Yoga has increased in popularity in recent years. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve sleep and digestion, strengthen muscles and joints, and increase flexibility. Yoga removes impurities from the body through the breath, sweat, liver, kidneys, and digestive system. People who practice yoga regularly report that they feel less stress and more peace in their lives.
Yoga has been used for centuries to help center a person and relive stress. In many countries yoga for pregnancy is considered the only option. Yoga can be a great way to stay flexible, relive stress and prepare for birth.
The Practice of Yoga can help you prepare your mind and body for labor and birth as this helps you focus, concentrate and keep you healthy. The Yoga Poses are gentle ways of keeping your body active and supple and minimize the common pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and constipation. It can also help in ensuring easier labor and smooth delivery by relieving tension around the cervix and birth canal and by opening the pelvis. The Breathing Techniques can also become handy during labor.
Yoga is a form of exercise that gently stretches the muscles without pulling them beyond their limits. Yoga can also prepare a woman for birth because it relieves the pressure and tension that is associated with the weight of the baby. Carrying a baby puts the body in stress as the ligaments stretch and pull with growth. During labor, when you become tense, uptight and excited all at the same time your body tightens up. This makes pain more intense because your body has reached its maximum.
Yoga teaches a woman to relieve stress and tension with simple breathing techniques. When you feel stress and pain you may hold your breath. Yoga teaches you different breathing techniques in order to relax your body. These techniques can be the difference between intense labor pain and mild controllable pain. Although it will be a challenge to keep reminding yourself of these techniques when labor pains become more frequent and more intense it will be worth it as you practice your breathing.
Although yoga is very beneficial during and after pregnancy, there are a few practice guidelines as general precautions.
Listen carefully to your body. If you feel any discomfort, stop. You will probably need to modify each pose to your body’s physical changes.
Avoid all compression of your abdomen.
When practicing twisting poses, twist more from the shoulders and back to avoid putting any pressure on your abdomen
Avoid any poses on your back after the first trimester as that can cut blood flow to the uterus.
Starting yoga is no different to starting any other form of exercise – the same advice applies. If you are not used to regular exercise then you should start slowly. If in doubt consult your doctor or midwife.
According to Andrea Fox, any position which feels uncomfortable should be left out. Ms Fox points out: ‘Lying on the front soon becomes inappropriate. Strong back bends are to be avoided, as are postures that involve using the tummy muscles strongly, such as the boat pose, or supine leg rising. Any posture involving balance should be tackled with great care.’