As I patiently wait for baby #2’s arrival, I have been reflecting on all the wonderful ways I’ve been able to be mindful about keeping this growing baby a priority, while continuing to navigate life with an active toddler. Prenatal yoga has been a way for me to pause during the day, take an hour for myself, connect with other mama’s going through the same stages of pregnancy & honor the growing babe inside of me. During my first pregnancy, I was able to attend class 4 or 5 times a week & really attributed it to a quick delivery. Life with a toddler makes it more difficult to get to classes as frequently, but I do try to carve out time to attend class once a week, as well as doing poses at home.
Attending class has helped me maintain a healthy balance during this pregnancy – one that is much needed. I know I feel better physically & mentally after class, so I reached out to my current yoga teacher, Randi Coen Gilbert, of Yoga Life Institute in Devon, PA to share some insight on all the benefits of attending a prenatal yoga class. Randi graciously compiled her thoughts after 11 years of teaching yoga to moms during the prenatal & postnatal stages.
Inspired Family: Randi what are the top 10 benefits you feel women gain by doing prenatal yoga, both physically & emotionally?
Randi: Nicole, I find there are many benefits to prenatal yoga, but the ten I think top the list would be:
1. Special time for mom and baby to nurture a loving bond
2. Practice of mindfulness bringing about peace and contentment
3. Connection to mind-body awareness, learning how to release and relax through labor and delivery
4. Breathing exercises that can be used at anytime, especially during labor to promote well being and calm the central nervous system
5. Stretching to relax and release tension, especially across the upper back and shoulders that are affected by additional weight in the chest.
6. Lengthening to make room for baby, bringing more comfort and better function of the organs, including digestion and breath
7. Strengthening to support the weight of a growing baby and to decrease backache and aid in labor (strong muscles grow fatigued more slowly)
8. Control of muscles in the pelvic floor through kegels (moola bandha) and squatting to aid in pushing during delivery, faster recovery and decrease problems of incontinence
9. Increase in energy and balancing of emotions
10. Improved circulation, posture, and better sleep
Inspired Family: What a great list! As a practitioner using yoga during pregnancy, I definitely feel I can connect to all ten of these benefits. During my first pregnancy, I feel like practicing breathing and gaining muscle control definitely helped during labor, while regular practice helped keep a nice balance of emotions. I’d love to hear what other past practitioners have shared with you regarding how they felt yoga aided in labor & recovery.
Women have shared so many different ways their yoga practice helped to make childbirth better, whether natural, with epidural, or even c-section. Some told me they effectively used their drishti (focal point) during contractions or that they used ‘equal three part breath’ to relax. They loved how certain pose variations during labor relieved discomfort, and that the practice of isolating pelvic floor muscles taught them how to push. Some found guided imagery or positive affirmations they’d used in yoga class, like heart-centered meditation, to be most helpful. Several women said they felt their confidence soar in their childbirth classes because they had already learned the same and even more techniques through yoga.
Many moms also value their yoga class as the one sacred time in their week, where they can fully bring their attention to pregnancy and their growing baby. This seems especially true for women having their second, third, or even fourth child. They love having the individual time with each unborn baby.
In the well-known kundalini yogi Gurmukh’s book, “Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful” she describes pregnancy as a living prayer where a baby develops the same emotions the mother is feeling. During prenatal class we work on releasing negativity and cultivating positive intentions, giving both mom and baby a sense of well-being. The women become empowered to tap into their intuition and let go of any fear, learning to surrender and accept.
Inspired Family: I love what you shared about using class as a time to bring full attention to the growing babe inside of you! I can absolutely relate, as I find most of my day is spent tending to my toddler. Often times when people ask how I’ve been feeling, my answer is “Winston keeps me so busy that many days I forget I’m actually pregnant. I feel like you don’t get the opportunity to slow down & appreciate what is happening to your body & treasure the growing baby inside. Randi, I find I try to do some poses on days that I don’t attend class, but find classes so much more beneficial for me & I recognize that may not work for everyone. What do you recommend to women who may be looking to begin prenatal yoga?
Randi: If you are pregnant and interested in trying yoga, definitely look for a prenatal class. If you can’t find one in your area with a time that works for you, try a beginner class or a prenatal yoga video. Classes with heat are not recommended during pregnancy and you want to be certain to work with a teacher who is knowledgable about what you can and cannot do during each stage of pregnancy. You can still get many of the basic benefits that yoga offers by going to a regular class, but you will miss out on the fabulous community of women.
Inspired Family: What about recovery after birth & the postnatal experience? I definitely enjoyed the many months of bonding with other moms and their little ones when I attended postnatal yoga. It was such a great way to meet other moms, bond with my son & get a workout in.
Randi: Nicole, I totally agree. Here are some of the benefits of attending a postnatal (also referred to as Mommy/Me Yoga):
- No need for childcare
- Positive connection and bonding between mom and baby
- Socialization for mom and baby
- Helps mom recover body
- Alleviates back and shoulder pain common to new moms
- Strengthens muscles for carrying additional weight of baby and baby things
- Building of core strength and pelvic floor
- Release of tension
- Community support and resources
Inspired Family: Randi, thank you so much for sharing these valuable tips with our readers & helping spread the word about all of the wonderful benefits of using yoga to aid prenatally, during labor & postnatally.
Randi will be teaching a specialty class at Yoga Life Institute in Devon, PA on June 14th from 4PM-5:30PM. The class is entitled “Couples Yoga for Pregnancy and Childbirth.” A special workshop for pregnant women and their partners to learn breathing techniques and yoga poses to provide comfort during pregnancy and labor. Connect with each other and build a deeper sense of care and trust.
My husband & I attended this class a couple months ago & have been practicing poses and breathing for labor. I wish I had some of these tools in my toolkit for my first birth & highly recommend this class for couples. I loved the focus on partners actively engaging in the labor process to support the laboring mama, rather than coaching her through breathing. Going through poses together really helps me feel like we are a team birthing together.
If you’re interested in learning more about this specialty class or Randi’s prenatal and postnatal classes, visit www.yogalifeinstitute.com