At times, you feel blessed, at times you want the baby out. ASAP!
Pregnancy is the most challenging, yet the most blissful phase of any woman’s life. You feel almost every kind of emotion running you over one by one, or sometimes, they all attack at once.
During those notoriously challenging nine months, your body changes in ways you can not anticipate. With tons of advice on taking care of yourself and the baby, I understand you are left confused with what to do. Well, follow your doctor’s advice and do some Yoga. Easy!
It is not a good idea to stay sedentary in bed all day with excuse of pregnancy. Unlike other childbirth-preparation classes, Prenatal yoga is a multidimensional approach, that’ll help you stretch your body with focused breathing and thereby, calming your mind (and taming those dancing hormones that play havoc in your partner’s routine).
What is Prenatal Yoga and its Origin?
As is clear by the name, it is a Yoga designed for pregnancy to help the mother get through the testing time of gestation and labor.
But why yoga?
How does it affect the mother and child?
For that, I’m gonna have to tell you a li’l story about a legendary boy ‘Abhimanyu.’ In the Indian epic, Mahabharata, he is known as the teenage warrior.
While the boy was still in his mother’s womb, his father explained his mother a special technique to get through Chakravyuha (a specific arrangement of soldiers and warriors). The technique was a well guarded secret till then. But, as fate would have it, the mother felt asleep midway and the technique remained half-told.
Later, after 16 years, the baby grew up to become a great warrior and in a time of epic crisis, went alone to break the formation of soldiers in the same way, he had heard from his father while he was in his mother’s womb.
Getting in was a piece of cake, but he was brutally killed while attempting to come out. Sad!
So, moral of the story is, while your child is still in the womb, he can listen to everything and can feel what his mother is going through. This is the sole reason why doctors impress on keeping the mother happy and positive during pregnancy.
Indians call it ‘Garbh Sanskaar’ which is simply ‘educating the fetus.’
There are scientific evidences proving that the fetus responds to the outside stimulus and can even listen . Doctors and experts also believe that during this time mother’s hormonal secretions have a significant effect on the unborn baby.
It is basically shaping up the early impressions of the baby through books, positive thoughts, music, talking to your baby and of course, practice Yoga.
Significance of Pregnancy yoga
Benefits to the mother
- Manage common problems like nausea, high blood pressure, anxiety, thyroid, restlessness, acidity, pregnancy induced diabetes, etc.
- Improved spinal health: As you progress towards your last trimester and your girth begins to go out of proportions, your center of gravity shifts. As a result, load is transferred to the spine and lower back. With regular stretching and strength building exercises, your body stays unperturbed by the excess weight and back aches become less frequent.
- Helps you stay in shape, keeps you limber, tones your muscles, and improves your balance and circulation with almost zero impact on joints.
- As the blood circulation improves your skin gets a new blush and gets clearer than ever.
- Breathing exercises help you relax and will prime you to face the physical demands of labor and motherhood. It calms your mind for situations when you need to maintain your sanity the most.
- Eases the process of normal delivery: In times when everybody is opting for a C-section, Doctors still believe in the benefits of a normal delivery and recommend for it. A prenatal yoga, with its unique exercises, helps mothers strengthen their thigh muscles and flex vaginal muscles for easy dilation.
- Takes care of mood swings: Lets accept it, when we go through pregnancy, our partners are at the receiving end too. From creating mental versions of baseless scenarios of him having an affair to blaming him for your condition and then later, apologizing with bucket full of tears, men basically, bear the wrath of the new entrant. Now, I’m not advocating their stand, but still, practicing yoga will lead to secretion of ‘endorphins’ or ‘the feel good hormones’ that’ll help you calm your mind, keep you positive and emotionally motivated. Your partner is certainly gonna appreciate your thoughtfulness.
- The benefits of prenatal yoga surpass to being just physical and emotional. While in the class, you get to meet many other expecting mothers, and know their experiences. Some might be second-time mothers and in that case you can know a lot about the changes in your life about to come.
Benefits to the baby
- As I told earlier, a gentle exercise and rhythmic music will fetch you positive thoughts and that’ll be the first impression you’ll be leaving on your new-born. It only nurtures the baby spiritually but also will broaden your perspective on the beautiful process called pregnancy.
- A little exercise will boost baby’s movements too and will provide him strength to bear the labor pain along with you.
- The baby can feel mother’s emotions and can recognize his parents’ voices. So, listening to his happy parents will led him to believe he is being born into a caring family full of love which is very essential for his own emotional well-being.
- Studies have suggested that good initial impressions on the fetus leads to a happy, smart and active child with lots of curiosity and creativity.
A Typical class
First of all, you need to ask your gynecologist about your fitness level for any form of exercise. Chances are, she’ll tell you to go for it as it helps in preparing for the later stages. In special cases, she might even advise you against it, so you must not worry about the body weight and shape issues, as your top priority should always be safety of yourself and the baby.
So, once you have the green signal, you should choose your yoga teacher wisely. This guide will help you in the process: How to Find The Right Yoga Teacher
Also, don’t forget to take all your health reports to the instructor and discuss every aspect of the class. Only when you are fully satisfied, should you begin with it.
- Every trimester will have different exercises depending upon your health, flexibility and comfort level. As the baby grows, the number of poses go down retaining only those that will aid in a smoother labor.
- Poses are basically meant for gentle stretching and to keep your body moving so you develop strength and agility.
- You can ask for props like blankets, cushions and belts for extra support and comfort.
- As your belly grows, your center of gravity shifts. So, it becomes highly important that you take great care during the transitions.
- Last phase usually comprises of breathing exercise which elevate pain threshold and thus, ease labor. They will also help you manage shortness of breath, which is a common complain of expectant mothers.
- “Never” ever perform forward bending or inversion poses.
