Find out how antenatal yoga can have positive effects on your pregnancy.
Have you ever been intimidated by pictures of yoga devotees (or yogis) twisting themselves into impossible knots, and thought, "I could never do that"? Well, this simply isn’t true – and there’s no need for pregnancy to stop you from giving yoga a whirl!
Antenatal yoga is completely safe and is, of course, tailored to your needs during pregnancy. With a go-ahead from your GP or midwife you can start i around week 16 of your pregnancy.Mental and physical wellbeing and balance are vital during times of transition or uncertainty. Your experience of being pregnant and giving birth will involve great physical and emotional changes, and knowing how to use and adapt yoga techniques to breathe, move and relax during this time will help you to lay deep foundations for decades of mothering.
Yoga is ideal for stretching and toning the different muscle groups that are working extra hard during pregnancy, such as the muscles in your back, pelvis, abdomen and legs. There are lots of other benefits: see if they inspire you to try a yoga class!
If you’re calm and stress-free, your uterus can work more efficiently. You’ll have a deeper awareness of your body and its capabilities, and feel confident. Relaxing may be easier said than done, but with regular yoga practice it becomes familiar and is easy to slip into – a great boon throughout your pregnancy and between contractions during labour.
Practising yoga positions improves fluidity of movement in your pelvis, meaning you’ll have lots of options when it comes to picking the positions you want to use during labour.
Standing yoga positions strengthen the legs, so when those contractions kick in you can stay upright for longer – with gravity on your side, your baby can descend more easily through your pelvis.
Yoga positions on all fours encourage your baby into the best position for birth, while learning to sit with a lengthened spine and knees lower than your hips also gives your baby more room to manoeuvre.
In addition to the usual pelvic floor exercises, yoga can help you train these muscles supporting your lower back, uterus and internal organs and increase their tone and elasticity, ready to help you and your baby through labour.
Simple standing positions and stretches with the knees bent and lower back released ease compression in the lumbar spine, getting rid of that niggling backache – a very common complaint in pregnancy.
A yoga exercise called Mula Bandha or ‘root lock’ can also be helpful, as it tightens the muscles around the pelvis and perineum, which support the lower back.
If you’re stretching up and lifting your chest and ribcage, your spine is lengthening, and that means that horrible heartburn – another pregnancy problem – is much less likely to trouble you.
For the first six weeks after delivery, it must be a case of ‘easy does it’, even with the gentle practice of yoga, but you’re safe to continue your deep breathing exercises for that quick energy lift. Always speak to your healthcare team before exercising after the birth
Later you can also try pelvic tilts and Mula Bandha performed on the back with the knees bent – they regain strength in the pelvic floor and help to re-integrate the pelvis and abdominal muscles, drawing the abdominal muscles back towards the spine, giving you a flatter stomach.
When your baby’s six weeks old, you’ll be fit and ready to join a postnatal yoga class – you can take your baby along and enjoy some special bonding time!
Bluebell Halliwell went along to yoga with mum Geri at the age of six weeks! Mum and baby went to classes in Los Angeles to help them into a sleeping routine and keep them both healthy.
Ginger Spice is a long-term yoga devotee, and has even released her own yoga DVDs. She credits her yoga addiction for her prompt recovery after the birth (she had a caesarean): “Apparently they’d never seen anyone recover so fast. Thanks to antenatal yoga, which I took up in the last few months, my strength was unbelievable – so much greater than it was at the start of my pregnancy.”
SJP was still filming Sex and the City when she was expecting son James in 2002, and wanted to get back in shape as quickly as possible. Having a brother who’s a personal trainer helped, but the actress also enjoyed postnatal yoga classes to get her toned in no time.
Madonna’s a well-known fitness fanatic, and she’s sure that yoga helped her through her pregnancy with son Rocco: “When I was pregnant I began doing Hatha yoga, and began doing the more difficult Ashtunga yoga after I had the baby, because I wanted to do something more visceral and physical.”
Catherine looked gorgeous throughout her pregnancies with Dylan, 6, and Carys, 4, which she puts down to eating well and yoga: “I have a crazy frantic side, and yoga refocuses the energy.”
Angelina made yoga a family affair when she was pregnant with little Shiloh. “She loves to do yoga with [adopted son] Maddox,’”revealed her instructor, Maryam Askari. “Maddox has fun jumping around the room, while Angelina does pregnancy poses and I support her belly.”
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