Earlier this month academics from Newcastle and Manchester Universities found that pregnant women who attended a yoga class every week for eight weeks experienced less anxiety compared to those who received normal antenatal treatment, with a single yoga class during pregnancy having the potential to cut anxiety to mothers-to-be by a third! Perinatal yoga carries so many health benefits for both you and your child. It is so much more than your usual gym class… it’s a training in deep relaxation and preparation for birth and motherhood. Founder of YogaBellies, Cheryl MacDonald, tell us about the benefits of perinatal yoga.
– Yoga plays an important role in the actual birth of your child. After practicing for up to eight weeks your body is stronger and has more flexibility which helps you adapt to various positions when in labour. You will find that your ligaments are more elastic which can reduce labour pains.
-When we practice yoga, the love hormone, Oxytocin is released. Oxytocin’s main functions include preparing the female body for childbirth, stimulating milk production so that the baby can nurse, and encouraging the bond between the mum and her new-born baby. Deep breathing and stretching warms the body and allows us to release further oxytocin. By taking the body through the practice of yoga, we warm the muscles and joints, making the physical body more comfortable and relaxed. By continuing the practice with savasana (deep relaxation) and meditation, we encourage the production of oxytocin even further.
-Yoga asana (stretching exercises) relieves aches and pains which are common in pregnancy as well as promoting the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body to relax the mother’s body and mind. Posture can be a problem during pregnancy as your pelvis shifts forward as a response to the increased weight of the growing bump but yoga postures will help your abdominal muscles strengthen and make you stand tall!
-Pregnancy and birth also shifts the position of the internal and digestive organs, causing problems with digestion such as indigestion, trapped wind and flatulence. Yoga can help to restore healthy digestion and ease any discomfort.
- The pelvic floor muscles are there to support your baby during pregnancy and the vital reproductive organs. Practising yoga in pregnancy or at any other time can strengthen the pelvic muscles and help with supporting this extra weight. Even more important is continuing yoga after childbirth to help rebuild the pelvic floor and prevent from further health problems such as lower back pain or incontinence.
– Breathing is not something we tend to think about day to day, it’s a natural function of the body. But during yoga it’s beneficial to focus on every single breath. By practicing deep breaths you learn to breathe to your belly, which effectively means you are using the abdominals to breathe and using your diaphragm and ribs to breathe. Learning to breathe properly and make effective use of breathing techniques can calm the mind, body and soul, even in frightening or high-stress situations such as childbirth.
by Cheryl MacDonald, who specialises in perinatal yoga and natural birth preparation classes with Yoga Bellies