The journey into pregnancy is one filled with a variety of emotions. There is excitement and anxiety, joy and fear, wonder and confusion and so much more. It is hard to find a clear and present moment to simply acknowledge and get comfortable with the simple truth that your body and your life are changing. In a grand sense, yoga is about being connected, comfortably, to your body, mind and heart, in a way that does not call for decision making and analysis. It is about finding a stillness in spite of chaos, comfort within discomfort, quiet amid the chatter. The ultimate goal of prenatal yoga is to help you find comfort and ease away while you celebrate and cherish the growth of your family.

The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

Yoga is a wonderful way to stay fit during your pregnancy, while also giving you the opportunity to bond with baby and to prepare for the changes taking place in your life through connecting with the physical changes occurring in your body.

A prenatal yoga practice will offer the following:

• Enhances body awareness and self-observation; connection to physical and physiological sensation
• Improves posture, balance, and circulation
• Builds strength and coordination of muscles in preparation for labor and delivery
• Balances energy while aiding sleep
• Builds stamina needed for labor and birth
• Develops breathing techniques useful for calm during labor and delivery, as well as for general relaxation
• Aids in relieving fluid retention/decreasing swelling
• Increase flexibility while lubricating joints, tendons and ligaments
• Eases discomfort for back, neck and round ligament pain common during pregnancies
• Decreases adrenaline and increases endorphins (allows you to feel in control during labor)
• Provides a supportive atmosphere meet other new moms and to share your experiences, both rewarding and challenging

No matter what your birth plan calls for, prenatal yoga will offer you the ability to enjoy time to yourself while finding and maintaining strength, flexibility, steadiness and ease while growing into your new role.

When to Start Prenatal Yoga

You may start practicing prenatal yoga at any stage in your pregnancy. Many women will start around 14 weeks, when energy levels lift a bit, (hopefully) nausea has subsided, and they are more public with their pregnancy. However, I see a lot of moms that begin in their third trimester, as there is little else that can provide physical comfort, and as the reality starts setting in that labor and delivery is on the horizon and they begin to focus on preparation for the final stretch. I have even had someone come for a first class at 38 weeks with her second child, a little in shock that her second pregnancy went so quickly and she had not taken any specific prenatal classes!

What to Expect from Prenatal Yoga

There is a wide variety of experience in a prenatal yoga class; a majority of expectant moms are coming to yoga for the first time or for the first time in a long time. These classes are ideal for all levels. You are already beginning to tune into your body more deeply, making it a wonderful time to discover a yoga practice! If you are a regular yoga practitioner, prenatal yoga will offer you a new perspective on your practice as truly you are putting yourself in your present moment by bringing awareness to specific ways the body supports the growth of baby and prepares for labor.

Most studios will ask that you have your doctor sign a waiver so that she or he knows that you are practicing yoga. This is standard and puts everyone on the same page when it comes to your well-being. You can typically find them on a studio’s website (the waiver for Villager Yoga is available here).

Many studios have drop-in classes, so there is no need to register in advance, however, go ahead and call your preferred studio or gym to make sure! Yoga mats are usually available to borrow; simply dress comfortably and definitely bring your water bottle. If you have practiced yoga before, you may have been advised not to eat before class. For prenatal yoga, though, you will want to grab a light snack, like almonds, apple slices with peanut butter, or a banana about 20-30 minutes before class.

At the start of the classes at Villager Yoga, each student has the opportunity to share how far along they are and what they are experiencing that week. Common woes will come up, such as increased pelvic pressure, back pain, rib discomfort, but also special moments such as feeling the baby move for the first time or finding out gender. The information allows me to build a class that is appropriately targeting physical discomforts, emotional/mental distractions and special requests. For example, if we have a mom close to her due date and ready for baby’s arrival, we might focus heavier on squats, tilting the pelvis and breathing techniques (don’t worry if you are early in your third trimester, if you’re baby is not ready to come, it is not gonna happen!).

The class itself will incorporate slow flowing movement to loosen the hips, back and shoulders, standing postures to help strengthen around the pelvis (targeting back and legs) and deep stretching and relaxation. We focus on specific breathing techniques for labor and delivery, as well as getting in touch with the pelvic floor muscles so critical to both delivery and post-partum restoration. While every class is focused on these specific areas, classes will vary based on the needs of the room. Here’s some valuable first-hand feedback from our students:

I absolutely loved taking prenatal yoga. It was a highlight of my week, and I know helped so much in my labor and delivery both physically and mentally. I used so much of what was taught in class throughout my pregnancy.

The prenatal class, and yoga practice in general, provided a focus on breathing that was so valuable. It definitely helped me realize my goal of a natural, un-medicated birth. The breathing and sounding techniques helped me stay centered and relaxed during labor, and eased Kate’s progress and arrival. I also loved the prenatal class’s sense of community with other moms (which has carried over into the Mom & Baby class as well!), and how Annie listened to each of our pregnancy aches and pains and helped adjust our practice accordingly.

I just wanted to say that I am so thankful for your class. It was one of my favorite parts about being pregnant! Not only did it make me feel amazing and reduce my anxiety, but I also met friends and amazing mommas to be.

I literally said to my husband as I started pushing that thank goodness I did prenatal yoga because it truly helped with my labor. Thank you!

Prenatal Yoga When and Why

| Pre and Postnatal Health |
About The Author
- Annie Damsky is the owner of Villager Yoga, a studio that offers yoga for the whole family, located on Overton Road in Mountain Brook/Cahaba Heights area. She is certified to teach prenatal yoga, kids yoga and grown-up yoga and has been sharing the practice of yoga with the community since 2009. Annie had her first child, a baby girl, last year in February.