One of the most anxious aspects of pregnancy is labor and delivery. We learned via an article by parents.com that many women spend weeks, even months, feeling anxious about childbirth. However, the article stated that women who practice prenatal yoga before giving birth learn how to decrease their anxiety about labor.
"Yoga practice encourages a deep, intimate connection between the mom and baby, and it empowers a woman to trust her own instincts by listening to her body," says Liz Owen, a Boston-based yoga teacher and the co-author of Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back: A Practical Guide to Developing Strength and Relieving Pain. Labor is unpredictable and staying focused and calm during birth is something that you learn during a prenatal yoga class.
Prenatal Yoga Allows the Body's Muscles to Relax
According to parents.com, “prenatal yoga is one way to help women access deep stores of emotional strength and confidence that they can put to use during contractions and pushing the baby out of the womb.” Yoga poses like a deep squat help relax and open the hips, “providing control over strong, toned pelvic and hip muscles so they won't tense up when under stress.”
"A woman's ability to birth a baby is directly related to her ability to let go of gripping in her muscles," says Jane Austin, founder of the prenatal yoga school Mama Tree in San Francisco. Prenatal yoga poses add strength in areas of the body that need it, such as the legs and lower back, and practice the skill of being able to release tightness and plain from the body.
“Labor is a physical opening in the body that's unlike anything else we'll ever do, and we get scared," Austin says. But with regular yoga practice, women's "bodies will open, if they can soften any gripping that occurs, the [birth] experience can be gentler,".
Prenatal Yoga Increases Physical Stamina
Another benefit of yoga is that it helps increase a pregnant woman’s stamina. If your labor lasts a long time, this stamina will come in handy! In fact, practicing yoga regularly has also been shown to shorten the length of labor by as much as two hours. This increase in stamina comes from holding postures long enough to build strength. The article stated, “It also comes from the mental focus that results from yoga's concentration on breathing exercises that help the lungs expand to their full capacity -- which can feel challenging in late pregnancy.”
Prenatal Yoga Can Improve a Baby's Birth Position
Yoga poses can also help improve a baby’s position for birth, “by allowing the pelvic bones and ligaments to open and move apart from each other. This allows the baby's head to find more room to nestle at the bottom of the uterus as birth nears.” Some poses like like pelvic tilts may help a breech or posterior birth baby to turn into a head-down position for a vaginal birth.
However, the articles states that “despite all these reassuring benefits, though, labor is complicated, and every woman's personal experience with it is different.” Austin urges women not to believe that yoga is “helpful only for women who choose to experience "natural," or drug-free, vaginal childbirth.” Prenatal yoga can help all women, including those having cesarian sections, home births or a drug-free hospital birth. She says, “prenatal yoga is about about being present with your experience. It's about honoring where you are in that moment.”
Are you looking for a prenatal class in San Francisco?
Drop-in to our prenatal yoga class every Thursday evening for fun and empowering classes! Renee’s prenatal yoga class is tailored to the specific needs of pregnant women. She promotes a holistic, abundant and radiant practice that helps prepare you for birth and beyond. Mama Yoga not only eases aches and pains commonly found during pregnancy, but also builds a mind, body, and spirit connection with your baby. The class is a great opportunity to practice yoga and be in community with other pregnant women.
We hope to see all of you pregnant mamas at The Well!