Preparing for Parenthood With Yoga
Yoga for Moms-to-Be
A Breath of Fresh Air continued...
"Pregnant or not pregnant, most people really aren't paying
attention to how they breathe," says O'Connor. "When you are paying
attention to the breath, you can calm down and slow down your regular routine
of the day. You can deepen the breath, which will relax the body and in turn
create that calm place in your mind. When we are aware of the breath, we can
become more aware of the body -- and this is so important throughout the
pregnancy process because the breath becomes more difficult as you gain weight
and as the abdomen is compressed more."
O'Connor says proper, conscious breathing also keeps the body
oxygenated, helps digestion, and helps the baby. "You want to breathe
[properly] for the baby's sake because your baby is getting all of the benefits
of the breath when you do breathe deeper."
Variety Is the Spice of Life
From hatha to kundalini to ashtanga to Iyengar, almost all
types of yoga focus on the breath -- but their similarities end there. Some are
more aerobic, others mostly meditative, and yet others fall somewhere in
between. So how do you know which one is right for you and your developing
"Before you're pregnant, there are lots of different kinds
of yoga, and it seems that people fit into certain categories depending on
their preferences: Some people like the heated, fiery ashtanga yoga, some like
more of a gentle fluid movement similar to tai chi," explains O'Connor.
"When you are pregnant, you really need to adhere to a safe and gentle way
of moving in and out of the yoga postures, period. So you want to set aside
those preferences once you get into the second trimester and you really want to
move softly and easily in and out of the poses, because you want to gain
strength as well as flexibility and balance.
"But the most important thing is to gain an inward focus,
because what you are doing is training yourself for labor and preparing
yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally," says O'Connor. "You
want to create a reference point to go within, be quiet, and be with yourself
[because] that is what you bring with you into your birthing situation. When
you practice and when you do that consistently, you develop a reference that is
yours alone, and when you go into labor that is all you have."
Gurmukh Khalsa and Sat Jivan Kaur Khalsa agree that the
prenatal yoga classes of any yoga "lineage" are more similar than they
are different; variations come down to an instructor's style, personal touches,
or, in the case of kundalini yoga, certain spiritually-rooted traditions and
"Chances are whatever you find, you are really fortunate
and you will probably be in good hands," says Gurmukh Khalsa. "Say you
live in a big city and have a choice, then just go visit some studios and see
whatever feels good for you. You have to vibrate with them. But whichever form
you do, in a sense it doesn't matter as long as you just get in the breathing
and get in community and spend that time, one or two or three times a week,
where it is just you and your relationship to this soul."
"I think you have to experiment," says Sat Jirvan Kaur
Khalsa. "Yoga is becoming more popularized, but there are many places in
the country where there is only one thing available. We are not on every corner