Preparing for Parenthood With Yoga
Yoga for Moms-to-Be
Yoga, It Isn't Just for Flower Children Anymore continued...
"With pregnancy and all the changes that are going on
during those nine months, the most important thing that yoga can do is bring
you into an internal focus while moving your body and making you aware of your
breath," Terri O'Connor tells WebMD. "When yoga does that, it helps a
pregnant woman reduce any anxiety around the whole process, strengthen her
body, and create an internal calm state, which is so needed and important. Yoga
poses, being a gentle way of movement, will get your body into alignment and
create a still place within, and with that you are creating a calm state of
mind, hopefully more space in your lungs and abdomen to breathe, and some
strength to help you during labor." O'Connor is the co-owner of Plum Tree
Yoga Center in Roswell, Ga.
"As far as postpartum is concerned, it's about getting your
body back in shape after the birth process, strengthening your abdominals,
trying to get back into your clothes, [and] keeping the hormones in check and
balanced," says O'Connor. She says that postpartum yoga gently and slowly
works a woman back up to her pre-pregnancy level -- a process that could take
several months. "With the physical movements and the breathing, it helps
you acclimate to the hormone fluctuations before and after. So I would say the
most important thing is body awareness, enhancing your ability to breath, and
creating a calm place within."
Khalsa says a woman needs to reclaim her body after her baby is
born. "You have to become a very strong-on-the-outside mother and human
being, and your life has to come into even more of a balance," she says.
"So there are very specific postures and meditations we do for pregnancy
yoga and very specific ones we do for postnatal yoga to rebuild the body. And
again, it's community: So many times we don't have family to lean on -- it's
that longing to belong."
"And for the babies, it's wonderful," Gurmukh Khalsa
says. "We do baby yoga and body movement with them to help balance their
own bodies and open up their hips, and get their energy running through. We
dance with them, and sing with them, and massage them."
A Breath of Fresh Air
In any kind of yoga there's great emphasis on breathing and the
breath; that emphasis is redoubled in prenatal yoga. "Breath work always
has physical benefits: it oxygenates the blood, balances the nervous system and
helps you adjust to the hormonal changes that you are going through," says
Sat Jivan Kaur Khalsa, co-director of Kundalini Yoga East in New York City (Sat
Jivan is not related to Gurmukh Khalsa; both were given traditional Sikh
spiritual names many years ago). "Mentally, it helps bring a lot of
clarity, focus, and purification to the mind so that you are actually very
prepared for the birth. For many first-time mothers, the big thing is, 'How am
I going to do when it is time to let the baby out?' The breath work -- and the
yoga -- really helps people feel that they could handle this."