Somehow, in the wonderful way the western world has of taking an ancient teaching and morphing, modernising and making it their own, yoga has become a form of 'exercise' and quite recently something that women take up for the first time when they become pregnant. Prenatal yoga has become 'the thing to do' if you want to have a peaceful, healthy pregnancy.
I am all for more people participating in yoga but I'm also passionate about promoting the fact that yoga is far more than a physical activity performed in a room under the guidance of a self proclaimed modern guru.
So... With that out of the way!
What is it that yoga can offer pregnant women?
1. Space - whether you already have kids at home or you just need some time to yourself that's not at work or at home, prenatal yoga classes offer an opportunity for 60-90 mins of dedicated 'me time'. You get to be completely self- focussed, self-absorbed and self-centred in a fully sanctioned and supported way!
2. Rest - again, similar to the above, whether you're already a working mum of one or more or working while navigating the new territory of your first pregnancy, there are times you can feel completely exhausted. Prenatal yoga classes can offer you an opportunity to restore your energy
3. Strength/power - labor can be long. You need not only physical stamina but mental focus as well. Prenatal yoga can help build your physical strength and teach you skills to help direct your focus either towards calm when it's necessary or for commitment to tapping into your internal reserves of strength, stamina and determination in the face of fear and challenge.
4. Peace - the internal working of our minds and be loud, busy, hectic and chaotic - just as sometimes our lives are as well. Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean what you worry about stops or that the rest of your life and its demands stop either. Prenatal yoga is a place you can learn tools and techniques to manage the madness - whether it stems from internal stories and habits, or external forces and circumstances of your life. Practices such as pranayama and meditation are excellent tools for cultivating inner peace as they develop concentration, disciplined mental focus and help promote calming of the nervous system.
5. Connection - to others to your body/yourself to your baby. Especially in a transient town like Canberra, where many people may not have family or close friends available to support you through or talk to about your pregnancy, sometimes it can feel quite isolating. Prenatal yoga classes can be a great place to meet and connect with people who may be experiencing similar things to you! A good prenatal yoga class should feel like a safe space where you can share what's going on for you physically and emotionally and feel supported by your teacher and the group to hold space for you to express what you're feeling. Connecting with people is a great way to not feel like you're bearing the load or feeling fears, insecurities all on your own. Sharing and sometimes even just hearing others share how they feel can be so helpful in understanding you're not on your own.
During Pregnancy your body undergoes significant changes in physical, hormonal and emotional ways. Prenatal yoga can help you build a deeper understanding of how your body is changing. This knowledge of your mind/body connection can help you be aware of the changes your body undergoes in the stages of labour. Being present during the process - and applying some of the techniques of breath modulation, focussed mental commitment and physical stamina also learned in prenatal class - can help get you through your labor successfully.
Finally, the meditation, visualisation and breathing techniques you learn in prenatal yoga class can help build a closer, deeper connection between you and your baby. Energy flows where intention goes and Cultivating a relationship between you and your baby can begin long before you get to meet them face to face!
There are many more ways that prenatal yoga can be beneficial during your pregnancy and also how postnatal yoga can help you recover and return to physical and mental balance and health post pregnancy.