the benefits of practising yoga during pregnancy

Zama Yoga hosts a pre & post natal yoga program at both Toowoomba and Toowong studios. prenatal yoga row clip

Prenatal yoga has been proven to have a myriad of benefits, for both during pregnancy and labour.

During the course of the pregnancy, practicing yoga offers many physical benefits, such as reducing stress hormones, improving sleep, strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, opening the hips and assisting in minimising pregnancy-related symptoms such as nausea and back ache. It can also reduce the risk of pre-term labour and pregnancy-induced hypertension.  As the pregnant body grows, a woman’s sense of gravity shifts, and the body’s posture changes to adapt to the new shape. Yoga helps realign the posture, which can ease any back problems brought on during pregnancy (which are quite common). Keeping the abdominal muscles and core strong helps hold the lower back muscles in place, and there are gentle core strengthening poses practiced within Zama Yoga’s prenatal class. During pregnancy, feet are also adapting to holding extra weight, and as the body’s centre of gravity moves, this changes the pressure on different areas of the feet and joints which can lead to pain. Yoga brings attention to the feet, which are often neglected, and practicing barefoot allows awareness to travel through the many hardworking bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles that are found in the feet.

As well as the physical benefits, practicing yoga during pregnancy has emotional advantages too. It reduces stress and anxiety about the upcoming birth, and offers a time and space for women to really connect with their body and the child within. It offers an awareness of self, and inspires nurturing feelings about the journey that the body and mind is currently taking.

Practicing prenatal yoga provides essential tools that can be utilised during the process of labour. Of course, first and foremost is the breath – pranayama practice can only be positive in the lead up to labour. During the labour, breathing releases oxytocins and endorphins that offer natural pain relief in the birthing process. Deep yogic breathing, which is taught in prenatal classes, travels around the entirety of the body and brings calming feelings to both mother and child and can aid a ‘stillness of mind’. Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodana) reduces stress, fear and anxiety. Practising these breathing processes is helpful for pregnancy, birth and beyond as you embark on the motherhood journey!

Yoga is also an ideal form of exercise after you have your baby, too. Generally, it is safe to wait about 6 weeks after giving birth before resuming your yoga practice. The gentle stretching and strengthening is a perfect way to start the body moving again, as well as giving yourself the time to relax and find peace of mind. Above all, yoga teaches you to let go and enjoy the present moment – it only happens once!

As always, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise. General medical advice suggests avoiding yoga for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and here at Zama Yoga we ask that you wait until after 12 weeks before beginning, or resuming, yoga. The first trimester is the most delicate phase of pregnancy, due to embryo development. From there, depending on your doctor’s advice, there is a range of beneficial yoga poses that can ease and aid your pregnancy. The golden rule in prenatal yoga practice is: do not compress, overstretch or strain the abdomen – always create space for the growing belly. For this reason, closed twists are never practiced during pregnancy. Prone postures, strong backbends and active inversions (such as Headstand and Shoulderstand) should also be avoided. After four months of pregnancy, it is also recommended that women avoid poses lying flat on their backs, and to rest fully during and after class. Of course, as with all yoga practice, it’s important to know and listen to your body, and remember that every pregnancy (and every day!) is different.