5 benefits of pregnancy yoga
Five brilliant benefits of pregnancy yoga. By Tanya Fairtlough
On my morning walk in the local park one day, I bumped into two women who had attended my yoga classes during their pregnancies. Both had their babies and were overjoyed to be able to show them off to me (and I was overjoyed to be able to see them too!).
Whether it's bumping into them at the park, seeing them at postnatal yoga classes, or organised group walks, I love seeing my mums after they give birth, hearing their stories and meeting their babies.
One thing I'm always told is how helpful yoga was for them in pregnancy and preparing to give birth, from learning breathing techniques and optimal positions for labour to the different visualisations we practiced together.
Of course, all pregnancy yoga classes will be different and not every teaching style appeals to everyone, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to find a teacher that feels like a good fit for you. Certain teachers may have particular specialisms and knowledge that they bring to their classes. Some focus more on strength and encouraging you to keep fit during pregnancy and some focus more on gentle movements and connecting with your body and your baby. Some are more spiritual and some are more pragmatic.
That said, here are five of the most common benefits of pregnancy yoga:
- Meeting other pregnant women
One of the wonderful things about teaching pregnancy yoga is the sense of community that is built. Personally, I always miss my mums when they leave the class after giving birth! I also hear regularly from them that one of the things they love about my classes is the opportunity to meet others. Most pregnancy yoga teachers encourage socialisation between the women who attend their classes, whether that’s through social messaging platforms or time after the class to drink tea, eat cake and chat (in non-covid times that is!).
- Moving your body
One of the obvious reasons that someone might join a pregnancy yoga class is the physical side of things. It’s really important for everyone, particularly pregnant women, to keep active and to keep moving their body. It’s also really important to gently strengthen and stretch the body to support it to carry the extra weight and counter some of the discomforts of pregnancy.
- Learning about the pelvis
A really great thing about pregnancy yoga is the opportunity to learn more about the pelvis. Before I taught pregnancy yoga I didn’t think very much about it, but since I started it’s been really interesting for me to get in touch with this part of my body. In most pregnancy yoga classes you will learn about the bony structure of the pelvis and how it works in pregnancy and birth. You’ll also learn about the role of the soft tissues and pelvic floor muscles. There will be gentle exercises to bring more awareness to this part of the body helping to prepare you for a confident and joyful pregnancy, birth giving (however it happens for you) and postnatal period.
- Reducing your stress levels
This might be somewhat of a cliche but yoga really can help to reduce stress levels. By moving the body in a deliberate and mindful way, finding places of stillness and practicing breathing and visualisation techniques we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, we are in a state of deep rest and relaxation; it’s also responsible for digesting and healing.
- Preparing for vaginal birth and building confidence in your body/preparing for a positive caesarean experience
In most pregnancy yoga classes some sort of birth preparation will be integrated into the class. That might be learning about optimal positions for labour and birth, practicing mindfulness strategies to cope with intense physical sensations and build resilience, and finding ways to actively participate in your pregnancy and birth. Many teachers will include more comprehensive birth education and discussion on options and choices, supporting you to have a positive and empowered experience.