Having a regular yoga practice provides a sense of calm, focus, and positive energy that can be carried out into our daily lives. It is physically and mentally demanding while being restorative and refreshing. Yoga can be particularly beneficial during pregnancy and in helping to achieve a natural birth.
During pregnancy, a regular practice helps to alleviate common aches and pains associated with a changing and growing body. Increasing circulation and gently stretching tight and overused parts of the body can be extremely comforting during this time. It also gives the mother time to focus on herself and her baby in a quiet and calm manner on a regular basis. This emotional benefit can be especially helpful if the mother has the added stresses of raising other young children or working while pregnant.
As a means to cope with the challenges that accompany natural child birth, the breathing, focusing, and relaxation techniques practiced in yoga are excellent tools the mother can draw on while laboring. Learning how to breathe slowly and deeply, solely through the nose, is the foundation of yoga. This kind of breathing allows you to calm your central nervous system, bring your attention away from pain and towards your breath, and focus your breathing on a challenge to get through it calmly and with minimal discomfort. This same kind of breathing can be used with each contraction throughout labor. This ability to focus will allow you to zero in on your body opening and your baby descending, making for a shorter and more comfortable birth. In yoga, you learn to relax deeply and fully, allowing your mind to let go of all thoughts and distractions. Achieving this level of relaxation during early labor will help you to progress calmly and comfortably.
Many yoga studios offer prenatal yoga classes but with research or a skilled teacher to provide guidance, you can simply modify the poses in a regular class to make them safe and comfortable for you throughout your pregnancy. Modifications should be made to twists and inversions, for example. If getting to a studio is not possible, you can find affordable options online or a DVD that you can do at home on your own schedule or you can work up a series of poses that you can do independently.