Pregnancy is a transformative experience for women – a life-changing milestone where various physiological and psychological changes weave together to support the needs of a growing baby. During this journey, pregnant women need a practice that celebrates softness and supports change, and that cares for both their physical and mental wellbeing.
As a Yoga Teacher and Childbirth Educator, I've supported prenatal and postnatal women for over a decade. Many of them, like me, can attest to how prenatal yoga has aided them during pregnancy, birth and motherhood. If you're an expectant mother and want to keep healthy in body and mind, here's a closer look at some of ways yoga during pregnancy could benefit you.
1. Helps to alleviate discomfort and support changes
There are so many changes that take place in the body to support pregnancy. For example, the pregnancy-related hormone relaxin is released, which can cause discomfort in the pelvic region, lower back and other areas. Yoga can help bring a sense of release, strength and stability as well as a connection to the ever-changing body during this time. The practice can also be adapted to meet specific needs. If an expectant mother is feeling nauseous and struggling to sleep, a restorative yoga practice and gentle breathing practice like Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) can help to relieve a tired body and mind. Or on days when she's feeling energetic, a gentle pregnancy flow class, where she can move in a fluid yet supported way, might be suitable.
2.) Helps to alleviate stress
Stress and anxiety can arise during this time, and can result in feelings of fatigue. Pregnancy yoga practice is a space to de-stress and reconnect to the calm within, where women learn relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, postures, meditation and visualisation. This can help them to slow down and move from the fight or flight response to a more grounded, relaxed state.
3.) Helps women prepare for birth
Aside from preparing the body for birth, most yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation practices are tools women can use during labour and delivery. The postures practised in class can help women work through contractions and, according to research, can even make the first stage of labour shorter.
4.) Provides a sense of community
Pregnancy and motherhood can be a lonely time for many women. Being with other pregnant women in a yoga class can foster a sense of community ("sangha"). I have witnessed lifelong friendships blossom in classes. A sense of connection can have a positive impact on overall wellbeing, and when women share their experiences with each other it can be a lovely reminder that they’re not alone in their journey.
Motherhood is the big yoga
Yoga ("yuj") means union, and birthing and motherhood exemplifies union – a coming together of two beings, forming a bond like no other. Motherhood stretches us beyond what we thought we were capable of. It asks us to reflect on past, present and future, to be brave yet soft, and to love unconditionally. When we parent from a connected space, we can pay attention to how we interact with our children and act from a place of love even when it's difficult. Motherhood is yoga off the mat, where we practise self-compassion and understanding, and experience a sense of letting go as we support our children in various ways.
Along with being a Pre- and Postnatal Yoga Specialist, Childbirth Educator and Yoga Teacher Trainer, Michelle is also a co-founder of Mindful Birth, an accredited pregnancy and postnatal yoga teacher training course. She currently lives in Sydney with her husband James and daughter Cassy.