In recent years, is has become increasingly clear that yoga has huge health benefits not only dot he physical body, but also in helping relieve stress and anxiety. Yoga has also become an important form of pregnancy exercise and yoga during pregnancy is something that can have many positive impacts not only for the pregnant mama, but also during the laboring process and subsequent childbirth. There are very few pregnancy workouts that will offer some of the benefits that yoga can have as you prepare for childbirth. Here are some ways that yoga will support you during labor and childbirth:
Mind body connection: the practice of yoga brings us into a deeper awareness of what is going on in our bodies and how our thoughts can both negatively and positively impact them. Labor is one of the most intense experiences the body can undergo. If we are aware of how our thought patterns arise and impact our responses of fear and stress on the physical body, we can do a better job of navigating this intensity. Yoga can give us tools to be able to manage what arises and be able to be aware of physical body reactions. Through stronger yoga poses we can also be prepared to feel intense sensations during labor and know that they are within the range of normal experience and therefore lessen our fear response (which can subsequently stall labor).
Connection to breath: the practice of yoga often involves linking breath to movement. Through this practice we become much more attuned to the flow of our own breath. There are also many practices in yoga called, pranayama, which are breath practices specifically geared toward harnessing the power of the breath. In labor, particularly in the later stages of labor, often breath is one of the only coping mechanisms that is available. Yoga helps us to harness the capacity of the breath and gives us a deeper awareness of the power of the breath and its ability to calm the mind and relax the body. These tools can be essential during labor and childbirth (here's some an easy yoga breath practice you can do right now!).
Strengthening the body: there is a reason that labor is called labor--it is hard work! We may find our bodies in strange positions and we may find ourselves having to stay in these positions for a long period of time. Prenatal yoga helps us to strengthen particular muscles groups in the legs and hips which are often involved in a labor process. Many women find that they end up laboring in squatting and standing positions for a long period of time, and building up the strength prior to labor can help ensure that the woman does not become exhausted easily and ensure more positive birthing outcomes.
Relaxation: during the labor process in between contractions is a time of relaxation even if it is only for 30 seconds or one minute before the next contraction begins. Being able to find any small times that we can rest can be so important to ensure that the we have energy to continue laboring. Being able to access relaxation through the physical body, the breath and the mind can help ensure a sense of calmness during labor.
Stretching: while a great deal of prenatal yoga poses do not focus on stretching due to the fact that the body is already naturally stretching somewhat (due to relaxin in the body), there are certain poses that we use in prenatal yoga that can help to provide some gentle stretch to the muscles of the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a system of muscles located in the bowl of the pelvis. These muscles are incredibly important for a woman's overall health, and in general, we want these muscles to be very strong. However, during childbirth these muscles need to stretch and lengthen in order to make space for baby’s head and body. Many yoga poses such as Warrior II all the pelvic floor to gently stretch, preparing the body for further lengthening and opening that will happen during childbirth.
Ready to give it a try? Try out our online prenatal yoga videos, we even have one specific to preparation for labor!
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.