Yoga and Childbirth

When I was pregnant with Henri my midwives were really great about emphasizing exercise. It is so helpful in maintaining a healthy body, and a great way to prepare for birth.

Our society tends to view pregnancy as a medical condition and as a pregnant woman it seems like you can’t be too careful. We are given far more DONT’S than DO’s. While it is important to get the rest your body needs while pregnant, it is also so important to stay active, particularly if you want a natural birth.

My midwives recommended to me, and I fully intended on taking, a prenatal yoga class. Buuuut I didn’t. As you read about in my last post I used yoga to get my body back after Henri was born you can read all about that here. If I could do it all over again I would do yoga all 9 months of my pregnancy and here’s why:

You will become acquainted with your new body

Isn’t it just amazing how much your body changes throughout a pregnancy? It’s just crazy! You are steadily gaining weight while you baby grows inside of you every. single. day. I remember waking up in the morning and I could clearly see that my stomach was bigger than the day before. Well all these changes affect on the bones and muscles of your body. The posture of a pregnant woman is different because her spine curves in towards her belly. Yoga is a great way to check in with your changing body and a way to stretch out muscles that are tighter than normal. You might find that certain poses that help alleviate discomfort. I’m sure my constant back pain would have been SO MUCH BETTER had I practiced yoga during my pregnancy.

You will gain strength

First let me say that I believe most women are 100% capable of giving birth to their children naturally. However preparing your body for an extremely physical experience will help you build and find your inner strength. My midwives compared labor to running a marathon and it’s true. You don’t just decide on a Saturday morning you are going to run 26 miles. You spend months and months prepping your body for such a strenuous event. I can’t promise yoga will help you have a fast labor but I think it will help. My birth experience included a lot of MOVING. Unlike the typical hospital birth where most women stay hooked up to monitors laying on a bed, I was constantly active during labor. Adjusting my position for optimum comfort while also helping Henri to move down the birth canal as efficiently as possible.

You will gain mental strength

I took hypnobirthing classes in preparation for my natural childbirth and I can’t tell you how helpful it was in terms of making labor fast and doable. Hypnobirthing is all about the mind-body connection. We have so much more control over the way we perceive the way labor feels than we think we do. If you go into it thinking, “This is going to hurt like hell”, well it’s probably going to. But if you instead tell yourself, “My body was made to do this, I am safe and secure, my baby is finally coming to me, this is good and only temporary”, well then labor is probably going to be just that! My midwives who have attended hundreds of births will tell you that when you work WITH your body instead of AGAINST it, labor typically goes well. But when fear takes over and all those negative thoughts rule your mind, things don’t goes as well.

 

So what does this have to do with practicing yoga? Well it is an excellent way to practice that mind-body connection. Often in yoga you will go into a particular pose for anywhere from 2-5 minutes at a time, this is called a yin pose and it can often be quite difficult. I think this style of yoga is the BEST WAY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT LABOR IS LIKE before it happens. One of my favorite yoga instructors talks us through these tough poses.

My instructor tells us something along these lines each time we are in a difficult pose:

  • When we feel something new we want to categorize it immediately. And if we feel unfamiliar with something we tend to automatically think it’s negative when really it’s just a new experience. So try and observe it instead of reacting negatively to it.
  • What you are feeling is only temporary.
  • It’s a  feeling it is not YOU so it will NOT last FOREVER.
  • You are not your pain
  • You can do anything for just a couple more breaths
  • Surrender to the feeling instead of fighting it.
  • Try and really articulate the way you feel instead of it just being negative. Examine it.

 

Everytime I go through a pose like this I think about labor. If women could take this perspective on what their body is doing — labor would be so much more enjoyable. We live in a culture that wants to make pain, discomfort, and feelings we don’t like just go away in whatever way possible. I do not in anyway mean to pass judgement on the choices a mother makes when birthing her child but I do think that the health industry has become quite pushy when it comes to intervention, including epidurals and pain medications. Natural childbirth isn’t about proving to anyone even yourself that you are stronger or tougher than the woman who had the epidural, to me it’s about experiencing and FEELING life. Even the tough or uncomfortable parts. Do you agree? Maybe not. I’d love to hear your perspective.

Practicing yoga during pregnancy will give you a chance to practice what it is like to breath through a contraction. You will learn to control the negativity in your mind as you go into difficult poses. Hypnobirthing is a great way to learn more about this technique but yoga puts the mind-body connection into action.

Well that about wraps it up! If you are pregnant and want to practice some yoga call a studio nearby. If that’s not an option they make some great pregnancy yoga DVD’s as well.

Namaste.

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