Prenatal Yoga: An Act of Preparing for Birth

A practice specially designed for pregnant women, Prenatal Yoga can help support moms-to-be emotionally, physically, and spiritually in the 9 months leading up to the labor and birth of their baby. With an importance place on focused breathing techniques, stretching, building stamina, pelvic floor work, restorative poses, core strengthening, mental centering, and balance, Prenatal Yoga can help students become more adaptive during the delivery and postnatal recovery.

Prenatal Yoga gives attention to many of the physical challenges innate to pregnancy, such as a shifted center of gravity, lower back pain, leg cramps, and circulation. The slower and more fixated movements on specific parts of the body help alleviate aches and increase muscle strength in the legs, back, and abdominals to prepare expectant moms for giving birth. Yoga also can relieve labor pains and decrease delivery time, with moves that relax and soften the hip muscles and pelvic floor. Prenatal Yoga also promotes the use of gravity to give laboring mothers an advantage at birth.

Prenatal Yoga promotes a healthy pregnancy. Even if you’ve only been into yoga for a few months before becoming pregnant, don’t worry: the modified poses taught in Prenatal Yoga are both safe and beneficial to expectant mothers of all levels. Women with difficult pregnancies especially may find comfort and relief from performing gentle movements and directed breathing techniques.

For the cynics, you will find that yoga rivals many other workout regimens in staying toned and flexible throughout the entire pregnancy, even up to days before the delivery.

Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

  1. Improves sleep
  2. Reduces stress and anxiety
  3. Increases strength, flexibility, and endurance of muscles needed in childbirth
  4. Decreases lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, headaches, tiredness, and shortness of breath
  5. Helps women meet and bond with other expectant mothers
  6. Provides an outlet to express concerns and fears of becoming a parent
  7. Helps create a space for change through understanding

10 Ways a Prenatal Class is Different from a Regular Yoga Class

  1. There is an emphasis placed on softening and releasing tension through the birth canal. This means classes focus on pelvic floor exercises focused on gently releasing the Mula Bandha, or the root lock, on the exhale, where in a normal yoga class, this release is done on the inhale.
  2. The pelvic floor is explored in greater detail with practices that help strengthen and tone this area of the body, as well as soften and release in preparation for birth. These practices help create a mindful awareness which is beneficial throughout postnatal healing.
  3. There is a greater focus on breath and the variety of breathing or pranayama techniques used to help with the pain of labor and delivery. Exploring different breathing techniques provides women with the opportunity to discover their own intuitive way to breathe during pregnancy and labor.
  4. Prenatal Yoga explores sound practices, otherwise known as Nada Yoga. Sound is another form of exhalation which can be used as an antidote to pain.
  5. Normal yoga practices teach students to only ever breathe through the nose and exhale through the nose. This technique is changed in the Prenatal Yoga practice where students are instructed to breathe in through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
  6. Due to the physiological changes occurring to the body, women are encouraged to adapt a slower practice so that the blood is not directed away from the placenta (which nourishes the baby) in the support of a rapidly exercising body. This is especially encouraged later in pregnancy -- to slow down, listen to the body, and not be as intense during exercise.
  7. In Prenatal Yoga, teachers guide students through different transitions – from seated to standing and back down to the floor again – safely, and comfortably.
  8. Pregnancy yoga takes into consideration the physiological changes occurring over the three trimesters and addresses the common ailments during each period. Please note, there are several “regular” yoga postures not suitable for pregnant women.
  9. Prenatal practices include visualization practices like Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, that regular classes may not have time to include. This form of meditation or visualization helps to empower women and support them throughout pregnancy to better cope with the changes, aches, and pain, and helps to mentally prepare for the challenges one may face during the birthing process.
  10. There is time to talk, share and listen during Prenatal Yoga. Sharing experiences and knowledge helps others to aid in their understanding and acceptance of this period of monumental change.