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Sophie Kalinauckas, Yoga professional
With your big bellies bulging, the last thing on your mind is the idea of stripping down, getting sweaty, sticky and uncomfortable, whilst moving your limbs in an array of poses. If you're a pregnant mum-to-be, you'll already be anxious with making plans, both practical and emotional and this mixed with your own discomforts in pregnancy means taking a time-out will not be on the mummy to-do-list.
However, yoga can be just the opportunity to relax, prepare and regroup. The 5000 year old Ancient Indian tradition is like no other exercise, as it tackles your well-being as a whole, it treats the mind and body as one. With an extra one on the way, practising yoga can help you connect to this life-changing event.
Some mums are wary that any strenuous activity can be dangerous during pregnancy, but carried out with caution, pregnancy yoga is completely safe and in addition has wondrous benefits to your health during your pregnancy. It can be easy to forget that pregnancy should be a fun and happy time, if stress is creeping in, yoga can be just the ticket to de-stress any baby blues. Head to a room filled with foam, deep breathing and take time for you-time, take in the present because you won't be pregnant forever!
There are many different types of yoga, the best advice is to enquire at your local studios to find the most suitable and safe style for you. Start out with a standard beginners yoga class such as Hatha yoga. Always make sure you inform your instructor that you are pregnant. Avoid Bikram yoga or hot yoga as you don’t want to overheat. Whatever class you chose, it is also a good idea to wear layers, so you can pick and peel them off when you need. Your body temperature might fluctuate, as you warm up in some holding postures and cool down during relaxation periods.
Yoga can help you prepare for labour. Labour is one of the hardest things your body will go through, so it makes sense to prepare for it. Yoga consists of Asanas, positions which build up your stamina and improve your circulation. For example, the Virabhadrasana II is a popular pose in pregnancy yoga, it is also known as the Warrior II pose, it increases strength in the legs and evokes self-confidence. The Cat-Cow position also works on self-confidence, it positions your baby in the best spot for delivery. It involves kneeling on your hands and knees and pushing your back towards the ceiling. Make sure you buy a comfortable, sturdy mat and a towel like the Jade Harmony mat which is nicely padded. You don't need any special footwear but socks can be comfortable during relaxation sessions.
Yoga asks your body what it wants, to figure out how to make pregnancy as comfortable as possible. It is therefore important to wear loose and comfortable clothes whilst yoga-ing such as Bamboo clothing or lose tanks like the Serendipity Tank. It is a good idea to go for materials which are light and also made from natural fibres like cotton and bamboo cotton. You can also chose from ordinary women's fitness wear and go for cotton stretchy pants and loose tops, whatever you feel most comfortable in.
Yoga consists of meditation, this boosts your concentration and helps you to relax. Pranayama involves breathing exercises which work towards managing pain during contractions. You practice the breathing you'll conduct during birth, learning to breathe through the pain. Holding difficult and slightly painful positions can help prepare you for the painfulness of labour. It involves teaching yourself the needs of your body and trusting in your body. Yoga, during pregnancy strengthens your body but also your spirit. It can support you in the lead up to childbirth and the transition into parenthood. Many professionals agree that prenatal yoga can ease discomforts during pregnancy, as well as helping with your moods. Another benefit of pregnancy yoga is that it is an opportunity to bond with other pregnant yoga mums, to share experiences and find extra support. Yoga classes get you more familiar with your body, figuring out how your body moves. You can tune into your body, its needs, limits and potential. It builds on your flexibility, which means you are able to cope with difficult positions in labour. Yoga helps your ligaments to become more elastic, which eases those horrid side-effects of pregnancy such as constipation, morning sickness and built up tension around the cervix, to name a few.
Many mums can feel overwhelmed if new to yoga but joining a beginners class is the best place to start. If you are a regular yoga-goer, you might be able to continue with more vigorous practices. Yoga is not about competition, it is about taking things slowly and figuring out your own goals. It all depends on your own pregnancy experience and embracing it with awareness. However, it is vital, whether you are a beginner or if you practice regularly, that during your first trimester you practice very gently, with for example, Ujjayi breathing known as victorious breath or hip opening movements. It is also a great idea to invest in a pillow or two depending on your bump size to give you extra support like the Half Moon cylindrical bolster If possible you should practice yoga everyday but realistically a class once or twice a week is still just as good. It is important to also fit in aerobic exercise such as swimming or walking which particularly complements yoga, to develop muscle tone, strength and stamina. Check out our women's sports wear for a variety of sportswear which you can use for all sports.
When pregnant, your body experiences hormone fluctuations and surges, mood swings, insomnia, a weak bladder and more, yoga can help with all of these and work towards maintaining a feeling of calm, focusing on the present moment and balancing your body's energy flow. Part of labour training is to prepare for the unexpected, yoga can teach you to expect the unexpected. It trains you to empty your mind and let life can guide you. It is impossible to go into birth knowing and planning what is going to happen. With yoga you can trust yourself and let your baby's birth follow its own path. So, cross your legs mums, exhale and wrap your arms around your growing baby bump, yoga will let you calm the bumpy ride.