Prenatal yoga and postnatal yoga can be extremely beneficial to
promoting a healthy pregnancy, birth, and baby. It is also extremely beneficial to promoting good parenting skills through the more difficult parts of raising a child in today’s society. “The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome,” explains Dr. Nevins who is a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California .“Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia," states Dr. Nevins. “Stress can reveal itself in many ways including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate,” says Dr. Nevins. “Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.(1:1)” These adverse symptoms are increased when the body is carrying and developing a child. Practicing the poses during pregnancy will help relieve these symptoms, help with labor, and help restore the body to its natural alignment after birth. Meditation conducted during the yoga session will also help with stress, labor pain management, and mental clarity due to sleepless nights with a baby. Meditation will also help with the stress of raising kids, keeping up with activities, and memory loss.
Science is beginning to serious investigate the benefits of yoga and how it can help mothers. The Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health recently scrutinized several studies to examine the evidence and find gaps for future research. “Significant findings from the randomized studies included an increase in infant birth weight, lower incidence of pregnancy complications, shorter duration of labor, and less pain among yoga practitioners. Significant findings from non-randomized and qualitative studies also showed a decrease in pain, improved quality of sleep, increased maternal confidence, and improved interpersonal relationships among pregnant women who practiced yoga.(2:2)” Yoga done at least 30 minutes a day in a quiet environment where the practitioner is allowed to flow into and out of poses,concentrating on breath is important for the benefits to be beneficial. Women would benefit at this time in their lives from a yoga class or an instructional DVD to help make sure they are taking the full time needed in the routine to release the lymphatic system and reset the parasympathetic system giving the practitioners benefits found in the studies listed above and below . Allowing everything to be reset in the body and mind throughout the day or week is beneficial to a healthy lifestyle and better parenting.
Another prenatal benefit of yoga practice is the ease of the exercise. Many pregnant women stop exercising due to the strain additional and extra fatigue on the body from carrying a baby. Yoga poses are gentle, and women find that concentrating on breathing through the movements to be helpful with pain and also relaxing. Yoga practice helps women to understand the physical changes occurring by bringing about bodily awareness on an intimate level. Women also benefit from learning yoga breathing which helps with them cope with labor pains during birth. Another reason that yoga is a good fit for a prenatal woman is because it is broken into trimesters which provide the most benefit available to the mother at the proper time. During each stage of pregnancy, the poses are adjusted according to the weight of the baby and the woman’s needs. In the first trimester, the women concentrate on alignment and strengthening of the body. In the second trimester, women focus on movement, opening, and stretching into the poses. The third trimester focus is on breathing and relaxing into the poses. After the birth, the practice focuses on relaxing, strengthening, physical alignment, and bringing the body and mind back into alignment. Yoga will help during the raising of the child by teaching the practitioner how to maintain a calm demeanor during the inevitable temper tantrums often associated with the terrible two’s and three's by utilizing breathing techniques. The breathing routines and meditations will also help the practitioner to sooth the baby and themselves during sleepless nights.
Yoga’s slow movement and connection with the breath helps to release endorphins and cortisol during practice, greatly affecting pregnancy. A recent study that was reported in Psych Journal found that yoga can benefit depression in pregnancy. As well “The results showed a greater decrease on the depressed affect and somatic/ vegetative subscales and the summary score of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale in the yoga group giving evidence that yoga appears to reduce depression symptoms in pregnant women.”(3:3) Another study, Efficacy of Yoga for Depression shows how yoga benefits postpartum depression as well. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a significant public health issue. “Up to 20% of women are affected by depression following childbirth. They used Gentle Vinyasa Flow yoga intervention for the treatment of Postpartum depression in this study. The fifty-seven postpartum women who participated in the study were placed in two groups. One yoga group went a to studio for sixteen classes and then was recommended to practice once a week at home with a 30 min DVD. The other group was placed on a waiting list for a class which was the control group in the study. As predicted, controlling for age and social anxiety at baseline, women in the yoga group experienced a greater positive rate of change in depression and well-being scores over the course of the 8-week intervention. The yoga group also experienced a significantly greater rate of improvement on scores of anxiety, postpartum adjustment, and mindfulness over the 8-week intervention, relative to the control group. Yoga is an acceptable and low-risk treatment option that may have broader clinical implications for the PPD treatment literature, and the field of CAM more generally.”(4:4)
The gentle flow of Vinyasa can not only help with depression but also with labor. The connection of breath with movement helps the mind in working through the pain of a woman’s muscles contracting during childbirth. Current research on labor is showing that yoga can also contribute to a healthy normal birth. PRENATAL YOGA MAY RESULT IN LESS LABOR PAIN, SHORTER LABOR “ provides evidence that regular yoga practice in the last 10–12 weeks of pregnancy improves maternal comfort in labor and may facilitate progress during labor. The researchers offered several theories for these effects. First, yoga involves synchronization of breathing awareness and muscle relaxation, which decreases tension and the perception of pain. Second, yoga movements, breathing, and chanting may increase circulating endorphins and serotonin, ‘raising the threshold of mind-body relationship to pain(pg.129)’ . Third, practicing yoga postures eventually alters pain pathways through the parasympathetic nervous system, decreasing one's need to actively respond to unpleasant physical sensations.(5:5)” This study shows that using a variety of yoga techniques improves the quality of life for the mother and child. First, the breathing awareness found in the pranayama practice done in prenatal class for at least five minutes helps with stress and labor. Secondly, the flow and holding of each pose helps with swelling by moving the lymphatic system. Thirdly, relaxation at the end of prenatal classes taking at least 15 minutes for bringing focus to the body, focuses on the release of tension through breath which allows for moving beyond the body into a place where there is peace of mind. Each of these steps done twice a week or one step each day benefits the mother in positive ways.
Yoga is also valuable after the birth as it helps with sleep, relaxes the body allowing for better production of milk, and helps restore the body to pre pregnancy shape by aligning the spine and pelvic area. Bringing the baby with her to class can also be beneficial. Postnatal classes are designed for both mother and baby to enjoy reconnecting with the body through meditation and stretching. Meditation helps heal the mind,and body connection which can be damaged by a loss of sleep. This in turn makes it easier to negotiate the day and can help with stress at the workplace. This also helps with the day to day struggles of raising a child in today’s world. Yoga can also help with breastfeeding by allowing the mother to concentrate on the connection of the baby to her breast and it helps her to know how to get into comfortable positions needed for feeding. Yoga class is a great way to meet other women encountering the same struggles it and helps form companionships that are essential to living a healthy life. The practice of yoga is beneficial to the parent and child throughout every step of life’s obstacles and triumphs and is a healthy way to navigate life’s journey. The benefits of yoga can help everyone to become a healthier person, and passing along these benefits to the baby before, during, and after labor is a simple act of love.
- American Osteopathic Association; http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/general-health/Pages/yoga.aspx
- Journal Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health; volume 28 issue 1;The Effects of Prenatal Yoga on Birth Outcomes: A Systematic Review of the Literature
- Psych ,volume 3 no. 9a, September 2012,Yoga Reduces Prenatal Depression Symptoms
- The Journal of Perinatal Education. 2008 Summer;17(3):55-60, Research Summaries for Normal Birth;Chuntharapat, S., Petpichetchian, W., & Hatthakit, U. (2008). Yoga during pregnancy: Effects on maternal comfort, labor pain and birth outcomes. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 14(2), 105–115.