Today motherhood is more complex than ever, with women attempting to juggle children, career, relationships and their own health, often even without the support of family or community. Yoga, however, can restore peace of mind and keep the body supple and toned, ready to welcome that important new little being into the world.
With the go-go-go attitude of modern-day women and our busy lifestyles, it makes it extremely difficult for mothers-to-be to take time off to rest, enjoy and focus on the pregnancy. One of the best ways to ease mood swings, fatigue, painful leg cramps, and breathing problems, aid a smoother and easier labour delivery, assist with post-natal recovery, as well as to create a little peace and space while you are pregnant, is pregnancy yoga.
In general, Hatha yoga teaches us to reconnect to our body and calm the body and mind with emotional stress relief. So, by practising yoga when pregnant you will get all these benefits as well as learn how to use your breathing during labour, connect with your baby growing within, and release happy hormones and endorphins to keep you energetic and positive. The aim of pregnancy yoga is to help the mother bring the baby into the world with minimum hassle and no health complications.
YOGA TIPS FOR EACH TRIMESTER
- If you are new to yoga, it is advisable not to start your yoga journey in the first trimester of your pregnancy. Give your body a chance to re-adjust before you start anything new. Utmost caution is paramount during this time.
- If you are a regular yogi, be aware and accept that your practice will be very different, so make allowances to modify along the way.
- Strong core work and deep twists are not advisable during pregnancy, so stick to gentle twists and focus on twisting from the middle and upper back rather than from your abdomen.
- Move slowly and carefully as your joints are beginning to loosen up. You are at more risk now for strains, pulls and other injuries because of the pregnancy hormone relaxin.
- Accept that your balance will be off due to your centre of gravity changing.
- Don’t push yourself or overextend yourself. Remember that you are doing yoga for its positive benefits and the calming effect that it has for you and your baby – you are not using your yoga for a workout.
- Avoid Hot Yoga classes when pregnant.
- You will notice huge changes in your body, so coming to a place of acceptance and focusing on taking it easy for your sake and your baby is very important.
- Adapt and modify your practice accordingly and use a block, straps and props where necessary.
- Don’t hold postures for a long time and listen carefully to your body. If you feel any discomfort then stop.
Yoga postures that are safe during pregnancy
(Look online for examples):
- Butterfly pose
- Cat-Cow pose
- Warrior pose
- Child’s pose
- Side-lying position – this is a good alternative to Savasana and is a great resting pose at the end of the class.
Avoid these postures:
- Intense backbends such as Camel
- Savasana – lying on your back at the end of class.
YOGA AFTER CHILDBIRTH
Doing yoga after childbirth can be a great bonding exercise for mother and baby. It is relaxing, eases indigestion or wind for the baby, and tones your body after childbirth. It rebalances and grounds you and aids recovery.
Kimberley Johnson, yoga teacher, women’s care advocate, mother, doula and author of The Fourth Trimester writes about holistic, practical tools to help support women through post-partum healing on the physical, emotional, relational and spiritual levels.
Kimberley suggests that all around the world there are five universal post-partum needs for a new mother:
- Rest – it is imperative that a woman rests for 30 to 45 days after she has a baby, even if delivery was smooth or easy, and especially if it wasn’t. A new mom needs to be in her home environment, being taken care of, being relieved of the worries of daily chores with as much help as possible.
- Eating mineral-rich food During birth a lot of blood and life force is lost and so eating mineral-rich foods that are easily digestible aids recovery.
- Wise women and companionship It is important to have someone around that you can talk to about what you are going through. This is not the time to be alone.
- Loving touch In India ladies that have just been through childbirth receive daily oil massage and herb treatments. Anything the new baby is getting the post-partum mom also needs to receive.
- Contact with nature.
Kimberley also says that she sees women in her office all the time with back pain, prolapsed organs and various other traumas caused by not taking a break and from not taking it easy when they are pregnant as well as just after childbirth. She suggests not being Superwoman when you are pregnant and even to take four or five months off from all exercise, including physical yoga asanas. She suggests perhaps exploring the other aspects of yoga and practising meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises) or going to an expert in prenatal yoga. This is so that you can develop the yin space in pregnancy so that when you need the yang space for delivery it is accessible to you. Seeing your pregnancy as a space of reflection and a ‘being’ space rather than ‘doing’ time is an important distinction to make.
SEE THE EXPERTS
Pregnancy yoga has many benefits; however, it isn’t just about yoga – it’s about doing it under expert supervision and a favourable environment.
In my opinion, rather go and see the experts and practise yoga with teachers who specifically focus on pre- and post-natal yoga classes. They will then work specifically to help new moms to feel fulfilled and supported as well as giving you the occasional glimpse of an inner calmness and an outer glow in the midst of your busy lives.
CONTACTS FOR PREGNANCY YOGA TEACHERS AND STUDIOS ARE:
Sunshine health – Gayle Friedman www.sunshinecolouracademy.com/Yoga.html Call: 082 958 4801