Yoga for pregnancy and birth
Yoga during my pregnancy and labour helped me feel more focused, says this mom of 2.
I feel qualified to write this because I am an amateur. I have never taken a yoga teacher’s course, led a class, or (frankly) committed to more than attending a class a couple of times a week. I still can’t pronounce half of the Sanskrit names for the poses. And yet, I don’t know where I would be without yoga.

Feeling in touch

I did yoga right up until the day each of my boys were born. It helped me to centre my body and mind, and never have those perks been more beneficial to me than during pregnancy. Yoga also puts you in touch with your body and gives you great tools to relieve mild pregnancy gripes like backache, swollen ankles, and even heartburn. And it helps you to make precious time just for you and your baby during the hectic lead-up to the birth.

Calming during labour

BKS Iyengar (the father of yoga) recommends certain ridiculously complex poses for labour and delivery, including a spread-eagled standing number that takes all my balance and concentration when I’m not racked by contractions. But for a greenhorn like me, the gentle stretching and distraction of a few calming poses made all the difference, even during labour.

The Three-angled Posture gave my whole body a comfortable stretch, and gave me something to focus on during mild contractions. Curling forward over my belly in the Child’s Pose made me feel safe and allowed my cervix to open, and being on all fours in Cat Curl helped me stay semi-upright without losing my balance.

Adapting to fit your changing body

Yoga is for everyone – including preggie mums – precisely because it is so flexible. Just as our bodies are adapting to accommodate our growing babies, so we need to adapt our practice to accommodate our burgeoning bellies.

For novices, it’s probably safest and easiest to attend classes led by a qualified prenatal teacher, but even in a regular class, there’s no reason you can’t reap all the benefits if you use your common sense and follow some basic safety guidelines:

•  Always stand with your feet hip-distance apart. This not only helps you to balance your new shifting centre of gravity, it also allows the pelvis to open more effectively – something you’ll be grateful for in a matter of months!
•  Avoid lying on your back. The weight of your growing uterus can place increased pressure on the inferior vena cava, the main artery that carries blood to the heart. Rather lie on your left side, supported by pillows for added comfort.
•  Don’t squish your baby. Stick to open twists (poses in which you turn away from your torso and not across it) and avoid intense forward stretches that place pressure on your abdomen. As your pregnancy progresses, you will find it increasingly difficult to lie on your tummy, so don’t!
•  Use props and supports. Pillows, yoga blocks, straps (or belts) and chairs can all help you to achieve poses despite your new cumbersome frame by bringing the floor – or your limbs – closer to your body. Practice standing and balancing poses against a wall for added stability.
•  When in doubt, don’t. Yoga is a gentle form of physicality that is perfect for every age and stage because it is so adaptable. Stay safe by pushing yourself to your personal limit, but never beyond.

Remember that the joy of pregnancy is the awareness that your life – and your limits – are constantly evolving.

Have you tried yoga during pregnancy and labour – or would you?

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