Written by: Cally Worden
The mind and body-boosting benefits of yoga are well documented, and this ancient form of exercise originating from India can be the perfect way to stay fit during pregnancy. If you are unfamiliar with yoga, some of the terminology and techniques can seem a little daunting, so here is a simple guide to the practice, and how it can help you develop that pregnancy serenity you may be craving.
Dating back more than 5000 years, the word ‘Yoga’ means to join, or unite. The philosophy that drives it believes that regular yoga practice helps individuals to reconnect with themselves. It gradually returns the body to its natural mode of working, relieving the stress and tension that so many of us hold without realising it. Yoga allows a person to become more self-aware and more centred. The body is released and better able to take care of itself. Yoga is practiced by assuming different poses, called Asanas. These poses are adopted and maintained for a time, in conjunction with steady and controlled breathing. The breathing techniques used are called Pranayamas. Each pose is designed to work a different set of muscles, joints, or systems in the body. In short, yoga aids relaxation and self-awareness while simultaneously toning and strengthening the body.
There are many yoga books and DVDs available with special pregnancy routines, but if you are new to yoga it is better to attend a class to learn some initial poses and breathing techniques under the guidance of a professional. There are a number of different types of yoga, that involve varying levels of energetic input and movement. It is never wise to start any new form of exercise that is more energetic than your pre-pregnancy body was used to. Talking to a qualified yoga practitioner will help you to make the right choices for the style and intensity of yoga that is appropriate for you and your growing baby.
How Yoga Can Help in Pregnancy
The holistic approach of yoga means that it nurtures both your body and your mind. Let’s face it, pregnancy can wreak havoc both, so any help you can get in this respect is going to be welcome. Yoga can help in pregnancy in a number of different ways:
- Easing muscular and skeletal discomfort – many pregnancy aches and pains are the result of poor posture, and previously under-worked muscle groups being put under immense pressure. Selective yoga poses can help strengthen muscles in key areas, and improve overall posture that can minimise pregnancy discomfort
- Improving flexibility – the stretching involved in yoga can help women to be more mobile during labour, and make ligaments more elastic which will ease the birthing process
- Boosting circulation – pregnant women can often feel sluggish and bloated. Yoga stimulates circulation around the body, reducing these effects and helping to keep fluid retention under control
- And Breathe – the controlled inhalation and exhalations that help define yoga practice can greatly assist the way a woman copes with labour and birth. It heightens body-awareness, and ensures that you are completely in tune with your body’s (and your baby’s) needs at that most crucial of moments
- Post-Natal Shape-Shifting – with the best will in the world most women’s post baby-bodies are a little less than toned. From around six weeks after birth, gentle and regular yoga practice can help to get you back into shape