- If you face any additional stretching or pain in muscles, immediately discontinue that pose as you might be over-exerting your body. Listen to the signs of your body and always keep in mind, this yoga is not to get into shape or maintain your figure. The only shape you need to and should be maintaining is that of a graceful mother to a beautiful child.
- Throughout the session, there would be rhythmic chanting of mantras or hymns, so the baby can relax.
- Towards the end of session, you’ll be asked to relax and cool down. It’ll be the time when you must pay close attention to your thoughts and sensations. Gradually, you’ll feel your heart rate restored and a new state of inner calm.
- In some sessions, your partner would be required to practice with you. Exploit that opportunity to bond with your baby together and gain a new understanding of your relationship.
Who should do it: Every pregnant woman who wishes a happy, positive and intelligent child.
Who should not do it: Ladies who are advised against it (I’m refraining from going into specifics so you have no option but to ask your Gynecologist)
What to wear in the class:
- Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
- If you are fond of fitted clothing, make sure the material is highly stretchable and with great venting capability.
- After a few poses, your body gets warmed up and you start to feel sweaty, even dizzy. Avoid that condition by dressing up in layers so you can peel one or two off, if need arises.
- This is not something I must be asking you to do but you must always wear a maternity bra. Choose one that offers enough support with wide lower band and straps.
- During pregnancy, women have a common complain of swollen feet, and therefore, you must never compromise on a good pair of athletic shoes.
- Mountain pose (Parvatasana) – helps in finding the new center of balance and maintain good standing posture.
- Twisted pose (Vakrasna) – stretches back and hips and provides relief from constant pain.
- Chair pose (Utkatasana) – strengthens lower body.
- Cobbler’s pose (Baddha Konasana) – stretches and relaxes groin and lower back for eased labor.
- Extended hand to big toe pose (Hasta Padangustasana ) – great for groin and leg muscles while improving balance.
- Warrior pose (Virbhadrasana) – relaxes stressed out leg muscles.
- Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) – strengthens back, shoulders and thigh muscles.
- Pigeon pose (Raja Kapotasana) – stretches arms, abdomen, opens hips and improves tolerance levels.
I have seen women eating up everything that comes their way thinking they need to feed more for the baby (Though I feel its just another excuse dropped in by the raging hormones).
Anyway, it can get distressing to decide what to eat and what not to. Well I guess, that’s when your OB comes into picture. Don’t go for advice from any book or website. They are generic. What’s good for one, might not be good for you too. Only you and your doctor knows your true condition and thus, only your doctor should be advising you, not some book you bought online.
Plus, when you are pregnant, your body’s innate absorption capacity increases. So, you absorb more nutrients from food. And therefore, you only need 200-300 calories extra every day. We know, being underweight or overweight, both can cause complications during birth.
Also, the weight gain is obvious during pregnancy. A gain of 20-30 pounds is normal.
However, it depends mainly on how much you weighed earlier. According to experts, an overweight women should gain only 15 pounds while an underweight needs to surprise the weighing machine with a whooping 40 pounds increase.
Things like folic acid, protein, fruits, apricots, milk, eggs, rice, etc. which are advised for every pregnant woman should form the major part of your diet. Out of these, Folic Acid is of utmost importance to prevent major birth defects in baby.
Remember, your baby depends on you to give him a proper nutrition. If you are healthy and maintain a balanced diet, your baby will be healthy too.
Finally, don’t rush into shedding all those pounds postpartum.
Give your body at least 6-8 weeks to recover from the labor stress. You might start feeling fine and energized, but trust me your internal organs need time to restore themselves.
That’s it for Prenatal Yoga.
Go for it and gift your child a lifetime of positive thoughts. 🙂
References:  Ravindra Arya, Maya Chansoria, Ramesh Konanki, Dileep K. Tiwari. Maternal Music Exposure during Pregnancy Influences Neonatal Behaviour: An Open-Label Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Pediatr. 2012; 2012: 901812. Published online 2012 February 14. doi: 10.1155/2012/901812 PMCID: PMC3299264. ^Back to Top^  Rakhshani A, Nagarathna R, Mhaskar R, Mhaskar A, Thomas A, Gunasheela S. The effects of yoga in prevention of pregnancy complications in high-risk pregnancies: a randomized controlled trial. Prev Med. 2012 Oct;55(4):333-40. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.07.020. Epub 2012 Aug 2. PubMed PMID: 22884667. ^Back to Top^  Koltyn KF, Schultes SS. Psychological effects of an aerobic exercise session and a rest session following pregnancy. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1997 Dec;37(4):287-91. PMID: 9509828. ^Back to Top^  Satyapriya M, Nagarathna R, Padmalatha V, Nagendra HR. Effect of integrated yoga on anxiety, depression & well being in normal pregnancy. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2013 Nov;19(4):230-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.06.003. Epub 2013 Jul 26. PMID: 24199979. ^Back to Top^  Kiel DW, Dodson EA, Artal R, Boehmer TK, Leet TL. Gestational weight gain and pregnancy outcomes in obese women: how much is enough? Obstet Gynecol. 2007 Oct;110(4):752-8. PMID: 17906005. ^Back to Top^  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Use of supplements containing folic acid among women of childbearing age--United States, 2007. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2008 Jan 11;57(1):5-8. PMID: 18185493. ^Back to Top^  Theobald HE. Eating for pregnancy and breast-feeding. J Fam Health Care. 2007;17(2):45-9. PMID: 17476978. ^Back to Top^  B Abrams. Prenatal weight gain and postpartum weight retention: a delicate balance. Am J Public Health. 1993 August; 83(8): 1082–1084. PMCID: PMC1695170. ^Back to Top^
Last Updated: May 15, 2014
Next Scheduled Update: July 15, 2014