Prenatal Yoga Benefits
Of all of the ways to physically and mentally prepare yourself for labor and birth, practicing prenatal yoga can be one of the most stress-relieving and confidence-building options. Mother of three and yoga instructor Chrissy Utt, of Flex Yoga, shares some of the many benefits of yoga during pregnancy.
How did you get started practicing and teaching prenatal yoga?
My interest in prenatal yoga started when I was pregnant with my twins and I began to look for ways to modify my personal practice to stay safe and within my pregnancy limits. I began teaching prenatal yoga during my second pregnancy when the studio owner where I was teaching suggested I share my knowledge with others. I continue to read all I can on the subject and look for courses and workshops to further my understanding of yoga during pregnancy.
What are the benefits of doing yoga during pregnancy?
There are so many. Yoga is great for your overall fitness. It builds strength, as well as flexibility. It's low impact, so it's easier on your joints during pregnancy than, say, running. Many of the “asanas,” or poses, help to prepare your body for labor and delivery. Where other forms of exercise may only focus on your physical well-being, prenatal yoga emphasizes mental clarity, focused breathing and connecting with your baby, too.
What can a mom learn doing yoga that could help her during labor and birth?
I think the biggest thing moms-to-be take away from prenatal yoga is a feeling of self-assurance. A regular prenatal practice shows you how amazingly capable your body is and how adaptable you can be. Yoga teaches us to trust the process and the results will come. This way of thinking certainly pairs well with the mental toughness needed during labor!
Does an expectant mom need to be an experienced yogi before trying prenatal yoga?
No. Prenatal yoga is a gentle practice that can be tailored to meet the needs of each individual in the room. Of course, any new exercise routine should be cleared with your medical care provider first.
Are there any poses that are especially beneficial during pregnancy?
Oh yes, lots! I will share the benefits of two of my favorites: Downward-facing dog is a great pose to help get baby in the optimal position for delivery by creating more space in your lower uterus for your baby's head. It can also help to provide some relief for lower back pain and swelling of the legs and ankles. It is recommended that you hold the pose for less than 30 seconds, or 5 breaths, after the 30th week of pregnancy or omit it altogether if your baby is breech and turned.
I also loved bound angle pose during both my pregnancies. Its benefits are the therapeutic opening of the hips and groin. It lengthens the spine and relaxes the abdomen. It also can be a comfortable position to take during labor. In addition it can be performed as a restorative posture and done reclined using blocks and bolsters to support you.
What words of advice or encouragement would you give to a mom who wants to try prenatal yoga for the first time?
Step out of your comfort zone and take a class! Beyond the physical and mental benefits there is a sense of community and sisterhood that develops between moms in a prenatal yoga class. There is something special about connecting with other expecting women and knowing you are all about to embark on this wild, amazing, adventure of motherhood. Namaste!
Whether you’re already expecting or planning a pregnancy, you can find more ways to support a healthy pregnancy in our Prenatal Wellness booklet.
Jennifer Stutzman, Freelance Writer
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