For expectant moms, it can be difficult to find the right type of exercise that accommodates their changing needs. Whether they’re gym buffs prior to pregnancy or not, physical activity while waiting to deliver is something many medical practitioners agree upon. One of the emerging practices is prenatal yoga, something that’s sparking the interest of many moms-to-be.
What is prenatal yoga
We interviewed Love Torralba from Bliss Yoga Manila, one of the leading Yoga studios in the Philippines, to find out just how much expectant moms can benefit from it.
She begins by explaining how prenatal Yoga helps moms-to-be regain their center of gravity.
“When we’re pregnant, the belly grows and this changes the stance and center of gravity,” says Love, who’s also a mom of two. “Most women compensate by arching their backs and so they experience back pain.”
“We also help them be more aware of how they walk. It’s a heel-toe ng walking to be aware and avoid getting off balance,” she says as she demonstrates the proper gait.
As for its main distinction from regular Yoga, Love says both prenatal Yoga movements and poses are down at a slower pace, always keeping in mind the individual needs of the mom because each pregnancy is unique.
photo courtesy of Bliss Yoga Manila
Prenatal Yoga: Creating space and connecting to the womb
Before each class, Love makes sure to ask her students what their birth plan is.
“I noticed those more interested in natural birth in my class are those busy in the office. Perhaps they want to be more connected in a natural way,” shares Love, noting how birthing trends such as home water births are more widely accepted now.
Though most of the moms-to-be in her class now are planning to give birth in the hospital, she makes sure to ask all of them to do several birthing positions. “So even though they end up doing a home water birth, they’ll know what position best works for them,” says Love.
For moms who are looking into making Yoga their pregnancy exercise of choice but are uncertain when to start, Love has great news. Mommies-to-be are free to begin at any stage in their pregnancy—as long as the doctor says it’s perfectly fine.
“As much as possible, we would want them to present their medical certificate so it’s safe,” she clarifies, adding that this also applies to regular practitioners. “Every pregnancy is different so there’s no comparison.”
Prenatal yoga allows expectant moms to “tune in” more. “From the beginning you learn to hold space for your child,” says Love. “Personally, I think it’s important for moms to learn to ‘hold space’ for themselves to be able to do so for others.”
A common complaint shared by parents is a feeling of dizziness. Love shares this is because the growing baby takes up a lot of nutrients and fluid, which moms need to work around.
“At the same time, want to alleviate discomfort and they have a greater understanding of what’s going on inside of her physically and emotionally to have a better understanding so they’re able to appreciate their condition,” explains Love.
Main benefits of prenatal yoga
Prenatal Yoga strengthens ligaments
Though the movements are slow, prenatal yoga poses are specifically designed to strengthen muscles and lessen back pain.
“If you trace a line from shoulder to shoulder to your waist, that’s the “rectangle” that we need to protect,” explains Love. “For instance, when we do twists, instead of twisting towards a flexed leg we twist away from it to avoid placing too much pressure on the belly.”
It also centers moms-to-be emotionally, lessening stress through breathing.
photo courtesy of Bliss Yoga Manila
Prenatal Yoga enhances pelvic floor awareness
“The most important thing is for expectant moms to have full knowledge of their pelvic floor,” emphasizes Love. “We want them to get used to pressing it out early on in the pregnancy in order to tone the muscles. This lessens the risk of tearing during labor.”
A woman’s pelvic floor is comprised of interconnected muscles which, Love shares, needs to get used to “the sensation of pushing out”—sort of like a reverse Kegel exercise, where one breathes out instead of clenches.
For those who are already in their third trimester, Yoga sessions are directed mostly toward breathing and relaxation.
Prenatal allows for meditative bonding moments for the family
“Towards the end, I sometimes invite the husbands who are present to come to support,” recounts Love. “We always tell moms that it’s not just them who are pregnant; there are three of them in this pregnancy. So as early as possible, we allow them to bond.”
Partner yoga, such as meditative walking at a slow pace or simply holding one another as they synchronize their breathing to induce relaxation and connectedness, is also encouraged.
During some sessions, Love recounts, the babies are so responsive even in utero that she could actually see them moving around.
“The nice thing about prenatal yoga is that it’s just like we’re dancing and connecting. We move the hips a lot. There’s no pressure,” assures Love, adding that each pose takes about 3-5 seconds and she allows for resting periods in between positions.
photo courtesy of Bliss Yoga Manila
It encourages babies to position themselves naturally
Throughout the nine months that they’re in the womb, babies shift and move, assuming different positions until they’re ready to exit the womb.
Love shares how, in some cases, prenatal Yoga can influence a baby’s presentation, helping determine if a baby will be born head-first or feet first. “Prenatal yoga helps reposition the baby, naturally, to avoid breech presentation. The mom can just gently sway the baby.”
This is achieved through slow walks, while the mom sways her hips. Not only does it reposition the baby, it also lessens pressure on the mom’s bladder while lulling their baby to sleep in utero.
“This same motion, postnatal, also puts the baby to sleep,” marvels Love.
Yoga can help moms become better parents
“The practice of Yoga is physically rewarding: it prepares you for the weight gain body changes, prevents off balance, lessens dizziness, less pressure on bladder and swelling.”
“The responsibility of being a parent begins as soon as you get pregnant,” states Love, adding that feeling good inspires moms to make healthy choices and take care of themselves to create a healthy environment for their children.
Yoga helps you work around pain and discomfort, easing anxiety that often can’t be explained. It also inspires a good dispostion in moms-to-be.
“In that way, hopefully they can bring our small contribution into the world,” says Love. “We want to influence mild-mannered kids with a strong sense of self.”
