|Prenatal / Postnatal|
If you're pregnant and looking for ways to relax or stay fit, you may be considering prenatal yoga. Good for you! But did you know that prenatal yoga may also help you prepare for labor and promote your baby's health? Before you start prenatal yoga, understand the range of possible benefits, as well as what a typical class entails and important safety tips.
Much like other types of childbirth-preparation classes, prenatal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing. Research suggests that prenatal yoga is safe and can have many benefits for pregnant women and their babies. For example, studies have suggested that prenatal yoga can:
Prenatal yoga can also help you meet and bond with other pregnant women and prepare for the stress of being a new parent.
A typical prenatal yoga class may involve:
There are many different styles of yoga — some more strenuous than others. Prenatal yoga or hatha (gentle) yoga are the best choices for pregnant women. If they're not an option, talk to the instructor about your pregnancy before starting any other yoga class. Be careful to avoid Bikram yoga, commonly called hot yoga, which involves doing vigorous poses in a room heated to 100 to 110 F (38 to 43 C). Bikram yoga may raise your body temperature too much, causing a condition known as hyperthermia. In addition, ashtanga and other types of power yoga may be too strenuous for women who aren't experienced yoga practitioners.
To protect your health and your baby's health during prenatal yoga, follow basic safety guidelines. For example:
If you're interested in taking a prenatal yoga class, look for a program taught by an instructor who has training in prenatal yoga. Consider observing a class ahead of time to make sure you're comfortable with the activities involved, the instructor's style, the class size and the environment.
Now that your baby is here, a new mother faces a host of physical and emotional challenges. Help her use yoga to pace herself in healing and finding rejuvenation.
Once a woman becomes a mother, everything changes—her body, her obligations, her priorities. Not only does she need to heal physically, but she's responsible for another human being. It's easy for her to put her needs aside in the interest of the baby's.
The first month after giving birth is a time to recuperate and adjust. The pelvic floor has been stretched significantly during birth and may even have been cut or torn to facilitate delivery. The cervix has to close back down from dilating to 10 centimeters (4 inches) and then stretching to let the baby pass through. The uterus shrinks a lot in the first few days, but it will take at least a month to return to its postpartum size, and the internal organs have to settle back into position after being crowded for so long. If the mother had a Caesarean section, the pelvic floor will be intact, but she has had a major abdominal surgery that will take several months to heal.
Perhaps one of the most surprising (and possibly disappointing) aspects of the postnatal period for a new mother is that she still looks about four to five months pregnant. The baby and the afterbirth add up to only about 15 to 20 pounds of weight lost immediately. In the first week or two after giving birth, she still has a lot of extra fluids in her system that are slowly being flushed out or reabsorbed. Her abdominals and the skin over the belly are loose after being stretched out for nine months.
These first few weeks can also be hugely emotional as she learns to take care of her new baby and adjust to her role as a mother. This intense responsibility, combined with hormones that are still present in the system (and will remain for months if she is breast-feeding), can lead to mood swings and even depression.
A perfect remedy for all of this soreness and mental stress is a yoga class.