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Prenatal Yoga Benefits Pregnant Women and Postpartum

Just recently I had my first child, a little girl. Before I got pregnant, I had a lot of nerves about what would happen to my body during and, maybe more importantly, after. I don’t think this is a foreign thought for most women who have babies. We give up a lot of ourselves in this process, and yet I’m finding we gain so much more. (Especially around the middle!)

One of the things that helped me throughout my pregnancy, and is now helping me in my recovery, is prenatal yoga. I was a total yoga newcomer, but had heard such great things about the activity that I thought I’d give it a try. And I’m so glad that I did!

Following the advice of my doctor to wait until the second trimester, I attended my first class at 14 weeks. I left that class feeling better than I had in weeks, and I was hooked.

From personal experience, I can say that these are some of the benefits I enjoyed from practicing prenatal yoga.

Relaxation. For an hour each week I didn’t have to do anything or worry about anyone else. I could solely focus on myself, my body, and making that connection with my baby.

Alleviated pain. The gentle stretching movements helped work out the numerous kinks, aches and pains that seemed to duplicate daily. I walked easier when I left each class, had less back and hip pain and my feet hurt less.

Better sleep. I struggled with insomnia throughout my pregnancy. I found that I got my best night of sleep on Mondays following yoga.

Muscle strength. The yoga helped me to maintain my muscle strength. While I didn’t always recognize it myself, the masseuse during prenatal massages would point it out. I felt strong and energetic throughout my pregnancy.

Advice. My yoga class was somewhat of a support group. Each week the two to seven women who attended would spend the first 15 minutes asking and answering questions, telling funny pregnancy stories and sharing in this wonderful, and trying, experience. It was a great sense of community!

Labor and delivery. I absolutely channeled my yogic breathing skills during my delivery. I never preferred the panting that was taught in birthing class, it felt too chaotic for an already stressful situation. I was able to breathe and think my way through my worst contractions and it made for a much calmer, enjoyable day.

Recovery. Four weeks after delivery I returned to my prenatal yoga class, at the invitation of my instructor. She calls it the “fourth trimester,” when our postpartum bodies still need some TLC. This helps me to work out the new kinks, aches and pains that come from caring for and carrying a newborn. I enjoy that hour of peaceful “me time” and find that I’m still sleeping better on Monday nights.

Throughout my pregnancy I was mindful of how I ate, even though I indulged in the occasional pregnancy craving. I walked most nights of the week and I did some of my favorite yoga moves at home between classes. All of this helped keep my weight gain within the recommended 35 pounds and help contribute to my weight loss postpartum.

I know, just as you do, that every woman is different. Every pregnancy is different. And each body is different. From my own experience, maintaining a healthy diet and remaining active throughout my pregnancy has no doubt had benefits for me and my baby.

If your doctor approves, I highly recommended finding a prenatal yoga class in your area. Find a qualified instructor who specializes in this delicate form of yoga.

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June 17th, 2010

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