by Margaret Rizzuto Smith
What do a pregnant woman, cat and warrior have in common – everything! As we become more aware of the importance of good prenatal care, pregnant women are turning to yoga; practicing postures like the Cat, Downward Dog and Warrior. Yoga is a great way to prepare your mind, body, and spirit for labor and childbirth. The concentration, focus, breathing techniques, and strength required for childbirth are all essential elements of yoga.
Yoga teaches acceptance and awareness. You become more accepting of the many changes your body goes through during pregnancy and labor. You become more aware of your body; you notice and celebrate the many changes. You learn to trust that your body knows what it needs to do even if your mind feels unsure. You listen to your body and let it do what is most instinctive to support you and your baby during labor and delivery. Additionally, the breathing practice of yoga (pranayama) can become one of your greatest tools during labor to help you relax through contractions, find relief from discomforts and put you in a place of feeling stronger and more present with your experience.
On an emotional level, yoga helps you quiet down and honor the miracle that is taking place inside your body. It’s easy to get so caught up in the busy-ness of day-to-day life that you forget to take the time to connect with the little life growing inside of you. During relaxation, you make time for that connection. You might visualize your baby, hold your arms lovingly around your belly while listening to your breath, or imagine your breath and your baby’s breath as one, synchronized, sharing life, sharing love.
Physically, yoga strengthens, tones, and teaches endurance, concentration, and focus; all the resources you will call upon to guide you through your labor. The Warrior posture develops strength, helps you feel powerful, and ready to embrace any challenge. The Cat pose helps relieve lower back pain by strengthening and aligning the spine, making it easier to carry the extra weight of pregnancy. It is also helpful during back labor. The Squat opens the hips preparing the body for delivery.
Prenatal yoga, like all yoga, should be done in a gentle, non-judgmental manner. During pregnancy when your body changes from day to day. Remember to be gentle with yourself. Take each day as it comes with all its joys, challenges and delights. You might not be able to do the pose you were able to get into yesterday and you may do it even better tomorrow. Allow the body and your self to be where ever you need to be.
If you do not have previous yoga experience, it is recommended that you attend a prenatal yoga class. There are some good resources in print, web sites and videos that can also help you develop a gentle yet empowering, yoga practice.
A favorite quote from a prenatal yoga teacher in CA, Gurmukh Khalsa, “Your spirit as a women has all the knowledge you need to give birth and nurture your child. It is in your genes, it has been with you since you yourself were conceived. You can trust its wisdom”.