The Many Benefits of Joining a Pregnancy Yoga Class

Now I know I am biased as I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years and specialising in teaching pregnancy yoga classes for 15 of those, but I truly believe all pregnant women will benefit from and should be practicing yoga when pregnant.  When I sat down to plan out this article I jotted down all the benefits and the list just went on and on. 
 Many women who haven’t done any yoga before might be initially put off as they think it will be too challenging for them or they are not flexible enough.  The reality however is that most specific pregnancy classes will be very accessible and suitable for all women regardless of their previous yoga experience.  The practice is tailored specifically with the needs of the pregnant body in mind so excludes anything inappropriate, which naturally leaves out yoga’s more challenging postures.
In fact pregnancy yoga poses offers safe and appropriate exercise while respecting the restrictions of the pregnant body. The benefits are very broad and far-reaching:-from improving how you will feel physically and mentally during your pregnancy to really helping you prepare for the birth of your baby.  In case you still need convincing I am going to go into the main benefits here…
Understandably for many women pregnancy and the prospect of giving birth can be a stressful and anxious time, especially for first time mums who face the unknown. With growing a new human comes a big responsibility and we have been conditioned by society to believe that birth is going to be awful.  
 One of yoga’s most amazing benefits is just how calm it can make you feel How we breathe affects how we feel so when we connect to a calm, steady breath throughout the prenatal yoga class as we move through stretches and movements that feel good, this acts as a bridge into the mind and helps to create a sense of calmness and ease.  
Over time regularly connecting to this state during class, translates to feeling less anxious and more relaxed outside of the class as well. Prenatal yoga classes finish with a lying relaxation and my students will often tell me how they had their best nights sleep in ages after their first yoga class, and of course the benefits for the baby are wonderful as well.  The calmer and more relaxed a woman can be during her pregnancy the more she is providing an ideal, optimal environment in which her baby can grow. 
I find tiredness and fatigue is a common issue for many of my pregnant students. This is often exacerbated by poor sleep that often develops either due to discomfort, needing to pee many times throughout the night, or insomnia which affects many pregnant women. Those on their second and subsequent pregnancies understandably will often feel even more exhausted as they also have to deal with the challenges of looking after a toddler.  Also as a woman’s pregnancy progresses babies take more and more of their iron supplies. A drop in iron levels can often significantly contribute to a sense of fatigue. 
Deepening your inhale during yoga helps to boost you sense of energy as it increases the oxygen supply coming into the lungs, which in turn finds its way to every cell and muscle in your body, as well as to the baby via the placenta. Some of the pregnancy yoga poses, particularly the ones that open up the side of the body really help to encourage more space for baby, internal organs and the breath.  It is these poses that energetically have the most energising affect on the body and mind.  Women will often comment just how much better they feel at the end of the class than they did at the start.
While it is not necessary to be flexible to practice yoga, one of its benefits is that it will help you to become more flexible.  This increased flexibility will help to make movement more comfortable both during your pregnancy and during the birth of your baby.  Much of the physical focus of a pregnancy yoga class  is on opening the body,  so a regular practice encourages the mothers hips and pelvis to be ready to open during birth.
Pregnancy yoga classes also helps to develop strength.  Birth is very physical and being physically strong during the birth of your baby is going to help you be active longer and endure births challenges more easily.   
Many of the movements that you will learn in a prenatal yoga class will also be helpful during birth so the more you practice and the more strength and flexibility you have in certain pregnancy yoga poses, the easier it will be for you to be active during labour.
For many women along with pregnancy, come some challenging physical conditions.  Pregnant women will often find that regular yoga practice helps to alleviate common aches and pains as the movements help to create space and ease tightness and tension.  Lower back pain and hip pain come up often among my students and I regularly get to hear how much the yoga is helping to ease it.  As well as increasing strength and flexibility, the slow and focused yoga poses will also helps calm the body’s nervous system and improves circulation.
Heartburn is another common pregnancy ailment that yoga can be very helpful for. Attention to good posture and learning to strengthen the back muscles so it becomes easier to sit up straight certainly can help to ease symptoms.  Breathlessness and swollen feet and ankles , sciatica, restless legs and leg cramps, carpel tunnel syndrome, headaches, and constipation can also gain relief and I do often find that my students who join my pregnancy yoga classes earlier in their pregnancies will have an easier and more comfortable pregnancy for longer than those who join the class later.  Saying that it is never to late to benefit from the practices. 
As well as focusing on making pregnancy more comfortable, pregnancy yoga has so much to offer women to help them prepare physically, mentally and emotionally for childbirth.  Many of the prenatal yoga poses practiced in class are actively encouraging babies into the optimal position for birth with their head down and spine out against the mother’s belly, which in turn will encourage the birthing process to be straightforward. 
 If possible always find a pregnancy yoga class which incorporates birth preparation within the classes rather than just offering a modified yoga class.  Some pregnancy yoga teachers will also be trained in hypnobirthing and be able to integrate these helpful practices into their classes as well.  There is a real cross over and many similarities between pregnancy yoga and hypnobirthing. Yoga is inherently hypnotic in its nature so they compliment each other very well.   
You will also gain an understanding and experience of movements and positions that are going to be helpful during birth itself, as well as practices which are going to strengthen your pelvic floor and help prepare it for the birth of your baby. 
And last but certainly not least you will develop invaluable breath awareness so that by the time you birth your baby you will not have to try to remember how to breathe, or impose something that doesn’t feel natural. Connecting to your breathe every week during a prenatal yoga class and practicing specific breathing techniques for birth is the best possible birth preparation. You will become completely familiar with how to breathe in a calming way, which will be so conducive to creating the perfect environment your body needs so your bodies instincts  and inner wisdom can take over and encourage the process of birth to unfold in a normal, straightforward way. 
So if all of the above has not convinced you of the benefits of pregnancy yoga I don’t know what will!  I would really encourage you get online and google "pregnancy yoga classes near me"!  Finding a class if possible is a great way to connect with other pregnant women and begin to build a community and support each other.  My students often make long lasting friendships with other women they meet in my prenatal yoga classes.  
If there is no class available locally to you then you can find lots of recourses online. I also find many of my students start yoga for the first time during pregnancy and love it so much it is the beginning of their yoga journey.
About the author….
Jennie Phenix is a yoga teacher, yoga therapist, mum of 2 and has been specialising in pregnancy yoga, postnatal yoga and hypnobirthing since 2005.  She teaches regular weekly classes and workshops in South Bucks, UK where she lives with her family.
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