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Having a Baby? Think Yoga

Yoga in Pregnancy

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Iyengar yoga incorporates props into its practice. Belts, blankets, and blocks are especially important to pregnant women, says Pringle, because they can alter the yoga postures so the woman can get the full benefits of the exercise without endangering the fetus. Instead of reaching to the floor, for example, the mother-to-be might put her hands on a block or on a chair.

"Using these props with the yoga postures can help relieve backaches and other problems caused by the imbalances created by the weight of the baby," Pringle explains.

Kuperman, whose twins were born 19 years ago through natural labor with the help of yoga practices, is a strong proponent of yoga in pregnancy. He cautions, however, that there is a difference between someone who is already practicing yoga before becoming pregnant and a beginner.

"If a woman is already practicing yoga," Kuperman says, "then it is an absolute blessing, and she should be able to sail through pregnancy with no complications." For someone just starting with yoga, though, he recommends finding a qualified instructor who can demonstrate floor exercises and gentle stretches.

Newcomers: Take Heed

When a woman is pregnant, ligaments and joints become much more flexible and elastic, Kuperman says. For someone unfamiliar with yoga, there is a risk of stretching too much and causing injury. The same is true of the spine, he adds, and a sudden twist could cause a disk herniation.

"It's important to be aware of the physiological changes of pregnancy," says Kuperman, "so you can take into account such symptoms as morning sickness, lightheadedness, vertigo, increased elasticity of the ligaments, and so on."

Yoga's emphasis on breathing is especially helpful to a pregnant woman, says Kuperman, explaining that the elevation of the diaphragm during pregnancy typically causes breathing difficulties. Deep breathing, however, enables the mother to avoid decreasing lung capacity, while increasing oxygenation to the blood.

As good as yoga is for the body, it's equally as important to the mind, giving a focus and discipline that stands a woman in good stead throughout her pregnancy, as well as during labor and delivery.

"Yoga is fun, nourishing to your body and mind, and a wonderful exploration," says Pringle.

"The secret of yoga is awareness," adds Kuperman. "Awareness of the postures, awareness of our breath, and simply awareness of being aware."

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