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Preparing for Parenthood With Yoga.

Yoga for Moms-to-Be

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Oct. 22, 2001 -- When fitness runner Frances Hall was pregnant, she wanted to find a more gentle exercise.

"I have always been active and didn't want to stop when I got pregnant," says the 30-year-old mother. "But running got to be too hard on my body and on my belly. After trying out a couple of other things, a friend recommended yoga -- and I fell in love. Yoga is like running in that it gives you time to reflect -- it clears your head. And of course it lets you get physical -- but not too physical."

Frances' love affair with yoga didn't end with her pregnancy: when her son Jamie was 2 months old, she signed them both up for a postpartum class. Now, almost two years after Jamie's birth, she is still a yoga enthusiast.

She's not alone. While there are no hard statistics, more and more women are turning to yoga both pre- and postpartum, as is evidenced by the growing number of yoga studios popping up around the country that offer those specialized classes.

Yoga, It Isn't Just for Flower Children Anymore

"I think yoga works on all three aspects of our being: the body, the mind, and the spirit," author and yoga instructor Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa tells WebMD. "It keeps them all equalized and it keeps the mother, most importantly, relaxed and confident and courageous." Gurmukh Khalsa is director and co-founder of Golden Bridge Yoga in Los Angeles and has taught kundalini yoga to the likes of Madonna, Cindy Crawford, and David Duchovny.

"As far as the physical: It keeps the spine aligned, it keeps the pelvis aligned, it takes the breath deep to where your baby is growing, and it makes the mama feel better," she says. "As the body changes and she gets heavier, sometimes she feels tired, big, and overwhelmed, and on the physical level it helps alleviate the stress on the spine and also helps the abdomen grow to have room for everybody, mama and baby. It also keeps all the organs going and the glandular system going strong.

"As far as the mental goes, we learn how to access our intuition," Gurmukh Khalsa continues. "We can't ever give birth out of the intellect; it's not a thought process, it's an out-of-thought process that goes beyond mind to intuition. We access that through meditation and through chanting. On the spiritual level, it just heightens the soul to keep the miracle, the mystery, always in mind. Oftentimes things get so medical in this world ... that a woman loses touch with herself.

"And lastly, it's community: Sharing with people of like mind, like purpose and like intention builds your own awareness. Everybody is leading everybody else," she says.

Prenatal, and to a certain extent, postpartum, yoga differs from "regular" yoga in that it is much more gentle. Certain poses are off limits -- for example, "inverted" poses such as head stands, shoulder stands, and poses that put pressure on the abdomen.

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