Yoga has come a long way from that show at 6 a.m. featuring the lady sporting the full lavender body suit and a ’70s ’fro to becoming the current obsession of the chic, lean, and fashionable.
The thought of contorting yourself in the presence of an ever-growing belly might seem, well, awkward, if not totally daunting at best. Here’s why yoga will help you rock your pregnancy all the way to the delivery room and beyond.
It’s not about becoming a contortionist
Gotta love the gals who can turn themselves into human pretzels on the cover of fitness magazines, but that’s not the yoga we’re talking about. Prenatal yoga, when guided by an individual with advanced training in the instruction of pregnant and postpartum women, provides therapeutic benefits to both mother and her fetus. Here’s why:
Improved respiration. I’m talking about breathing. It won’t take long before you’re noticing shortness of breath early in your pregnancy that may not even be in response to something strenuous, like, say, getting off the couch. The reason for this is often hormonal, and can start early in pregnancy even before that stage when the belly takes over your lung space. An expertly guided yoga program designed for pregnancy can help you learn to improve your ability to breathe more fully. You will learn techniques to employ when you’re feeling winded or out of breath.
Improved trunk strength and control. You are going to need it to hold up that belly for the next several months. Yoga can provide a great way to gently work on strength, stability, and balance to help you support your blossoming frame.
Increased body awareness. Regular yoga practice facilitates a better understanding of how your body moves (or doesn’t) and will help you develop mindful movement patterns. You will learn how to avoid movement patterns that lead to pain and dysfunction, and techniques to self-correct harmful postural habits that can predispose you to neck, back, hip, and joint pain.
Relief from aches and pains. They are the joy of this beautiful stage in life when parts of your body that you never knew existed start to ache. Prenatal yoga can help de-stress those areas and provide some relief. Individualized yoga instruction and training will empower you to use yoga positions and breathing techniques to help you minimize and manage your symptoms yourself.
Bonus! Recent research suggests that prenatal yoga may lead to decreased perceived pain and discomfort during labor. Knowing that might also improve your stress levels as you lead up to the big day.
Decreased stress. A recent study found that prenatal yoga led to diminished stress and reported improvements in quality of life in pregnant women who practiced yoga regularly. Chocolate works, too.
Improved quality of sleep. Gentle exercise and yoga practice can lead to deeper, more restful sleep. Unfortunately, this one only applies before or during pregnancy. Once that bouncing bundle of joy arrives, all the yoga in the world won’t help you in the sleep department, but may help you from getting too stressed out about it.
Finally, a word about safety: As with starting any exercise program, always consult your doctor first, and only train with a professional trained in yoga programs that are safe for you and your pregnancy.
To find out more about prenatal yoga classes and individual sessions, contact me at [email protected]
Rivki Chudnoff PT, MSPT has practiced physical therapy since 1999. She received advanced training in pelvic floor physical therapy from the Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute. Rivki evaluates and treats urinary incontinence, bladder and bowel conditions, pregnant and postpartum patients, as well as sexual function, painful intercourse, pelvic pain, and unconsummated marriages. Through her treatment, she strives to help women improve their quality of life.
By Rivki Chudnoff PT, MSPT