Yoga can help pregnant women in so many ways… physically and mentally. Minor ailments which normally occur in pregnancy are greatly diminished when a woman does prenatal yoga – for instance, incontinence. Another example is women can expect the absence of stretch marks and a better recovery of muscle tone, an intact perineum, reduced varicose veins or total absence, less tiredeness, and better gynaecological health later in life (the long term benefits for the NHS are also huge).
Ideally if a woman practices from about 14 and half weeks up until labour, she will benefit greatly. However, even a few weeks of prenatal yoga practice can be beneficial at any stage. What kind of birth the woman has, is not the important factor. What is important, is the woman possessing all the facts and knowledge and tolls available to her for labour and afterwards. Through my personal experience as a first time mother, I was drawn to this work, to hopefully empower and educate women about the choices we have so that we can begin to reclaim our place in the world as natural birthers.
Through yogic breathing the woman becomes familiar with the muscles that are used as birth. I also spend at least one session giving tips for fathers or whoever is going to be present at the birth. This helps to avoid the frustration and the feeling of helplessness on their part. The use of visualisation, sound, movement and open discussion, in preparation for the birth, is also a great way for mother and baby to bond. Be prepared to dance as well!
Women who plan to have a C-section can also benefit by using the relaxation techniques that I teach, to reduce the need for pain relief before going into theatre and even when intervention is necessary, women who have done yoga before will find it easier to recover after the birth. I feel it is hugely important for the mother to dedicate a special time to themselves and the baby. One can easily get caught up in trying to balance the huge demands of life and forget to nurture the two most important people in the world.
It can be a deeply transformative time for the woman and this is why I encourage open group discussions. If appropriate. Many of the fears that women experience in pregnancy are shared by nearly all women and once brought out in the open, these fears can be easily overcome. Birth is a strong experience and requires the woman to be strong herself. My goal is ultimately to give the woman tools to self-empowerment.
There are a variety of classes out there teaching yoga and birth preparation to women. My classes are not purely for keeping fit and therefore not purely based on adapted yoga postures. Even for women who have had children before, I feel can hugely benefit from these classes, as no pregnancy is ever the same. In my classes, I always take full medical history for each woman and speak to each woman before any course starts.
I personally would only recommend a class that is specially tailored for pregnant women and one in which a full personal medical history is available to the teacher. Every pregnancy is different and it is a very special time for the mother and in my classes I like to make each mother feel special. My classes are a mixture of specially adapted yoga postures for pregnancy and movements that focus on the pelvic area. I have had many women come to me in the past in their last term or with just a few weeks to go expecting full benefits from the yoga and this is simply not realistic. However, breathing and visualisation, relaxation can certainly help at this stage and to set the timetable for mother and baby to bond, for those busy working mums especially. One can not expect though, to stretch the muscles that are going to be used in labour, in a matter of weeks and for this reason, it is best to start at 14 weeks. For this reason to begin this over a gradual period of time is best, even if they are tedious and repetitive but are extremely important and necessary to prepare the body for the birth.