In a dedicated pregnancy yoga class you will benefit so much more than just stretching and relaxing. Many Midwives, Doctors and Obstetricians now recognise the health benefits of practicing yoga during pregnancy. In fact, most private health funds now even offer rebates for yoga classes! For a lot of women, their first experience of yoga is during their pregnancy and most will tell you that their weekly pregnancy yoga class makes them feel so good they ‘float out of the room’!

If you haven’t done yoga before then you might think it’s all about stretching and relaxing. But in a dedicated pregnancy yoga class you will benefit in so many ways. In this article, Caroline Bagga, Founder of Mother Nurture Yoga, Sydney’s leading Pregnancy Yoga School, tells us five reasons why every pregnant woman should do pregnancy yoga:

1. Correct posture and positioning

When you are pregnant your body is changing on a daily basis with all the additional weight coming into the front of your body (think belly and boobs!). Many women unknowingly change their posture to compensate, causing an exaggerated s-bend in the lower back and rounding of the shoulders. In a yoga class you really focus on correct posture as well as strengthening the legs and core to prevent and ease lower back problems.

Correct posture not only protects your body but also helps with Optimal Fetal Positioning. Put simply, this is all about getting your baby into the best possible position ready for the birth – ideally an ‘anterior position’ with baby’s spine facing the outside of your belly. Unlike our grandparents’ generation, our modern lifestyle involves a lot of sitting (at a desk, in a car, slouching on the sofa) which combined with poor posture has led to a much higher rate of ‘posterior’ labours (baby’s spine against mum’s spine instead of the other way around). This causes significant back pain for the labouring woman. Prenatal yoga is designed to assist with correct positioning of the baby – making the labour as easy and smooth as possible!

2. Boost your confidence and prepare your mind for the labour and birth

You will learn and practice breathing techniques and positions for labour which will help prepare you mentally for the big day. You will also learn relaxation techniques which can help you to stay centred if you start to feel out of control or anxious during the labour. Through the yoga poses you learn to listen to and trust your body, knowing that your body is perfectly designed and capable of birthing your baby. Half of labour is a mental battle – pregnancy yoga will give you access to techniques that will keep you calm and relaxed so your mind and body work together in harmony.

3. Connect with your baby

When we are pregnant for the first time we tend to focus on the practical things that need to be done…getting the nursery ready, attending hospital appointment and hosting a baby shower. Because it’s all an ‘unknown’ it’s quite hard for first-time mums to think beyond the birth. Pregnancy is the ideal time to slow down our busy lives and focus on the internal instead of the external. A yoga class gives you special time to turn your attention inwards, learning to listen to and connect with your baby. According to experts, everything the pregnant mother feels and thinks is communicated through neurohormones to her unborn child, just as surely as are alcohol and nicotine. So relaxation, positive thinking and connection can nurture a healthier and happier child during pregnancy.

4. Build your pelvic floor muscles

Pre-pregnancy most women don’t give their pelvic floor muscles a second thought. But when you are pregnant, you are constantly reminded to do your pelvic floor exercises. And for good reason – pregnancy and birth places them under enormous strain. During a yoga class particular poses help you to become familiar with your pelvic floor so you can learn how to activate these muscles correctly.

5. Find your community

It’s lovely to be able to share this special journey of pregnancy into motherhood with other women from your local area. There is often time to chat with the other ladies after the class to share your experiences, tips and form new friendships.

This article first appeared in Healthy Mama magazine.