techniques provide ways of connecting back to the physical body and to the present moment thus creating a stable base to deal with the changes presented.
We’ve all heard of how meditation and relaxation can be transformative but sometimes it can just seem too difficult for something that appears simple. Having a teacher to guide you and offer ways to learn to switch off and focus is a great place to start.
It’s surprising the effects of just five or 10 minutes of switching off can have on overall health and wellbeing not to mention that of our babies too!
A space to just be pregnant
A lot of women will find out they are pregnant whilst working or already raising children and this can mean there are often limited times when they can simply reflect on their pregnancy and just ‘be pregnant’.
Pregnancy Yoga offers a place where you can rock up with your bump, sit down and be looked after, offload any worries, niggles or moans and sink into a blissful, connected state.
Developing a bond with your baby
And finally the most crucial aspect…developing a bond with your baby. This is something impossible to describe, prescribe or instruct as every woman and their experience is different. A bond is something to be trusted, nurtured and most of all felt rather than intellectualised. Yoga classes provide a setting where you truly can join together body mind and soul and within that there is the opportunity to begin those tentative steps towards a bond with your baby, the unknown passenger hitching a ride underneath your heart.