The Unique Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
Karen L. Glick, RN, BSN, CPYT
As the practice of yoga in the United States continues to grow in popularity, we learn more about its many benefits. Most of us begin our interest in yoga as yet another approach to physical fitness. However, as we continue we experience the “mind-body-spirit” connection so often used in reference to the study of yoga. It is this connection which allows for one of yoga’s greatest benefits; its ability to help us through life’s many challenges, transitions and transformational events.
Giving birth is one of the most challenging and transformative of experiences. Practicing prenatal yoga can significantly enhance the birthing experience in many ways. As Westerners we are immersed in a fast paced, technologically based lifestyle with almost constant exposure to numerous outward distractions. In contrast, the Eastern tradition of yoga beckons us to draw our awareness inward and quiet our minds.
Pregnancy is a time when the mother naturally turns her focus inward upon the body, its sensations, and the many physical and emotional changes. Being as it is, our Western culture is not especially conducive to the mother’s introspective needs. Prenatal yoga incorporates physical postures (asanas)—breathing and visualization techniques that support and encourage the mother to consciously acknowledge and experience all dimensions of a pregnancy. Ideally, prenatal yoga is learned in a group situation versus privately, offering the mother an opportunity to share and learn about any concerns while gaining the support and friendship of other mothers.
Prenatal yoga distinguishes itself from other yoga practices in that it is designed to bring the mother’s focus to her baby. Techniques are taught to promote the comfort and well being of this new life. Emphasis is placed upon creating space for the baby, referring not only to the physical but also to the emotional and spiritual space (expanded awareness) needed to prepare for transition into motherhood. In essence, the mother is now practicing yoga for the baby.
The benefits of prenatal asanas include the strengthening and increased flexibility of muscles used in labor and delivery; the improvement of blood circulation to the pelvic region; and the improved digestion and easement of the many discomforts of pregnancy. Of equal importance is its emphasis upon relaxation and mother-child bonding through yoga breathing and visualization. Together these techniques help prepare the mother for labor and birth.
Partner workshops can educate couples about birthing trends, practices and many services available, enabling them to make conscious choices. Partners can also learn methods to help encourage the natural progression of labor. All of these promote the process of partner-child bonding.
Most importantly, prenatal yoga is about teaching the mother how to live in the present moment; a skill so vital to labor and birth. For although each mother’s experience is different (and in many ways unpredictable), prenatal yoga helps to connect to a mother’s innate wisdom and ability to give birth. It provides the tools required to experience the transformative process of childbirth with the integrity, courage, strength and above all joy, that a mother and baby so deserve.
Karen L. Glick, RN, BSN, CPYT has been studying yoga for 33 years and is the mother of three. She received her prenatal and postnatal yoga certification while studying at the Seattle Holistic Center. She currently lives and teaches yoga in Phoenix, AZ.