If practised correctly prenatal yoga can help you have a natural birth and a stress-free pregnancy.
Yoga has its roots in ancient Indian culture, from purists who used it as a holistic approach to simply “being”. Practised correctly yoga is seen as a force that aligns and makes whole a person’s mind and body. History books date yoga back at least 5 000 years and the name translates as “to join or unite” mind, body and soul.
What yoga entails
The practice consists of different poses called asanas that are to be held steady in time with your breathing. Breathing in itself is key to yoga. The different techniques are called pranayamas while each asana has its own benefits and targets different areas.
Practicing yoga while pregnant
Pregnancy yoga practitioner Theoni Papoutis says that yoga, unlike other activity can be practised right up until birth.
“It’s also true that yoga is a great inducer of natural birth, regular yoga postures specific for pregnancy help to relieve body fatigue, release tension, increase flexibility and promote strength, by the gentle stretching of muscles, extending of limbs, rotation of joints and mobilising the spine. These practices also significantly benefit the internal function of the body’s organs thereby aiding circulation, digestion, respiration, heart function, as well as regulating the nervous system.”
The benefits of yoga during pregnancy
And when you’re pregnant and not much in the mood for moving, yoga might just be the thing to get you ready for labour and birth.
Daily practise is important, the more you exercise, the more centred you will be, as yoga helps the mother’s body become comfortably balanced and prepared for an active birth. As pregnancy progresses and the weight of the baby places pressure on the spine, yoga will support these changes by helping to improve a woman’s posture.
Also the practice of yoga can encourage the baby into an optimal birthing position. There are many anecdotes of babies turning into optimum position with the help of some yoga postures and in the same way, birthing mothers frequently use certain yoga postures during labour.
Taking a prenatal yoga class is also a great way to meet other moms-to-be and embark on this journey together.
- Sit comfortably, spine straight, holding on to your foot and shin. Stretch your spine backwards, using your arms as a lever.
- Tuck your pelvis under as you exhale.
- As you inhale, stretch your chest upward.
This posture keeps the spine flexible, releases energy, opens the heart, makes space for your baby and massages your internal organs and the baby.
- Sitting in an easy pose (comfortably upright), relax your hands.
- Rotate your neck in a half circle, chin to chest, and then ear to shoulder.
- Stretch neck upward, ear to shoulder, chin to chest.
This helps to release tension in the neck, shoulders and back.
Forward open leg stretch
- Sit on the floor. Stretch both legs wide in front of you. Place your hands on your knees as shown.
- Inhale as you straighten your arms, hands still on knees, exhale as you move forward toward the floor. Keep your spine straight and elongated. Move from your hips not the waist.
This posture affects courage and endurance by opening the heart, stretching the life nerve that runs up the back of your leg behind your knee. Continue rhythmically for a few minutes.
- Sit on a firm, level surface. Place the soles of the feet together.
- Bring your heels close to your pelvic floor.
- Align your spine and tuck in your chin.
- Hold your toes, hands interlocked or one hand on each ankle, whichever is more comfortable.
- Inhale as you move the knees up and exhale as you bring the knees down.
This posture helps you to prepare for birth. It rotates the hip joints, stretches your thighs, lower spine and pelvic floor.
Hands and knees
- Get on all fours (knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders), spine straight and neck level with your spine.
- Inhale deeply and then exhale – lowering your head with your chin pointing towards the chest.
- Contract the buttocks and push the hips forward as you curve your spine.
- Inhale again, allowing your heart to lead and stretching through your arms as you look up, arching the lower back only as much as feels comfortable for you.
Balance on hands and knees
- Remaining on all fours, find a spot to focus on.
- Once you feel balanced, raise your right leg, parallel with the floor, raise your left arm parallel with the floor, head and neck in line with your spine, take few breaths and repeat.
Modified child pose
- Place toes together, knees wide apart and sit back onto your heels.
- Place your forehead on your hands, supporting your head.
This is a comfortable resting posture and also helps to open the pelvic area. Rest and enjoy the stretch.
This squat opens up the pelvis by 30% and strengthens the legs. It keeps the lower back supple, ensuring good circulation and preventing constipation.
If you are unable to have your feet flat on the floor or it is very uncomfortable at first, use a pile of books under the buttocks. The feet should be flat on the floor and you should feel no pressure on your knees.
- Hold each other’s wrists.
- Moms, have the legs wide enough for a squat. Dads, bend your knees (lean against a wall or on a birthing ball).
- Deeply breath in together, exhale as dad holds mom as she goes into a squat. Keep the arms straight and lean back.
- Open your legs wide and relax into the posture. It’s easier to relax with the support of your partner. This should be practiced daily for a few minutes as preparation for labour and birth so that dads get stronger as baby gets bigger.
Arms out to the sides
- Sitting in an easy pose, raise both arms out to the side, parallel to the floor.
- Breathe deeply in and out.
Start with 3 minutes and gradually build to 11 minutes. Challenging arm exercises let you experience your own strength and capacity to endure. You may find yourself confronting fear and challenging your perception of pain.
The key to utilising this experience for birthing is to concentrate on your breath, focus on your Third Eye, relax and focus your mind on a mantra.
This pose is comfortable later in pregnancy as it helps to take the weight of the baby off the abdomen and distribute it over the rest of the body. Support your head on one or both arms-whichever you find easier for breathing.