Prenatal Yoga

From the very beginning of life when a baby is created a magical journey begins. The nurturing of both parent and baby during pregnancy, birth and beyond is essential for happy and healthy development. Birthlight promotes an holistic approach to birth and parenting; integrating mind, body and emotion will encourage a deeper understanding of oneself and promote bonding with baby.  Prenatal yoga classes can help women to focus on this time of transition and change and to prepare for the beginning of a new family.

The inspiration for Birthlight began in the depths of the Amazonian forests where the founder Francoise Freedman, a medical anthropologist at Cambridge university, lived and studied for many years.  She observed how the pregnant women were nurtured and how a relaxed approach and preparation for birth enhanced their experiences. Drawing from her knowledge and experience of yoga Francoise began to develop new practices back in the UK. Combining loving care with the movements and breathing of yoga helps women to feel empowered and confident in their ability to give birth. Yoga postures and sequences will provide more space for the baby and alleviate many pregnancy discomforts. A safe environment can be created in which women can explore their feelings and adapt to the changes in their bodies; classes offer a constant thread of stability and connection.

All yoga poses need to be adapted for the pregnant woman. As the baby grows the needs of the mother will change. Pregnancy yoga is about opening and letting go. The poses are not usually held for long and the sequences are flowing and relaxed. It is very helpful to give women practical sequences that they can integrate into everyday life. Simple movements such as climbing steps, getting into a car or reaching down to the floor can become a challenge. Yoga will help protect the body and create space for movement; suppleness can be maintained without strain.

There is no compromise on safety, in fact mothers being able to move freely and to feel comfortable and relaxed has been shown to enhance the experience of labour and improve the birth outcome. This is where yoga can make a tremendous difference to the physical and emotional experience of the birth for both mum and baby. The hormonal release is optimised and creates the perfect environment for bonding to occur before and after birth.

In pregnancy yoga the asanas and breathing are adapted to simple easy sequences so they are very accessible to all women whatever their experience of yoga. In fact it is not always the fittest women who have an easy time, birthing is all about relaxing and letting go. The key focus is on rhythm, repetition, ritual and relaxation. The breath is the essential component as in all good yoga practices.

Pregnancy yoga class structure generally begins with tuning in to oneself and the connection with your baby. Centering breathing with one hand on the heart and the other to the baby is very calming. Poses and movements for the upper body follow the breathing. Shoulder rolls, arm stretches and gentle twists whilst in a seated position. The cat poses with variations on all fours are helpful to create space and relieve backache. Adopting cat pose but coming down onto the fore arms is an excellent position in which to practice awareness to the pelvic floor. This is an essential practice in every class. To give birth the pelvic floor must be relaxed. This is not possible with a retained breath, so exhaling as one releases the muscles and focuses to the specific area of the birth canal is very beneficial.  Half kneeling and adapted squatting can be excellent birthing positions, these are included in the class plan and the advantages of upright positions along with movement and breathing is discussed. There is no optimum position for birth, it is important that a woman has freedom to move and find the position and movement most beneficial for herself. Standing poses and walks are included and all are designed to promote opening of the hips and pelvic awareness. Yoga poses for posture and balance include the classic poses - warrior, triangle and mountain pose. These can be adapted and incorporated into flowing sequences suitable for all stages of pregnancy.
 
Prenatal yoga benefits

  • Promotes general health for mother and baby
  • Expands breathing to be both energizing and relaxing
  • Increases flexibility and mobility
  • Helps to gain confidence for the birth
  • Alleviates discomforts
  • Promotes optimal fetal positioning
  • Calms the mind and the emotions
  • Promotes bonding with baby

 
Every class ends with a deep relaxation allowing the body to release tensions and the mind to become still. Both mother and baby are nourished and energy is renewed. Classes also offer an opportunity to make long-term friendships and find the support that is needed to complete the journey to motherhood.

Sally Lomas
Director of Training – Birthlight

www.birthlight.com
www.birthlightontour.com

Published in: Midwifery Today, Issue 124, Winter 2017
 


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