Having a Baby? Think Yoga
Yoga in Pregnancy
If you're pregnant and thinking about taking a Lamaze class, you might want
to consider yoga instead. "The connection between yoga and pregnancy, as
far as the western world is concerned, goes back to the work of Dr. Fernand
Lamaze in the mid-20th century," says Julio Kuperman, MD, head of the
Division of Neurology at Saint Agnes Medical Center, part of the University of
Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia. Kuperman is also a yoga instructor
and director of Yoga Teacher Training at the Baptiste Power Yoga Institute in
Bryn Mawr, Pa.
"The well-known breathing and relaxation techniques that
Dr. Lamaze popularized were lifted straight from yoga practices as he learned
them from B.K.S. Iyengar and his wife," says Kuperman. (Iyengar was a
native of India whose yogic practices were first introduced in the West by
violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1954.)
"If you are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or
perhaps have just had a baby, this is a wonderful time to bring yoga into your
life," agrees Kathleen Pringle, director of the Stillwater Yoga Studio in
"Strength, flexibility, relaxation, inner peace, and breath
awareness are essential to a healthy and positive pregnancy," Pringle says.
"There is no better way to obtain these attributes than through a yoga
Multitude of Benefits
Pringle says the regular practice of yoga will help a pregnant
woman keep her blood pressure normal, prevent too rapid a weight gain, and
strengthen her pelvic muscles. In early pregnancy, it can help relieve morning
sickness and reduce swelling in the hands, feet, and face. And a regular
practice of inversions (headstands and handstands, but only for those already
experienced with yoga) calms and quiets the mind and strengthens the
"This increased blood flow helps to stimulate the brain and
quiets the nervous system," says Pringle, "plus decreases the chance of
varicose veins. And if the changes and stresses of being pregnant have you
feeling depressed, chest expansions are very helpful at quickly restoring your
spirits. That, and the knowledge that you are getting stronger, more in touch
with your body, and more flexible."
There are many types of yoga, says Pringle, who is a
practitioner of Iyengar yoga, which is known for its emphasis on alignment,
precision, and attention to detail.
"The focus that Iyengar yoga has on pregnancy," Pringle
says, "is that it recognized it as a very special time in both the woman's
and the baby's life. As such, the Iyengars devised a specific approach to
working with women who are pregnant."
The main emphasis of Iyengar yoga in pregnancy, says Pringle,
is creating space for the baby. This focus also helps the mother breathe more
easily and learn how to strengthen and realign her spine.