Sometimes, especially when you are pregnant it's daunting to start new things. Hopefully this blog will explain what pregnancy yoga is, answer some common questions and misconceptions and encourage women who may be a bit apprehensive to give it a go!
Most women who come to my pregnancy yoga classes are new to Yoga. Pregnancy yoga is recommended by health workers, doctors and midwifes, it attracts women who are looking for a gentle form of exercise that is safe and beneficial during pregnancy. However, often they find they enjoy the yoga practises so much they continue their yoga practise after the birth and find a class to carry on long term
. I know I'm biased but I find most people who "try" yoga or "just go to one and see how it goes", mostly fall in love with the practise and continue regular classes.
What is Yoga anyway?
Yoga is an ancient, holistic practise that helps people to "feel good", not just in a physical sense but it can make you feel better in many unexpected ways. There are 8 'limbs' of yoga (I will explain these in more detail in another post), and "Yoga" itself is a massive topic. For the sake of this blog I will outline yoga practise in a more simplified and accessible way - a bit like the tip of the iceberg but even just accessing that small 'tip' can make a big difference to people who practise!
Generally most yoga classes involve 'asanas' (physical postures, stretches, movements and sequences), 'Pranayama' (breathing techniques and focusing on the breath), Relaxation techniques and Meditation. Depending on the style of class the balance of these aspects differ. Some classes also involve sound practises, mudras (powerful hand gestures) and teachings about Yoga Philosophy.
Yoga has existed for thousands of years and in the last 50-60 years has rapidly grown in the West. It's important to find a class which respects ancient traditions and practises without 'watering down' yoga into just another exercise class.
Why should I do yoga during Pregnancy?
Yoga classes are really beneficial physically, emotionally and mentally, if you are pregnant or not people feel the benefits. Pregnancy is a very special, magical and sometimes difficult time. Just imagine your body is actually busy making a little human being! The wisdom of your body is making organs, bones, skin, perfect fingers, toes, eyelashes! It's so amazing and an exhausting role, especially in the first trimester as the embryo grows and develops into a fully formed person in a matter of months!
Once your body has coped with that exhausting first few months it's then a process of ever-changing feelings / emotions / energy levels / clothes! Yoga practise can help you cope with these physical, emotional and energetic changes. Every pregnancy is different and a yoga class can provide something for everyone.
If you already exercise suddenly it isn't as enjoyable or even accessible with a bump, sore boobs and tiredness. Yoga is a great alternative, to enable you to carry on with exercise, keep the body fit, flexible, be physical in a safe way that benefits baby and even prepares you for birth. If you aren't the gym bunny type or have never had a regular exercise routine pregnancy is also a great time to start a gentle physical practise as you will need to be fit, strong and have stamina for the birth and challenging first few weeks. By working on releasing and exploring the pelvic floor, strengthening the legs and muscles of the lower back, opening and stretching the body in a safe way, breathing and relaxing you are preparing your body for the challenge it will undertake as a new mum!
What will we do in the classes?
The classes are always friendly, supportive and accessible. You only need to join in with or practise the things you feel comfortable with.
Some pregnancy yoga classes differ slightly but most follow the same principles.
In a 'Yoga Hive' pregnancy class we start off with a greetings circle to check in with how you feel and share any thoughts, this enables me to suit each week to the energy of the group.
We then focus on breathing techniques that are useful to feel clam, relaxed, energised and also specific practises that help during labour.
Some gentle sequences and flowing movements give the body a gentle stretch and strengthen key groups of muscles. Sometimes we work with a partner or against a wall to practise traditional yoga poses but with more support. We use some sound practises to give baby a 'sonic massage' in the womb and are proven to help with pain and labour whilst also stimulating 'oxytocin' (the love hormone) which helps us to feel really chilled and happy!
A key aspect of pregnancy yoga is working on flexibility of the pelvis, poses which can help alleviate or prevent lower back pain and postures that work with care to prevent over stretching. Due to the changes of hormones during pregnancy it's important to treat the body with care to prevent injury or damage to ligaments which are effected with the hormone - relaxin. Pregnancy yoga teachers have an in-depth knowledge of the changes in the body during pregnancy, birth and post-natally so can offer safe, beneficial practises.
Lots of pelvic floor awareness and gentle exercises focus on releasing this group of muscles to help with birthing the baby and the increased blood flow, oxygen and 'control' of these muscles greatly help recover post birth!
Lastly each class ends with a gorgeous relaxation or 'Yoga Nidra' which is a form of deep relaxation which nourishes you and baby! I help you to get snuggled in blankets, lots of pillows, props and anything you need to totally switch off, take some time for you and completely chill out!
It leaves you feeling relaxed, energised and more able to cope with any difficulties or worries. So try something new, it's a fun way to make friends with other mums-to -be, enjoy some time for yourself, bond with baby in a special way, learn to listen and trust your inner wisdom. As I write this I am 27 weeks pregnant with my second baby, I know I would be lost without my yoga practise during this time. It has helped me so much and I want to share the magic of yoga with as many people as possible and empower women! We can do this!!!