Of Pregnancy and Yoga
“Pregnancy is not a miracle, it can be endured as naturally as possible without any medical intervention or supplements”, this is what I always convey to my Pregnancy Yoga Instructor Course students.
How is this possible? Will this affect the babies and the mothers’ well-being? These are questions frequently asked by my students.
The answer is: Natural pregnancy includes creating an environment of healthy, positive elements like healthy eating, appropriate exercise, positivity, relaxation and a good massage. A woman’s body is uniquely designed to become pregnant and to give birth. Her body is prepared with the ability to have a safe, natural pregnancy and childbirth. Women have the stamina and strength to bring a child to this world naturally. It’s a common and natural life experience.
Healthy eating should start from pregnancy planning stages. A proper diet rich with all types of nutrients will help in the formation of foetus from day one. Each molecule, cell, organ, bone and skin will form well with the help of nutrients from the food mothers consume. By eating healthy food, the mothers are helping the foetus grow efficiently in a natural way. Since most medicines or vitamins are made from plant-derived ingredients, why not consume them directly from the source itself?
Mothers need to eat even if they are having severe nausea during early stages of pregnancy. The reason is, the nutrients are absorbed by the foetus before the mothers throw them out. Sometimes women are exposed to a number of complications during pregnancy, like high blood pressure, high sugar level and excessive weight gain. These are caused by poor eating habits or unbalanced diet. Eating well can keep blood pressure, blood sugar levels and weight at healthy levels.
The lack of key nutrients such as folic acid has been linked to higher rates of birth defects. It is important to eat natural, unprocessed foods as much as possible during pregnancy to avoid harmful substances. Nowadays, “chemically prepared” dietary supplements are assumed sufficient in the diet for pregnant mothers. They are claimed to be wholesome food for mothers and their babies. However, a balanced whole-food diet can more than make up for these chemical diets. Supplements can have unwanted or harmful effects. Exposure to certain chemicals in some nutrients can lead to birth defects in the baby.
The most suitable and recommended exercise would be yoga. Yoga asanas help wonderfully during pregnancy, labour and beyond. Yoga can help women get through their pregnancy with minimal discomfort. Yoga helps to prepare for the process of giving birth – it encourages breath and body awareness, reduces worry and teaches women to adapt to new situations. In times of pregnancy, some mothers may experience mood swings, fatigue, sickness, painful leg cramps and breathing problems. Yoga exercises, techniques and postures can ease such conditions – ensuring a period of relief during pregnancy, followed by easier labour and smooth delivery. Attending an hour of yoga class gives a woman special time to turn her attention inwards – learning to listen to and connect with her baby. It is proven that everything the pregnant mother feels and thinks is communicated through neuro hormones to her unborn child. These gently work on the reproductive organs and pelvic floor muscles to ensure smooth pregnancy and a relatively easy childbirth. At the subtle level, these ensure optimum supply of blood and nutrients to the developing foetus. Studies have shown that women who do yoga during pregnancy are less likely to develop high blood pressure or go into premature labour.
Pranayama is beneficial because women learn how to breathe deeply and consciously relax, which will be helpful as she will face the physical demands of labour, birth and new motherhood. Learning to breathe fully is one of the first things they learn. In the ujjayi, air is slowly breathed in through the nostrils, filling the lungs as the belly is expanded, and exhaled completely until the stomach compresses. Another technique is called “Viloma”. These would help during contraction and labour. Bramhari, or humming bee breath, reduces anxiety during pregnancy and labour, bringing down the stress level.
Positive affirmations are statements that build a powerful internal spirit and replay throughout life as they are incorporated into the subconscious mind. Each time positive affirmations are thought, spoken or read, they reinforce positive images of the mother, the pregnancy and the baby inside. Mothers experience a lot of changes during pregnancy, many of which understandably cause stress. Prayer and meditation are all helpful. Therefore, to have a stress- free and a smooth pregnancy, positive thinking is ideal.
To be able to relax is an ART”. Woman need to master this art to improve their feelings of well-being. Relaxation reduces anxiety, the effects of fatigue and tiredness, which are caused by stress. The baby will gain a more relaxed Mum and enjoy the benefits of less physical tension within the body during pregnancy. During labour, relaxation can help to reduce pain and the intensity of contractions. It will help to save energy so that women have more to use during labour. Yoga Nidra (Yogic sleep) is particularly effective during pregnancy for physical and mental relaxation as well as for childbirth preparation.
Massage helps to improve blood flow and relaxes the muscles. This can be particularly useful around the neck and shoulders, or a full-body massage when you are able to have one. This should help you to really relax. Some people enjoy foot massages during pregnancy, and even during labour. Others enjoy their back being massaged during or between contractions to help with the pain of labour. Babies in breach position can be easily assisted to normal birthing position by a proper massage.
Pregnancy is associated with nature. So it’s best if we believe in nature to plan and bring a human being into this world. Relaxation, positive thinking and deep connection to nature will nurture a healthier and happier child during pregnancy. Many women find the experience, despite the pain, extremely empowering and rewarding. But many women choose natural childbirth to feel more in touch with the birth experience and to deal with labour in a proactive manner.
*This article is written with references from Health Ananda, Fittamama, Natural Birth and Baby Care, and Fit Pregnancy.
This article was featured in YogaMail Oct-Dec 2016 issue.