All that stretching and breathing during yoga makes me feel centered in both body and mind. A couple of weeks ago, at the end of my yoga class, my teacher announced that she was teaching a prenatal yoga class three days a week. I opted out of the class because I’m not pregnant—but I couldn’t help but think about the benefits of yoga for you and your baby.
Your body goes through a great deal of change once you become pregnant and yoga can help your breathing, flexibility and strength. The poses provide relief to the discomforts of pregnancy because yoga is both relaxing and healing.
I study Anusara Yoga, a practice that is life-affirming and empowering. The poses are therapeutic for the alignment of your body and you learn a deep, full, steady breath. Anusara means, “Following your heart,” which is an integral part of the practice. Every pose is expressed from the inside out, which originates from a deep and devotional feeling inside. This is a great way to connect to the life inside you when you’re pregnant.
The alignment principles of Anusara Yoga create more space in your body especially from the pelvis to the top of your rib cage. This is done by engaging your core, which can help strengthen and stretch the areas greatly needed to push the baby out. Movement and actions within every pose are coordinated with the breath, which can help prepare you for labor and delivery. Students learn a more mindful conscious breath. Taking deeper, full, steady breaths during yoga becomes more habitual and when you’re in labor it allows your cervix to open and not tighten.
Pamela Greaves, my Anusara Yoga instructor in Santa Fe, NM, says she did a hand stand on the day she went into labor. The prenatal yoga class she teaches is exactly like a typical Anusara Yoga class but some poses are modified depending on your comfort level. After 20 weeks, she discourages any pose that will compress the abdomen, like deep forward folds or twists.
At the end of each prenatal yoga class, Pamela serves Nettle and Red Raspberry Tea to her students. Both are mild herbal teas that are safe to drink during pregnancy. Red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) is often used during pregnancy because it improves digestion, uterine tone and blood supply. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is packed with vitamins B, C, and A. Nettle strengthens the kidneys and relieves fluid retention. For more information on herbs you can rely on during pregnancy, read Herbs for Pregnancy.