Prenatal yoga is one of yoga’s best kept secrets. Beyond the full range of benefits addressing the physical and emotional transformations of pregnancy, many do not know that the prenatal yoga class also includes key elements that are not found in regular yoga classes. Most importantly, these elements are beneficial right away, from the first trimester onward.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the aspects of prenatal yoga practice that make it so unique.
Building a Mom Community
Going through pregnancy, labor, and parenthood is momentous and the process comes with a plethora of physical, mental, emotional, and social shifts. This life-changing event truly deserves some support and acknowledgement that is not easily found out there. Fortunately, prenatal yoga is a perfect forum to allow moms to connect.
In prenatal yoga, time is set aside to ask questions, share resources, learn more about pregnancy, celebrate milestones, and make new friends. This is an invaluable benefit because prenatal yoga is one of the few places where moms-to-be can get together, practice together, and simply talk. I’ve found over the years that the connections made in prenatal yoga class are significant and often last for years to come.
Reducing Pregnancy Discomforts
Each trimester of pregnancy presents its own set of joys, as well as discomforts. Prenatal yoga is specifically designed to hone in on the needs of each trimester and to address the common discomforts experienced at various stages of pregnancy.
Since everyone in the class is pregnant, it is easier for the teacher to target specific issues and help students understand the physiology of pregnancy, which includes ways to manage discomforts when they arise. Specific tips on managing day-to-day challenges are also provided and can include: how to prop for better sleep at night, ways to sit more comfortably at work, positions for round ligament pain, engagements for improved pelvic stability, pelvic floor toning, and many other common pregnancy concerns.
More Easeful Labor
Studies indicate that expecting moms who practice prenatal yoga experience significantly less pain (Research Strategies for Normal Birth by Amy Romano and Henci Goer, Lamaze International, 2008) suggesting that prenatal yoga helps prepare moms for the demands of labor. Anecdotally, my own students often comment that prenatal yoga was fundamental in preparing them for labor and consistently report feeling more relaxed, informed, and confident for the birth process.
Perhaps this is because moms actually practice a wide range of mind-body strategies in prenatal yoga that are directly applicable to the labor room. These include strategic vocalization practices, propping techniques for better support during pregnancy and labor, pregnancy-friendly movements that increase the chance of optimally positioning babies for birth, and ways to reduce contraction discomfort through breath practices, guided meditations, affirmations, and comprehensive relaxation.
Breath Awareness and Deep Relaxation
Yoga is all about breath and relaxation. This is as true in regular yoga classes as it is in prenatal yoga practice; however, in prenatal yoga, moms dive more specifically into the process of breath and relaxation within the context of pregnancy and birthing. Training the body exactly how to achieve a state of deep relaxation (while also being in labor) takes time and consistent practice. This is just one reason why starting prenatal yoga sooner, rather than later, in pregnancy can be so helpful! Too often the practice of natural techniques for coping with contractions are not offered until the very last weeks of pregnancy, or even during labor itself. Fully embodying these techniques often takes more practice than just a handful of classes, and obviously labor is never a good time to learn.
Celebration of Pregnancy
Prenatal yoga class is a special time to engage in a beneficial practice for both mom and baby. The class is so much more than just yoga. It provides time for connecting with other moms, bonding with the baby, addressing the rapid changes of pregnancy, gathering resources, asking questions, having a laugh or two, and dedicating a time simply to slow down, breathe, and celebrate pregnancy in the company of other moms-to-be.
Prenatal students do not need any previous yoga experience to participate. I also encourage grandmothers-to-be to attend, as well as curious yoga teachers who just want to know what happens in this class. I look forward to seeing you on the mat!
To learn more about Kelly, visit yogadevi.mom.