During pregnancy, your body goes through some amazing changes, both physically and mentally. Unless your doctor prescribes otherwise, exercise should be a part of your pregnancy, and prenatal yoga is an ideal program to follow. Prenatal yoga gives expectant mothers the range of flexibility, muscle control and meditative focus that will come in handy along the way, in the delivery room and well afterward.
Many yoga studios and some local community recreation centers offer prenatal yoga classes; but if one isn’t available in your area, consider a beginning yoga class and tell the teacher that you’re expecting. Stay away from hot, or Bikram, yoga classes; these are conducted in rooms with temperatures of up to 105 degrees, which can raise your core body temperature and potentially affect fetal development.
Generally, a prenatal yoga class incorporates props, such as folded-up blankets, towels and cushions, to accommodate students as they perform floor work and to get them into the proper position. Breathing exercises are a critical component of any type of yoga, and in prenatal yoga they prepare you for the pursed lip breathing utilized between contractions and the more strenuous grunts performed during active labor. The meditative aspect of yoga comes into play for managing the pain of contractions; in Lamaze classes, instructors advise parents-to-be to bring a focal object into the labor and delivery room to focus on. In Ashtanga yoga, the teacher may advise students to focus on a gazing point, or drishti, such as the thumbs, navel, sky or toes. A focal point concentrates the mind and allows the prana, or life force, to flow through the energy meridians, which can be a transformational experience and an excellent way to process pain.
Because your body is gradually modifying itself, you will have an entirely new form at the end of nine months. Your muscles and joints will need to be flexible to accommodate these changes, and prenatal yoga is one of the best ways to develop this capacity. And once you give birth, you will appreciate this flexibility when it comes to pushing yourself out of a chair while holding the baby. In the last trimester, the breathing exercises will be helpful, especially when the baby is doing somersaults or if you’re experiencing strong Braxton Hicks contractions. Use the tools available to you from prenatal yoga to achieve mental clarity and some physical relief.