You may have already attended yoga classes for improving your fitness and flexibility, and gained a sense of well-being from it. But did you know that yoga can also bring numerous benefits during pregnancy and birth?
Yoga can be an amazing birth companion, enriching bonds between mothers, babies and partners. You can practice yoga for all sorts of reasons. It helps you to stay fit and supple, it relaxes your body and mind, it gives you a break from the outside world, and it allows you to become more aware of your body and your ability to control it. So while yoga wasn’t designed to help with labour and childbirth – it was originally only performed by men – it might as well have been because every one of these benefits can make all the difference to a pregnant woman.
With yoga to help you, your birth will be a gentler and more beautiful experience – you will feel empowered to birth in the way that’s best for you, perhaps in an upright position, using the assistance of gravity. A positive birth experience will mean that you can give your baby the warmest of welcomes into the world and will strengthen the bonds between you.
Many yoga positions we practice in pregnancy are similar to those which are helpful during labour and birthing. They develop and widen your pelvis, help to position your baby properly and prepare you psychologically to open and release while giving birth. Regular practice can help you to get familiar with positions such as squatting, kneeling or on “all fours”, which will feel natural during labour and birth, because they allow gravity to assist your baby’s passage. Indeed many women have said that if they practice the gentle yoga positions during pregnancy they are able to move freely and spontaneously in labour. We also learn from our yoga that we do not need any special environment for its practice – we can kneel on the bed, support our hips against a wall, squat on the floor or just lie on our side. All this is very comforting in labour – especially in an unfamiliar hospital room – and can help facilitate a birth.
The benefits of yoga practice will go beyond the birthing room, possibly staying with you for the rest of your life. Some of the many tremendous benefits of yoga in pregnancy are outlined below (1):
- Relaxation and stress relief
- Improved body posture and tone
- Practice of postures which can provide a more natural and active birth in an less upright position
- Less lower back pain
- Improved production of the hormone oxytocin, which is essential for effective birth contractions and breast feeding
- Pain relief, via the production of natural “feel good” factors called endorphins
- Inner strength which can help ease adversity and also empower you to birth in your own preferred way
- Better bonding between you and your baby
- Greater involvement of your birth partner, especially via shared yoga practices and relaxation
- More rapid recovery to pre-pregnancy fitness
- A stronger and healthier pelvic floor
Another important role of yoga is to keep the birth as relaxed as possible, reducing the likelihood of complications. Hospitals have protocols and procedures which will be adhered to – yoga will not alter these, but will keep your birth as straight forward as possible and improve your environment.
Yogic breathing can be helpful in any situation, even during difficult birth interventions. We can carry the yoga within us during the whole birth process, not being dependant on anything but our own inner strength. You will feel more able to birth in your own way, turning inward to your own natural birthing abilities. Even if there is trauma or the birth doesn’t go to plan, whether at home or in hospital, you can use the healing power of yoga to let go of disappointment and progress positively. This is important as women who suffer birth trauma may have more difficulties in bonding with their babies and possibly post natal depression (2).
Most importantly, enjoy your yoga practice and the closeness it will bring between you, your partner, and your baby. This provides the best possible foundation for happy healthy birthing and parenting.
After the birth you may wish to attend mother and baby yoga classes. The benefits of baby yoga are countless, including physical and emotional rewards for you and your baby, which you will gain together and individually.Although you cherish your baby, you may come across physical and emotional adjustments which can be draining. Yoga will uplift you, restore you and make you feel more positive about yourself and your role. It is a support on days when you are low and days when you are high. Most days we feel mixtures of both!
Baby yoga also brings mutual contact and interaction that increases mother and baby bonding. Baby yoga will bring you pleasures from small and personal moments with your baby, such as mutual activity, togetherness and smiles. You will gain “time out” to focus on each other.
Baby yoga uses massage as a means for you to explore your baby. Touch is a positive way for you to get to know each other and has extensive benefits – such as a higher degree of trust, less fractiousness on the part of the child and less anxiety for you the parent. You will communicate with your baby during massage – babies can be seen looking at the mother and the mother makes the facial expressions of the baby. Through touch, mothers learn to read “cues” such as changing expressions, yawns and turning of the face or body. Through these cues we learn to interpret our baby’s needs.
Joining a baby yoga class also allows you to benefit from the friendships and support networks formed with other mothers.
Contact Clinic8 for more information: http://local.mumsnet.com/hertfordshire/fitness-wellbeing-other/523781-clinic8-studio-for-yoga-and-injury
Julie is our pregnancy yoga instructor she has over 15 years experience and is a published author of ‘Breathe your way through birth with Yoga’.
1 Field, T. (2011). Yoga Clinical Research Review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 17: 1-8.
2 Beck, (2004). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Due to Childbirth. Nursing Research, 53 (4): 216-224.