What Are The Benefits Of Yoga During Pregnancy
Progress tends to be visible after a few weeks decreasing any frustration concerning flexibility. It is a great segue into a consistent practice of yoga if you've never had one. If you are a seasoned practitioner who is expecting, eventually the class you have been taking will no longer meet your needs. There are certain poses that are not allowed for pregnant women, leaving you with an incomplete feeling. Shifting into a pre-natal class will give you a complete experience. It will also give the experienced practitioner a chance to strengthen and go deeper into the practice. In a pregnancy yoga class energy is contained and reserves are accessed. In a general exercise class energy is expended. A pre-natal yoga class also provides a community for the pregnant woman.
Yoga helps labor
Pregnancy yoga taught with an internal focus benefits the woman's labor tremendously. The more you are internally connected the more energy you'll have for the process of labor. You will be able to access energy that you didn't know you had. It can be an entirely empowering experience. The urge to give up may be at hand but if you've focused in a yoga class you'll know how to do that when the going gets tough. The postures become more than movement that stretch and strengthen the body, they become an anchor for labor. Many students report that they visualized certain postures while in labor to focus the mind and bring them back to the yoga class where they received support.
What to look for in a pre-natal yoga class
The focus of a pre-natal yoga class is to relax the mind and open the intuition. In all the postures we relax the mind and maintain a focused gaze. A deep relaxation at the end of class is key to integrating the postures and breath. This integration encourages connection to the internal witness and observer. You'll get used to traversing through the inner-landscape where labor actually takes place. The focus of a pre-natal yoga class is developing awareness through detachment. It brings the realization that no matter what is going on around you during labor you can still keep your focus and move ahead with your process.
A pre natal yoga class is less about doing perfect postures and more about developing movement and breath that is organic to the individual. The postures should be soft movements without the hard edge of perfection. Each posture (or asana) should flow into the other without the stress or strain of achievement. The class should also focus on the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles. This area houses our reserves of power and energy. Strengthening the pelvic floor through the lifting and release of the pelvic muscles is an important part of a pregnancy yoga class. Through the awakening of this area all connected movement can flow.
Through the use of the pelvic muscles not only does energy and power build but also the spine lifts and the vertebrae separate. The lightness experienced in the spine and torso creates inner space. Inner space is expressed through a feeling of expanded awareness. The more space you create, the lighter you will feel. The baby will also experience this. This heightened awareness and lightness is sustained through the breath.
Importance of the breath
The breath is the doorway through labor and it is vital to any yoga practice. The student's own breathing pattern needs to be developed and integrated. Starting the yoga practice with observing the breath sets the stage for the rest of the class. Beginning labor with the focus on the breath is an anchor for the challenge of labor. So the breath can be what holds the whole experience together and gives a feeling of lightness and success. If you hold your breath, labor will be more laborious and rocky. If you observe when you hold your breath in yoga class then that will carry over into labor. Observation of the dynamics of the breath during labor will support the process to have more of a flow. If you are aware when you hold your breath then you can consciously breathe and let go.
You may or may not use the breathing technique learned in childbirth classes, but you will definitely need to know and integrate your own breathing pattern. Even if you can't make it to a pre-natal yoga class you can still practice focusing on your own breathing rhythm. Try the following exercise:
Meditation on the breath
Sit in a comfortable cross leg position. You can sit up on the edge of a pillow or have your back against a wall. You don't want to feel pressure on your lower back so ground on your sitting bones and curve your tail bone toward you pubic bone. Close your eyes and begin to draw inward. Bring your awareness to your breath. Notice your inhale and exhale and the pause in-between. You're simply observing the flow of your breath without trying to change it or have it be other then what it is. Continue to focus on the ebb and flow of your breath and begin to feel the energy underneath the breath. Get a sense of the movement underneath your inhale and exhale. What you sense is your energy reserve. This energy is always available to you. Even if you're exhausted you can still tap into this reserve through the focus on the breath. Keep breathing and notice if you have an urge to hold your breath and simply let that urge to melt away as you keep the breath steady. Then slowly open your eyes.
Feeling the reserves of energy accessed through the breath
The energy underneath the breath is key to vitality. It is also the key to sustaining focus during labor. There comes a point during labor when you want to quit. Since quitting is obviously not an option then getting a sense of your tremendous reserves is extremely important. Your ability to connect with your energy reserves isn't something you think about. You sense it through the connection with the breath. Your breath is the pathway to this force. Practice sensing this energy when you sit and do the breathing meditation. The more you bring your focus to harnessing this energy the less time it will take to access it. This energy creates internal space.
The importance of the abdominal muscles
The power center includes the pelvic floor as well as the area below the navel. Moving the lower transverse abdominal muscle (below the navel) is important for strengthening these muscles so there's less pressure on the ligaments. A way to move these is through the rhythm and power of the breath. Belly breathing is an effective way of strengthening these muscles and also fanning the flame of the power center so it doesn't become weak. Abs of steel won't help you through labor and delivery, but awareness of abdominal muscles will. Abdominal breathing brings awareness into the pelvis. Let's try a practice of belly breathing:
Start in the position we used for the breathing meditation. For this practice it's a good idea to bring your back against a wall so you can feel your lower back lengthening as you draw the belly toward your spine. Close your eyes or keep them open and focus on your breath. When you're ready inhale and expand the lower belly away from you and exhale draw the belly back toward your spine. You want to feel both the release and contraction of the muscles, so you're clear about each movement. You want to know your release and your strengthening so you have awareness of these muscles for delivery. Practicing belly breathing while pregnant will help these muscles get back into shape quicker postpartum. The movement deepens your connection to the abdominal muscles and your baby.
The magic of supported twists
Supported twists are excellent to bring in an expansive sense of being in the body. Twists brighten and bring in lightness, relaxation and lateral awareness. We spend our days in a linear forward facing world, consumed by appointments deadlines and stress. Supported twists are excellent for creating a more expanded awareness in everyday life and labor. Twists also assist with detachment and observation. When you twist the spine to the left or right accompanied by a focused gaze then you experience a release and expansion of linear time. Time becomes lateral expanding our energy field and our sense of ourselves. Twists also open and relax the nervous system.
To do a supported twist you'll need a belt. Sit on the floor and extend one leg, bend the opposite knee and place the foot to the inside of the thigh. Place the belt around the ball of the foot of the extended leg. Inhale and elevated the spine and chest, as you exhale walk your hands down the belt toward your foot. Do the other side.
A pre-natal yoga class gives you a sense of community. It is a place where you can let your hair down and go with the flow of your changing body. Every week a time is set aside for yourself, your baby and to experience a strong supportive community where confidence is built.
In a pre-natal yoga class everyone is at different stages in their pregnancy so you can see where you have been and where you are going in your body. Pregnant women in different degrees share all sciatica, foot cramps and swelling. Yoga relieves many of these symptoms. Dreams can be shared in class if appropriate. When searching for a pre-natal yoga class look for a multi level class, focusing on the whole process of pregnancy.