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  • Ruth Fisk, is a Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher of 30 years. Also, an EYRT 500 Yoga Alliance recogniz...

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Sat, June 1, 2013
Prenatal Yoga: Harnessing the Creation of Our Children
As the little baby grows inside, a woman comes into contact with the wellspring of life. The creation of a child is the foundation of a miracle and mothers are the inexhaustible source of love and energy offered to the unborn baby as it develops and readies for birth. It is only natural then, that the practice of Yoga is auspicious during this time. Given that Yoga is not merely exercise, but a form of movement that affects the whole being, it is fitting a woman would be drawn to, and nurtured by the practice of Yoga while carrying a child.

Practicing Yoga is a living experience and when done throughout pregnancy touches the mother and child. One of Yoga’s purposes is a heightened sense of perception. This greater sense of what is happening within offers the mother to be deeply in touch with herself while the child forms inside. This heightened sense contributes to the connection between her, her body, her growing child, and is quite a spiritual experience.

The body is awakened to a new movement deep within, not quite rhythmic, but has a strength to support life. As birth nears, the entire being is drawn into itself and absorbed by the passionate movements of the child being born with no sense of limitations. The practice of Yoga during this time is natural, safe and can help guide the mother and child, setting the stage for a bearable labor, with a calm nature and steady nerves.

“When the intelligence of the body is awakened as through the practice of Yoga, it will guide the woman throughout the pregnancy, making her feel perhaps more in touch with herself than ever before. She is the closest to her own true nature and ready to flow with the movement of birth when it begins”.  Maria Rosenstone

Pregnancy is a state of grace, an honor and one of a woman’s deepest experiences in life. Being prepared for the change, not just in the body but in the whole being, is a gift that is given to the mother and child. Prenatal yoga is an approach that selects specific yoga postures, breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation techniques that will lesson tension in the mother’s nerves. This in turn aids in coping with her changing body and offers an opportunity for the expansion and extension of the growing child. The breathing and relaxation techniques aid in labor and delivery.

Mayo Clinic says that “like other types of childbirth-preparation classes, prenatal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing.”  They further suggest that Prenatal Yoga can have many benefits for the mother and child. A good basic outline and resource of information for what you need to know is at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/prenatal-yoga/MY01542/NSECTIONGROUP=2.

In considering a Prenatal Yoga class, here are some things to think about. Since Yoga practice involves physical activity, decide which style of Yoga is best for you. The more strenuous, or hot or power classes are not ideal for the pregnant woman. It can create overheating (hyperthermia) which is not safe for the mother or baby, so it's suggested that the gentler approaches are more appropriate, especially if you do not have experience with the practice. Hatha Yoga, gentle Yoga, or classes specifically designed for pregnancy are the best! Make sure you ask questions regarding the teacher’s training and experience, this will give you a good idea about how the class will look and feel.

The objective of a Prenatal Yoga class is to learn to bring your awareness inside yourself, this helps you cope with the changes in your body. You will learn how to energize your spine and feel the free flow of energy. You will also perform yoga poses that will open your chest for deeper breathing, to make room for the growing baby. Poses will include stretching the legs in wide openings to exercise and tone the pelvic floor muscles. This may include standing poses in the active part of the class, as well as the seated poses. Through the breathing exercises, which are designed for pregnancy, you will steady the emotions and help prepare for labor and delivery. The other aspect of a prenatal class, which is usually a favorite, is the access to the deep relaxation that lies within you. Through this deep relaxation, the nerves are strengthened.

By focusing the yoga practice on you, the mother and the baby in this special time, a sense of freedom, joy, warmth and love develop and ease the fears of the changes and challenges that lie ahead.

In pictures this is what a class may look like. All poses can, and often are modified to suit the needs of the mother, depending on which trimester, comfort level and ease in the posture. No pressure is placed on the uterus, and poses that could create that are modified or avoided.

  
Always talk to your health care provider before taking a class. Even though moderate exercise is recommended daily, you want to make sure you can feel comfortable throughout the class. Make sure to drink enough water and avoid getting too warm.

Along with the increased well being of the mother during pregnancy, a delightful outcome of attending Prenatal Yoga classes is the bond that forms with other mothers in the class. During each class that we teach at our yoga studio, time is given to check in with each other and discuss how it is going. This sharing of information eases some feelings of what may seem like unusual changes that are occurring.
 
The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga: East Meets West
As yoga teachers, we are taught the following information from the beginning of our training, and studies have now been produced that confirm that information. Mayo Clinic has produced a great reference that encapsulates the benefits of Prenatal Yoga, with high level bullets captured below and the full article found at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/prenatal-yoga/MY01542. The bridging of ancient wisdom and modern Western medicine is wonderful and we can now see that modern medicine supports what the yogis have long been practicing!

Studies have suggested that Prenatal Yoga can:
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of the muscles need for childbirth
  • Decrease lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel, headaches and shortness of breath associated with pregnancy
  • Decrease the risk of preterm labor and pregnancy-induced hypertension

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