Hatha Yoga for a Healthy, Happy Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a wondrous time in a woman’s life, when miraculous changes are taking place on a physical and emotional level. A hatha yogapractice is an excellent way to prepare for pregnancy and childbirth and to minimize or prevent many of the common discomforts of pregnancy. The optimum time to begin a hatha yoga practice in preparation for childbearing is before pregnancy, although a gentle practice may be started under the guidance of an experienced teacher at almost any time during the term. hatha yoga can usually be safely practiced by women of normal health who have no complications related to present or past pregnancies. In cases where health issues or difficulties may exist, seek instruction from a qualified teacher who is experienced and trained in prenatal Yoga and is familiar with physical problems during pregnancy. As with any new health regime, consulting your physician or health care practitioner is always advised.

hatha yogacan be a safe, natural method of preparing for the miracle of childbirth by combining breathing and relaxation techniques with stretching, strengthening, and balancing exercises. A regular practice can yield many benefits, including reduced stress levels, relief of the symptoms of depression, easing back and joint pain, improved sleep, increased energy levels, controlling nausea, and more. The fetus also benefits from mom’s practice through increased blood supply and nourishment. hatha yogaalso encourages self observation and internal awareness —learning to listen to your body.

Practicing hatha yoga can also support self esteem and personal power. Many women begin to feel overwhelmed or out of control during the course of their pregnancy. Some aspects of pregnancy that are often perceived as negative, such as weight gain and morning sickness, can bring about feelings of depression and low self image. Hatha yoga practice can help to refocus and balance a woman’s energy so she shifts into a more positive state of mind and freely accepts the changes that are taking place. The deepening connection with the body creates a unique environment for mother to profoundly connect with child long before delivery.

hatha yoga is an excellent preparation for labor and delivery because of its focus on stretching and strengthening the body. In developing a deep inner awareness, the mother can withdraw mentally from all the distractions around her during labor and stay in tune with the rhythm of the birthing process by following the movement of the baby through the birth canal. Specific breathing techniques can provide a wonderful sense of centeredness throughout delivery.

Many of the stretches and movements of hatha yoga stimulate a very gentle massage for the baby, which creates an inner remembrance of relaxation. Women who have experienced previous pregnancies often notice that the babies they carried when they engaged in prenatal hatha yoga tend to stretch more, are more relaxed, and are less fussy than siblings who did not have the benefit of prenatal practice.

The well-being of a pregnant woman will have a significant impact on her baby. As the expectant mother prepares for delivery and motherhood, she is creating an environment for the developing child. hatha yoga practice will help to keep the emotions calm, the mind focused, and the body strong and flexible.

After delivery, some time is generally needed for recuperation before the new mother returns to practice. During this time, breathing and relaxation techniques are helpful, and certain restorative postures support recovery. This is a great time to enroll in a postnatal class. Returning to practice can help to bring the body back into shape, as well as allow mom a little quiet time to herself.
With yoga becoming more and more mainstream, finding a class may be as simple as opening the phone book. It is important, however, to seek a teacher who has been formally trained through a qualified institute or facility and who has direct experience with prenatal yoga. Beginning a new yoga practice along with your pregnancy can open doors to new relationships and shared experiences.

Editorial provided by Carol Beck & Kathleen Murphy. Carol & Kathleen are both mothers & have completed the 2002-03 Yoga Teacher Training Program through the Three Rivers Yoga Institute. Yamuna Devi is the facilitator of the program.