Exercise is beneficial no matter who you are, but growing another person requires a certain amount of body care and nutrition that apparently not everyone gives. Recent studies show that as many as 75% of pregnant women don’t do any type of exercise. That is a lot. Exercise can not only improve the mood and energy levels of pregnant women, but engaging in regular practices such as yoga can equal a smoother delivery and faster recovery times, not unlike pregnancy magic.
Not all exercise is created equal. Pregnant mothers are encouraged to not engage in too strenuous of exercise so as to cause shortness of breath, though body movements, deep breathing and stretching is important to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Yoga can be the perfect choice for helping to increase endurance little by little, as well as improving muscle strength and honing one pointed focus – important for birth preparation.
In yoga, mothers-to-be are encouraged to stretch, but not to over-do it. Pre-natal yoga practices are often geared to tune women into their pelvis and the flexibility therein as well as breath control and leg strength – all critical tools to have during labor and delivery. Unlike walking, weight-lifting or other ‘regular’ exercise, pre-natal yoga is fine-tuned to specifically prepare women for the birthing experience and to empower them into the knowledge that they can do this.
Yoga has always been recognized as a way to balance the endocrine glands and the brain. It goes without saying that a pregnant woman is in need of this greatly, as her hormones flux tremendously during fetal growth in preparation for motherhood. Hormonal imbalance can lead to mood swings and fatigue as well as over-all ill health, where a balanced system reflects itself as vibrancy and wellness in so many ways.
Pregnancy yoga is becoming increasingly popular as women recognize the benefits of the practice, the simplicity of the techniques and stretches as well as the importance of what they are doing engaging in such an activity. Often pre-natal yoga teachers will incorporate what is known as kundalini yoga techniques which help women tune into the way energy and breath flow in the body, assisting birth-preparation on an even deeper level. When a woman can direct attention consciously to her breath, she is more likely to deliver calmly and overcome tension and fears.
No matter where you are in your pregnancy, it is never too late to begin magical yoga practices to ensure a better mood and smoother delivery. If you are farther along, it is a good idea to take it slow and easy and not over-extend yourself, but to do your very best. Here are some great practices to start with:
- Cat and Cow (Majari-Asana) – alternately curling and compressing the spine, good for the whole endocrine system as well as the spine. Prepares the hips for labor, strengthens breath and inner awareness
- Child’s pose – or mama’s pose (Garbhasana)- sit with knees spread apart and stretch the arms and body forward away from the legs while sitting down into the heels. Child’s pose lengthens the spine in both directions and is healing to the whole body. The body relaxes very deeply, hips open, low back pain is relieved. Child’s pose is very restorative to the entire system as 15 minutes in this pose is equal to 45 minutes of deep sleep. Use a pillow to prop up the belly.
- Spinal twist pose (Vakrasana) – Sit into both hips and cross one leg over the other with the heel matching up to opposite knee. Twist the spine and gaze away from the bent leg. This pose relieves the spine, massages neck and abdominal muscles as well as gently stretching legs, arms and hips. A great way to balance uneven hips.
- Camel pose (Ustrasana) – raised up on knees, legs spread hip-width distance. With a deep breath and hands supporting the low back, take the gaze upward and gently move hips forward. This pose opens the hips, heart and belly as well as massaging the kidneys and compressing the spine gently.
Exercise is a critical part of pregnancy and can be like magic to ensure a healthy baby and mama, and to ease labor and delivery pains. No matter who you are or how far along your pregnancy is, with all the benefits known of yoga it would be smart to take a look at incorporating some into your week, if not daily practice. Just 30 minutes a day can change the game when it comes to mood swings and over-all wellness from conception through parenting. Here’s to a healthy mama and baby.
Written by: Stasia Bliss