By Suzanne Swan
Obstetricians and midwives recommend yoga in pregnancy because they notice a significant difference in how women cope in labour. A recent study published in the Depression and Anxiety journal shows that just one yoga session a week can reduce anxiety by a third and lessens the release of stress hormones.
Active Birth Yoga classes are both relaxing and challenging, providing an atmosphere of discovery and learning. There are many benefits of a yoga practice in pregnancy.
- By improving your circulation and mobility you will experience a more comfortable pregnancy.
- Through better breathing you will find a deeper sense of relaxation and 'de-stressing' which will help both you and your unborn child.
- With regular practice, you are more likely to experience a healthier pregnancy and a more safe and satisfying birth.
Regular attendance at an Active Birth Yoga class is a very effective preparation for birth. Obstetricians and midwives recommend yoga in pregnancy because they notice a significant difference in how women cope in labour if they have practised throughout their pregnancy. It is as though the women understand what is instinctively needed at the time of birth. Women are more able to find the right answers from within when they need to make choices and decisions for themselves and their babies.
Like birth, yoga involves an intricate dance between control and surrender. In the classes you will work in a gentle and specific way, learning to move the body and access deeper levels of relaxation and release. Through the use of the breath and awareness of gravity you will remember how to let go, allowing your body's wisdom to guide you. If you can obey your deeper instincts you will surrender completely to the process of giving birth. You do not need to be taught how to give birth or how to behave during labour, your innate instincts will guide you safely towards an effective birth.
The practices of meditation, breathing exercises, yoga postures (asanas) and the development of right thinking are all designed to increase and balance the positive benefits of hormones present during pregnancy and labour, making it safer for both you and your baby. These practices when done regularly allow the natural energy of peace and happiness to be in abundance.
Active Birth positions
Birth is both a learned and instinctual experience. When you understand the birth process and your body's role then you are more capable of mapping the journey and trusting in nature's blueprint. Making sense of your experiences means not being overwhelmed by some mysterious process. In the Active Birth Yoga classes you will be taught how to visualize your bones opening and your baby coming through. You will discover your body's relationship with the downward force of gravity, and how it plays a key role in the birth process.
We practise becoming comfortable in positions women spontaneously take during labour. The increased flexibility and strength in your joints will make it much easier to have an Active Birth in which you are able to be in supported upright positions, such as squatting and kneeling.
Active Birth Yoga includes yoga postures that tone your pelvic floor muscles to provide support during pregnancy. The yoga increases your awareness and your knowledge of how to hold yourself correctly when you walk, stand and sit. When your posture is in harmony with gravity, your uterus will properly align itself to your spine. You may experience lightness or freedom along the spine and this may be felt as less tension in your upper back, neck and shoulders.
It is important to be aware that the practice of yoga is not only on physical flexibility and strength, but also on the quality of mind you bring to the practice. In the Active Birth Yoga classes, the yoga practices can be varied to accommodate special needs that present during pregnancy.
In the Active Birth Yoga class we practise developing awareness of the natural rhythm of your breath. While doing the yoga postures you will find that you breathe more freely and deeply. Awareness of your breath during labour can be the anchor by which you stay relaxed and focused on releasing the inner tension. Through the yoga practices, your ability to concentrate inwardly is strengthened, pleasant or unpleasant sensations lose their ability to cause pain or pleasure. This allows you to develop equanimity and contentment in the face of changing circumstances. Becoming familiar with this inner power will allow you to trust and flow with the birth force and allow your baby to be born. The result is a birth which is more harmonious and joyful.
The greatest gift you can give your unborn child is the cultivation of contentment. Pregnancy is a time to be cherished, to be deeply appreciated, a time in which peace, joy, lovingness, gratitude and contentment can be nurtured. During pregnancy, you have an added incentive to develop calmness and contentment – you are calm for two. Contentment will touch the baby's as well as your heart. Not only is it essential to develop strength and stamina for labour, but it's also important to be happy and healthy while 'with child'.
Your child in the womb is influenced both physically and emotionally by you during the pregnancy. Since your baby's consciousness is developing and you are inwardly-orientated due to the pregnancy, it is only natural that we practise 'inner bonding' exercises. Yoga gives much attention to the cultivation of positive emotions through exercises that specifically work with the heart. The quietness of the mind allows you to become more sensitive to your unborn child. This heightened susceptibility to positive feelings gives you and thus the child a sense of well-being.
Doing Active Birth Yoga classes brings to your attention the unique opportunity pregnancy brings for self-development – a chance to devote yourself not only to the growth of your own self, but to that of the new self taking form within your body. When you think of your pregnancy in this way, regardless of outer circumstances and the physiological and emotional changes that you face, it becomes a period of expansion for which you can be deeply grateful.
Written by Suzanne Swan, 2016, founder of yogababy, Senior Yoga teacher and Childbirth Educator. www.yogababy.com.au. Suzanne can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org