By: Kosta Miachin
Conventional medical wisdom used to hold that during pregnant women should not exercise, but now new evidence shows that exercise can have plenty of benefits for pregnant women and their babies.
It seems like a no brainer that the benefits of exercise, i.e. better sleep and mood, greater flexibility and core strength, would be a huge relief to pregnant women. That being said, you shouldn’t just run to the gym and jump on the bench press; not all exercise regimens are appropriate during pregnancy. Yoga, however, can be a brilliant addition to your pregnancy toolkit. Known as prenatal yoga, yoga specifically for pregnant women has plenty of benefits.
1.Improve Lower Back Pain
One of the unfortunate side effects of growing life inside of you is lower back pain. Your body relies on abdominal strength to be able to walk upright. During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles stretch, causing them to weaken. This puts unneeded strain on your lower back muscles, the culprit behind this signature pregnancy ache that only gets worse as your belly grows. It also causes your center of gravity to change, leading to clumsiness and poor balance.
Chakravakasana, Downward-Facing Dog, and Easy Pose are all great choices for bringing relief to your abs and lower back.
2. Reduce Stress
The study of epigenetic expression is a relatively new field of science that examines how stress, diet, and other life factors can actually change your genes. Scientists have invested considerable effort in studying how the stress levels of the mother impact her growing infant.
Studies conducted on both rats and humans have found that high cortisol levels during pregnancy can have a serious effect on the genes of the child, causing preterm birth, smaller head circumference, and lower birth weight, as well as psychiatric and metabolic disorders later in life. Plus there’s no way of knowing what your stress does to your infant on a spiritual or energetic level. If mental illness runs in your family, you should pay special attention to your stress levels during pregnancy. Multiple studies have found a strong correlation between maternal stress and mental illness in the child.
Anecdotal, as well as scientific evidence has shown that yoga helps to reduce cortisol levels. A special bonus, attending a prenatal yoga class will probably have a focus on relaxation and stress reduction. Try adding Child’s Pose or modified Fish Pose into your day to reduce stress while easing your aches and pains.
You’re probably thinking that you spend all day, every day thinking about your growing baby, so you don’t need any help connecting. You’re probably right; the bond between baby and mother is virtually unbreakable, but yoga does provide a nice opportunity to mindfully tune into your body and your baby.
Many men have difficulty forming a connection with the baby before it’s born. Men tend to be more visually stimulated and they can’t imagine what it’s like to have a little person growing inside of them. Luckily, prenatal yoga isn’t just for women.
While some classes will be closed to men, many invite expecting mothers to bring their partners. Participating in a prenatal yoga class will not just help men connect to the pregnancy journey and birthing process, it can actually help to forge that all too important energetic connection with their young one.
During pregnancy, your body releases hormones that soften the joints and cartilage in your pelvis to make the birthing process easier. For things to move along even more smoothly, you need to make sure that the muscles in your hips and thighs are also ready to take on the strain of the delivery process.
Our hips are the home of the second chakra which is associated with emotions and the ability to show affection. Between the life changes and hormones, pregnancy stirs up a lot of feelings. As you reflect on your pending parenthood, you’ll probably also spend a lot of time thinking about your own childhood and parents. By practicing hip openers, you can work through your emotions and keep energy flowing in a healthy way.
During delivery, your knees will be stretched towards your chest. Spend time every day getting comfortable with this position. Pigeon Pose, Goddess Pose, and lunges are also great to get those hips open.
Pregnancy related insomnia is another common grievance that pregnant women face. In fact, an estimated 78% of pregnant women suffer from insomnia. Between stress, hormones, lower back pain, heartburn, and frequent urination, it’s a surprise that pregnant women ever get sleep.
A lack of sleep can have serious side effects. Not only does it create a cycle of stress, but if you have a history of mental illness it can trigger depression, mania, or psychosis. Insomnia can also cause memory problems, irritability, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate, getting in the way of working or planning for the baby’s arrival.
Yoga can help break the cycle of stress and insomnia. For 3,000 years people have been sleeping better after doing yoga. Thankfully, there is now scientific evidence to back up the claim that yoga helps you sleep. Supta Baddha Konasana, Child’s Pose, and modified Savasana are all great ways to get ready for bed.
Convinced you should try prenatal yoga? Join the thousands of women who are reaping the benefits of this ancient practice during pregnancy. There are, however, a few things that you want to keep in mind.
During pregnancy you should avoid:
- Hot Yoga
- Deep Twists
- Belly Down Poses
- Intense Backbends
- Not Using Props (blocks, pillows, etc..)
Before you begin your practice, you should be sure to check in with your midwife to make sure that your body can handle exercising. Chances are your midwife will be thrilled that you’re adding yoga to your routine, but you should always communicate openly and asks lots of questions just to be safe.
Keep in mind that as your body changes, so will your practice. Go easy on yourself, listen to your body, and your yoga practice might just change the experience of your pregnancy!
About The Writer:
Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method – a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online: http://www.vikasayoga.com