“Yoga helps moms enjoy the pregnancy,” says Love. “It’s a wonderful journey!”
Other benefits of prenatal yoga
Aside from the main benefits of prenatal yoga stated by Love Torralba, there are other beneficial effects of doing yoga while pregnant can give.
According to Mayo Clinic, prenatal yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety. Aside from that, it strengthens the muscles needed for childbirth, giving them more flexibility and endurance.
In addition, prenatal yoga improves sleep and aids lower back pain, headaches, and shortness of breath.
You can do prenatal yoga at home but doing yoga with other expectant moms allows you to interact with them. Moreover, it gives each one of you the opportunity to share your preparations for being a new mom and learn from each other.
On the other hand, if you are decided to take prenatal yoga classes at home, there are online yoga classes where you can enroll.
What to expect during prenatal yoga sessions?
Photo by Free stocks org from Pexels
Wondering what happens during a prenatal yoga session? To give you a grasp of it, here are some activities involved in prenatal yoga class:
First, you have to focus on your breathing process. Your instructor will teach you breathing techniques. These techniques are necessary for managing your breathing process. It is essential to breathe in and out slowly and deeply through the nose to avoid shortness of breath during pregnancy and delivery.
Second, you have to gently stretch different parts of your body, such as your neck, legs, and arms. Stretch and move it in full range and motion.
Third, you have to maintain a good posture. Stand, sit, or lie on the ground and move your body gently into different positions while maintaining your posture. These movements can help you develop strength, balance, and flexibility.
Last, relax your muscles while bringing back your resting heart rate and breathing rhythm. While relaxing, you can listen to your breathing and feel your sensations.
Different prenatal yoga poses
There are specific prenatal yoga poses for every trimester of pregnancy. You can use the following as a guide if you decide to do prenatal yoga at home or an online yoga classes.
First-trimester prenatal yoga poses
What is important during the first trimester is to build strength and release tension. The first-trimester yoga poses focus on strengthening the low back and hips.
Here are some prenatal yoga poses that are best to try during the first trimester:
Head-to-knee forward bend
The benefits of doing this yoga pose are:
- Strengthens back muscles
- Promotes relaxation
- Stimulates digestion
How to do it?
First, you have to sit on the edge of a cushion, block, or folded blanket. Next, extend your left leg and place the sole of your left foot against the inner right thigh.
Afterward, reach your arms overhead while inhaling. Then, lengthen the front of your torso by folding forward slightly while exhaling. Lastly, put your hands on the floor or your body and hold for up to one minute. Then, repeat on the other side.
Benefits of doing cat-cow pose:
- Improves spinal mobility
- Relieves muscle tension
- Boosts blood circulation
How to do it?
First, bend your spine and lower belly and gaze upward. Do it while inhaling. Then, draw chin into chest and arch spine upward while exhaling. Do the process for up to one minute.
Tendons, muscles, and ligaments become more flexible due to the higher levels of relaxin hormones during the second trimester of pregnancy. Make sure not to overstretch while doing prenatal yoga at this stage.
Here are some examples of prenatal yoga poses you may try during the second trimester:
Benefits of this prenatal yoga pose:
- Boost your energy
- Relieve neck and back tension
How to do it?
First, stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Next, put your left foot forward and turn your right foot at a slight angle. Afterward, raise your arms parallel to the floor with palms facing down. Then tilt your hip while reaching your left hand forward. Do that while extending your torso forward. After that, put your left hand on your leg or the floor. Finally, extend your right arm upward with your palm facing away from your body and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat all the processes on the other side.
Benefits of child’s pose:
- Relax your shoulders, chest, and low back
- Increase flexibility in your spine, hips, and thighs
How to do it?
First, spread your knees wide and touch your big toes together. Next, lower your hips back onto your heels and reach your arms in front of you. Lastly, breathe deeply and hold for one minute.
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels
During the third trimester of pregnancy, you may struggle with moving and breathing. It is important to move gently and take a rest. Doing prenatal yoga at this stage is still helpful as you prepare your body for giving birth.
Here are some prenatal yoga poses you can try during the third trimester of pregnancy:
Benefits of doing this prenatal yoga pose:
- Boost your digestion
- open your hips as you prepare for delivery
How to do it?
First, stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Next, turn your toes at an angle. Then, slowly bend your knees and lower your hips. Lift your heels or place them on the floor. Subsequently, put your palms together and press them at the center of your chest. Lastly, press your elbows into your knees and hold for 30 seconds.
Benefits of doing an easy pose:
- promotes mental clarity
- opens your hips as you prepare for delivery
- strengthens your spine
How to do it?
First, tilt your pelvis forward by sitting on the edge of a block, a cushion, or a folded blanket. Next, cross your right leg over your left leg and put your hand in any position that is comfortable for you. Lastly, close your eyes, relax and breathe deeply. Hold this position for one minute and repeat on the other side.
Safety tips in doing prenatal yoga
Here are some tips you can follow to be sure that you and your baby are safe while doing prenatal yoga:
- Doing intense backbends, twists, and forward bends may harm you and your baby. Avoid trying yoga poses that involve those.
- Keep away from hot yoga.
- Avoid jumping, hopping, and bouncing.
- During the second trimester, you should also avoid a yoga pose that involves lying on your back or your side.
- During the third trimester, do not do a yoga pose that requires squatting if you are prone to prolapse. It may put your safety at risk.
Bliss Yoga Manila is located at Unit 203 Plaza One Hundred, VA Rufino Street cor Dela Rosa Street Legaspi Village, Makati City. For inquiries, call 551-1485 or 09178419642 (email: [email protected])
Additional report by Jobelle Macayan
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