By Wendy Oberg
I feel passionately that yoga changes lives for the better, and it is a great opportunity for expectant mothers to not only take care of themselves but to give a gift to their baby too.
Yoga is about turning inward to learn how to love and take care of yourself, and this is an even more powerful process when a mother is caring for her growing baby.
An expectant mother considering doing yoga should consult with her doctor or midwife about what type of yoga is appropriate for her, especially if she has not had a yoga practice prior to becoming pregnant. Pregnancy is a natural thing for women, so starting a yoga practice is not out of the question during pregnancy. However, it is best evaluated on an individualized basis as to what is and is not appropriate.
When Looking for an Instructor
Training and direct experience is a good combination of skills. Yoga training is crucial as yoga is a science of working the body and breath in a way to improve your overall health and well-being, and understanding how to do this takes not only years of experience but training as well. I also feel finding a teacher with direct personal experience is something that can be incredibly valuable. A woman who has been pregnant can really understand what is happening, as making a baby is an all-encompassing, thrilling, and exhausting process. I feel am best able to teach things that I have directly experienced, so having a teacher that has been in your shoes is a great way to ensure you have someone who understands you in a meaningful way.
How Is Prenatal Yoga Different?
Everything is different when pregnant—including yoga. There are obvious things that are different and possibly no longer suitable, like lying on your stomach or back during certain phases of pregnancy; twisting is affected as you do not want to compress or overstretch the abdomen. There are also important changes that may not be as obvious. Needing to remain balanced is at an all-time high for safety; however, changes due to the belly getting bigger make this more challenging. Joint mobility is something to be aware of, as this changes dramatically due to increased levels of relaxin. Every stage of pregnancy presents new obstacles and concerns yet opportunities as well. As the levels of relaxin increase in the system, it is easy to overstretch or cause a ligament or sacroiliac joint injury without even knowing it.
Benefits of Yoga during Pregnancy
When a woman is pregnant, she can panic as she loses the body she has known her entire life, and this can be frightening and overwhelming. It is easy to become focused on all the perceived “negative” changes happening, like the massive size increase, breasts taking on a life of their own, leaking, acne, cravings, morning sickness, mood swings, and the dreaded day that shoes don’t even fit any longer due to the swelling and water retention. We change in ways we never imagined. However, getting onto a yoga mat, we stop and find the beauty in these changes. It’s important to embrace these changes in a fun manner. When we change how we see things, we change how we feel things. Women need to remember this is when they are at their most powerful. Pregnant women are essentially superheroes! They are actually building a human inside of them. That is so AMAZING! What is more powerful than the ability to create a life all while still juggling the never-ending “to-do” list they do on a typical day?
Learning how to really work with the breath is incredibly empowering and beneficial for pregnant women. There are certain types of breath work that should be avoided. However, for the most part breath work is the most useful thing they can learn in yoga.
Customized Lessons First, Then Group Work
I do prenatal sessions in private lessons, as this allows me to customize what is specifically needed for each woman. Not only does each woman have specific concerns and needs dependent on her unique body, but the needs vary throughout each trimester as well. Once I have worked with the mom-to-be and feel comfortable that they know how to properly modify the yoga for their body, they are welcome to attend my other classes. Of course fathers are welcome!
In all yoga settings we learn to listen to our own inner voice and let that voice decide what is right for us. I feel very strongly that when a woman is pregnant she is more in touch with this as she is now not only listening and being guided by what is right for her but for her newborn baby as well, and there is nothing that invokes a woman’s love and care more than this process.