by Kelly Swails, RPYT, CCCE, CLC
Over the years I’ve come to realize that prenatal yoga may be one of yoga’s best kept secrets. It offers a full range of benefits specific to the physical and emotional transformations of pregnancy, labor and beyond. But, perhaps most surprising to many new prenatal yoga students is that this practice provides elements not found in a regular yoga classes. So, let’s take a closer look at the things that make this practice so unique.
A few minutes of every class are always set aside to simply talk as a group. Women are encouraged to ask questions, share resources, get and give support and make new friends. As women, and especially as new moms, this is an invaluable benefit! Prenatal yoga is one of the few places pregnant women can go and simply talk to one another and express their feelings and concerns. Plus, the connections made in prenatal yoga class often last for years to come.
A more easeful labor experience
Studies indicate that women who practice prenatal yoga generally cope better with the physical and emotional demands of labor. Researchers have noted that women who practice prenatal yoga seem to have a reduced perception of pain, and improved confidence during childbirth (Research Strategies for Normal Birth by Amy Romano and Henci Goer, Lamaze International, 2008). Perhaps this is because during prenatal yoga classes, moms actually practice a whole set of mind-body coping strategies that are practical and useful in the labor room. These include a range of flowing movements, many of which help to optimally position babies and reduce discomfort in coordination with breath, meditation and relaxation practice.
Reducing the discomforts of pregnancy
Prenatal yoga is specifically designed to target and address the discomforts experienced in all trimesters of pregnancy. Since everyone in the class is pregnant, it is much easier for the teacher to hone in on specific discomforts and help moms to find a sense of relief. In addition, specific tips on various day to day comfort measures are also provided during class; such as how to adjust your sleeping area to alleviate the issue of tingling fingers or sore shoulders, neck and hips, ways to make more “space” in the body and feel less compressed, or how to align your posture so there is less strain on the lower back.
Focus on breath awareness and deep relaxation
Yoga is all about breath and relaxation. This is as true in a regular yoga classes as it is in prenatal yoga practice. But, in prenatal yoga, moms dive more specifically into the process of breath and relaxation within the context of pregnancy and birthing. Training the body exactly how to achieve a state of deep relaxation takes time and regular practice. Attempting to learn effective breath and relaxation techniques after labor has already begun, or when you’re dealing with a fussy baby is definitely not a good time to get a handle on this! Learning and practicing these techniques well before labor is a better approach. After all, the ability to consciously and effectively relax, soften and let go is absolutely the key to a more easeful birth.
A time to celebrate your pregnancy
Prenatal yoga class is a special time to engage in a beneficial practice for both you and your baby. The class is much more than just yoga as it provides time for connecting with other moms, bonding with your growing baby, learning about the rapid changes occurring in the body, gathering resources, asking questions, having a laugh or two, and dedicating a time to simply slow down, breathe and celebrate your pregnancy in the company of other moms-to-be.
You do not need any previous experience in yoga to participate in a prenatal yoga class. The practice is appropriate and recommended for women in all stages of pregnancy. So whether you’re in your first month or your last, now is the time to take advantage of this special class. Check the schedule for class times.
Kelly is an Integral Yoga teacher with certifications in general hatha, prenatal, postnatal and restorative yoga. She is also a doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, and mom. It is Kelly’s strong desire to help women connect with the sacredness of pregnancy and labor by developing trust in the body’s ability to give birth. Kelly’s classes include a strong focus on pelvic floor awareness, its connection to the breath and ways to find space, stability and comfort during pregnancy. Students also gain a deeper understanding of the physical, emotional, and spiritual changes of pregnancy, as well as the importance of honoring the body’s needs during each trimester. Kelly’s ultimate goal however is to encourage pregnant women to fully embrace their innate power and awesome ability to grow, nurture and birth babies from that deep maternal place of “knowing”. Kelly has worked with hundreds of pregnant women and their partners in the past decade. As she continues to witness the profound nature of birth first-hand, her dedication to this work has only grown and deepened.