It is well-known that yoga can make its devotees stronger - not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. Women who practice yoga during pregnancy can learn how to improve their comfort throughout each stage and glean tools to ensure a positive birth experience. Many women have met some of their closest friends while bonding on the yoga mat during pregnancy. But in an age of social isolation, when expecting moms can’t physically attend a class in a yoga studio or have their full support team in the delivery room, how can yoga help make pregnancy and labor easier?
Randi Coen Gilbert has figured out the answer after two decades of teaching yoga to women. Randi credits a full yoga practice with saving her mental health as a new mom and giving her skills to be a better parent. Since having her second baby over 20 years ago, she began a lifelong career of compassionate care for women and children through yoga instruction, birth doula support, and child advocacy. Dedicated to giving moms the best start possible, Randi has become the Philadelphia Main Line’s guru for prenatal and postnatal yoga classes and founded Yoga Mamas, which offers wellness weekends for moms and moms-to-be and a pre/postnatal yoga teacher training program (both of which offer a session starting 9/18).
Due to the pandemic, Randi’s classes and workshops are currently operating virtually, but they offer students the same opportunity as in person: uninterrupted time for self-care, stress relief, strength-building, and social connection. Though they may be through a screen (as is the norm these days), these takeaways for pregnant and new moms are only the beginning. Randi shared with us what she has discovered to be the top benefits of yoga throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond, as well as some insights on improving outcomes for moms in general.
Ten Benefits of Yoga During Every Stage of Pregnancy:
1. Provides special time for you and and your baby to nurture a loving bond
2. Teaches the practice of mindfulness, which reduces stress and brings about strength, clarity, and stability
3. Encourages mind-body awareness, which helps you understand what your body is telling you during labor and delivery
4. Incorporates breathing exercises that will increase your energy, balance your emotions, promote well-being, and calm the central nervous system during labor
5. Stretches your muscles to relax and release tension, especially across the upper back and shoulders, which have to carry additional weight in your chest
6. Lengthens your body to create room for your baby, make you feel more comfortable, and improve your posture and the function of your organs, which affects digestion and breath
7. Strengthens your body to support the weight of a growing baby, reduce back pain, and aid in labor (as strong muscles grow fatigued more slowly)
8. Fosters a better understanding and control of muscles in the pelvic floor to aid in pushing during delivery, faster recovery, and decreased incontinence issues
9. Improves circulation and sleep quality
10. Induces opening to help your baby move into the best position for an easier birth!
How frequently does prenatal yoga have to be practiced to maximize its benefits before, during, and after childbirth?
Even a weekly prenatal yoga class will be beneficial, but the more you incorporate yoga into a daily practice, the more benefits you’ll feel. Before childbirth, one of the greatest benefits of yoga is learning to breathe fully to find a place of calm in the central nervous system and understand your needs. After gaining this skill, moms are able to do the work of labor instead of feeling anxious or overwhelmed by pain. Post-childbirth, that same breath and internal mindfulness helps mothers in many ways, including recovering their core strength safely and developing their intuition for parenting.
Many moms also value their yoga class as the one sacred time in their week, where they can fully bring their attention to their pregnancy and growing baby. This seems especially true for women having their second, third, or even fourth child. These mamas cherish having individual time with each unborn baby.
What should I look for in a yoga class?
If you are pregnant and interested in trying yoga, try to seek out a prenatal class. If you can’t find one in your area with a time that works for you, try a beginner class or a prenatal yoga video. Classes with heat are not recommended during pregnancy, and you want to be certain to work with a teacher who is knowledgeable about what you can and cannot do during each stage of pregnancy. You can still get many of the basic benefits that yoga offers by going to a regular class, but you will miss out on the fabulous community of new moms.
What pregnancy discomforts does yoga alleviate?
Yoga can make a huge difference. A few of the discomforts women say that their yoga practice helps them with are low back pain, rib pain, shoulder tension, hip tightness, and sciatica.
Are there certain pains that would make yoga not advisable?
Certain pains that women might experience are indicators of how they need to modify their yoga practice. That’s why it’s so important to work with a knowledgeable teacher. During pregnancy women may need to use more props, like squeezing a block between the thighs or using the wall or chair for support to keep from aggravating a condition like pubis symphysis dysfunction or round ligament pain.
Can yoga give you more energy during pregnancy?
At a time when caffeine is not recommended in large doses, exercise is an excellent way to get the blood flowing and heart pumpi