Prenatal Yoga for a Healthy Mother and a Healthy Baby!
Building the child’s health begins when the mother is carrying the child in her womb, during the pregnancy stage. Expectant mothers seek and receive abundant advices from various sources — doctors, books, Internet and peers (other mothers). Regardless of the number of pregnancies the expectant mothers have, the main concern across the globe remains the same — the baby’s health. In order to have a healthy pregnancy, expectant mothers are always advised to eat right, stay fit and stay calm and joyful. Strenuous activities are most often instantly crossed out of their to-do list. As such, many expectant mothers are cautious about exercising during pregnancy due to concern about the effects exercising has on the baby she is carrying.
During pregnancy, the expectant mother is the provider for the baby. To be more precise, she is the only source for the foetus to depend on. When the health of the expectant mother is in tiptop condition, she provides a good condition and ‘environment’ for the foetus to grow in her as well. And in order for the expectant mother to be able to provide, she would first need to practice a healthy lifestyle. Apart from a proper diet, more and more expectant mothers have chosen pre-natal yoga as their choice of ‘exercise’ for its gentle and calming benefits.
In a nutshell, gentle and carefully crafted yoga stretches and other yoga practices such as pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation techniques are important practices which expectant mothers can adopt. Under a certified pre-natal yoga instructor’s guidance, specific yoga stretches can help the expectant mother to develop strength to carry the weight of her growing baby, relieve tension of specific muscle groups such as the lower and upper back, hips, etc, which have to take on a lot of stress and tension to support the blossoming womb size, improve circulation and also help in the delivery process.
Apart from the apparent importance of proper breathing to provide oxygen for the whole body system to function efficiently, breathing techniques are noted to calm the nervous system and to improve the digestive system through deep breathing, and regulate blood pressure and heart rate — all of which are a boon for the expectant mother as these are the common conditions experienced during pregnancy. Breathing techniques can also be practiced to help to manage contraction during delivery.
Along with the yoga stretches and pranayama, relaxation techniques are also widely practiced to aid in decreasing the expectant mother’s anxieties, physical and mental stresses and fatigue, and also to help her cope with labour better and allow it to progress easily. When the expectant mother is thoroughly calm and joyful, she is allowing herself to relax and re-direct the awareness to the growth within her body.
Although many texts impart the benefits of yoga for the expectant mothers during pregnancy and labour, some researchers were intrigued about the effects they have on the foetus. Through thorough research they have found that exercising during prenatal period is beneficial for the foetus.
Linda E. May, a physiologist and anatomist at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, who has been heading up a series of studies on foetal heart development says, “It is my hope that these findings will show that efforts focused on improving health need to start during pregnancy rather than in childhood. Most of the focus today is on school-age children, but interventions should be focused long before that.”
A 2008 pilot study conducted by May and her collaborators at KCUMB and the Kansas City University of Medicine found that pregnant women who exercised at least 30 minutes three times a week had foetuses with lower heart rate — a sign of heart health — during the final weeks of development.
They further revealed that the foetuses’ improved cardiovascular heart control is maintained one month after pregnancy, which indicates that the mother’s efforts to stay active have long lasting effects.
In reflection of May’s researches, it would seem now that there are more reasons to exercise during pregnancy than before. If appropriate and carefully chosen exercises are practiced during pregnancy, it would give our children a healthier head start. It is always advisable to clear any doubts with your doctor regarding the exercise of your choice and to source for certified and reputable instructors to guide you through the exercise routine.
Before commencing the exercises, it is recommended to prepare the body with a gentle warm-up routine. Thereafter, the main exercises are to be practiced with awareness and thought of love and kindness to the body and self, without any strain or tension. The whole exercise routine should conclude with calm breathing practices and soothing relaxation techniques to allow joy to manifest and encompass the body and mind.
A healthy mother makes a healthy baby, and a healthy baby makes a happy family! Happy exercising!
This article was featured in YogaMail Apr-June 2015 issue.