The unique benefits of prenatal yoga

Prenatal yoga is distinguished from other yoga practices in that its purpose is to bring the mother’s focus to her baby. The techniques promote the comfort and well-being of this new life.

Prenatal yoga is distinguished from other yoga practices in that its purpose is to bring the mother’s focus to her baby. The techniques promote the comfort and well-being of this new life.

by Karen L. Glick — 

As the practice of yoga in the United States continues to grow in popularity, we learn more about its many benefits. Most of us begin our interest in yoga as a supplementary approach to physical fitness. However, as we continue to practice, we experience the mind-body-spirit connection so often referenced in the study of yoga. It is this connection that allows one of yoga’s greatest benefits — its ability to help us through life’s many challenges, transitions and transformational events.

Giving birth is one of the most challenging and transformative of experiences. Practicing prenatal yoga can significantly enhance the birthing experience in many ways. As Westerners, we are immersed in a fast-paced, technologically based lifestyle, with almost constant exposure to numerous outer distractions. In contrast, the Eastern tradition of yoga beckons us to draw our awareness inward and quiet our minds.

Pregnancy is a time when the mother naturally turns her focus inward upon her body, its sensations, and the many physical and emotional changes that accompany this state. Although our culture is not especially conducive to a new mother’s introspective needs, prenatal yoga incorporates physical postures (asanas), breathwork and visualization techniques which support and encourage her to consciously acknowledge and experience all dimensions of pregnancy.

Ideally, prenatal yoga is taught in a group situation, versus privately. This offers the mother an opportunity to learn and express any concerns while gaining the support and friendship of other mothers.

Prenatal yoga is distinguished from other yoga practices in that its purpose is to bring the mother’s focus to her baby. The techniques promote the comfort and well-being of this new life. Emphasis is placed upon creating space for the baby, referring  to the physical,  emotional and spiritual space (or awareness) needed to prepare for the transition into motherhood. In essence, the mother is practicing yoga for her baby.

The benefits of prenatal asanas include the strengthening and increased flexibility of the muscles used in labor and delivery, better blood circulation to the pelvic region, improved digestion and easement of the many discomforts of pregnancy. Of equal importance is the emphasis upon relaxation, breathwork, visualization and mother-child bonding. These techniques all help prepare the mother for labor and delivery.

Partner workshops offer excellent opportunities to educate couples about birthing trends and practices, enabling them to make conscious choices. Partners also learn methods to help ease the mother’s discomfort and encourage the natural progression of labor. All of these efforts support the process of partner-child bonding.

Most importantly, prenatal yoga allows the mother to live in the present moment, a skill vital to labor and delivery. For, although each mother’s experience is different and outcomes are never predictable, prenatal yoga helps her connect to her own innate wisdom and ability to give birth. It provides the tools required to experience the transformative process of childbirth with the integrity, courage, strength and, above all, joy that both she and her baby deserve.

 

Karen L. Glick, R.N. BSN, has been studying yoga for 33 years, is the mother of three, and lives and teaches yoga in the East Valley. Karensyogabirth@hotmail.com or 480-457-0338.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 6, December 2005/January 2006.

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