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Prenatal Yoga: A Gift to Yourself and Your Baby

By Sydney Holly

Prenatal yoga is a great way to embrace your evolving body and bond with your baby. Through a series of comprehensive postures, soothing breath, and relaxing imagery, prenatal yoga gently stretches and tones the body while calming the mind and restoring your energy. The numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits of prenatal yoga are not only evident during your pregnancy, but also during labor and postpartum. Making time for your prenatal yoga practice is a true gift to yourself and your baby.

Physical benefits of prenatal yoga include:

• Increasing Strength and Flexibility: Yoga postures, called asanas, are dynamic poses that create long, lean, and flexible muscles. The combination of weight-bearing strengthening poses and active stretches cultivate a strong and supple body.
• Improving Balance: As your belly grows, your balance changes. Yoga strengthens your core, making it easier for you to find your balance.
• Improving Digestion: Yoga not only tones the muscular system, but stimulates the digestive system as well. As your baby grows, your internal organs shift around, often resulting in indigestion. Specific poses can help promote regularity and aid in digestive flow.
• Increasing Circulation: Because your blood volume increases while pregnant, it is imperative to increase circulation. Yoga increases both blood and oxygen circulation which has many health benefits including reduced risk for varicose veins and joint inflammation.
• Reducing Sciatica & Lower Back Pain: Your expanding belly often causes pressure on the sciatic nerve that results in lower back pain. Specific prenatal yoga poses help re-align the pelvis and open the hips to create freedom for the lower back.
• Preparing For Labor: Prenatal yoga focuses specifically on poses designed to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, such as squatting. Having a strong pelvic floor helps when pushing during delivery.
• Shortening Postpartum Recovery: Whether you delivered vaginally or via c-section, the yoga poses that you have been practicing during your pregnancy will help you recover from your delivery with ease.

Mental & emotional benefits of prenatal yoga include:

• Promoting Spiritual Well-Being: Relaxing imagery often used during meditation invokes feelings of contentment, connection, and calmness; allowing you some "down time" in your busy day.
• Bonding with Baby: Being in-tune with your evolving body fosters a stronger emotional connection with your growing baby.
• Bonding with Other Moms: Meeting other expecting moms allows you share your fears and concerns while developing loving friendships.
• Intentional Breathing: The breath is an integral part of your yoga practice that can be applied to the stresses of everyday life. Controlling the breath helps slow the heart rate and calm the mind.
• Eliciting the "Relaxation Response": The deep breathing done during yoga, ujjayi pranayama, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which quiets the mind and relaxes the body by lowering blood pressure and reducing overall stress. This breath is a very powerful tool that can be utilized during the physical intensity of labor.
• Accepting Change: Pregnancy is a special time full of new experiences that can sometimes be intimidating. Yoga helps you accept the changes you are going through currently and enables you to embrace the upcoming challenges and joys of new motherhood.

Sydney teaches yoga at The Yoga House (www.yogahouse.net) in Edina. She and her husband Christian live with their two young sons in Minneapolis.

Categories: Pregnancy,

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