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    Preparing for Parenthood With Yoga

    Yoga for Moms-to-Be

    Yoga, It Isn't Just for Flower Children Anymore continued...

    "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.

    "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."

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