This article first appeared in magazine on December 15, 2016.

We all know that a healthy lifestyle is important. When you are pregnant, your baby is completely relying on you so it’s even more important to stay active and have a healthy pregnancy – physically and emotionally.

The experts all agree: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK and The Australasian College of Sports Medicine all say that moderate-intensity exercise is important for pregnant women.

Yoga is the best all-round form of exercise and the one recommended by many Midwives and Doctors. When practiced correctly it is safe and beneficial for both mum and baby.

Here’s just some of the ways that pregnancy yoga can help you:

  1. Feel more energetic. Growing a baby is tiring, but there is still work to be done so you need energy, which yoga will help to restore.
  2. Relax, reduce stress and anxiety. 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. Yogais highly effective in endorphin production, which lifts your mood and makes you feel great.
  3. Sleep better. Indigestion, insomnia and hip pain are common in pregnancy and prevent you from getting the rest you need. Yoga can help with all these conditions.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight. Gestational diabetes is particularly common in Indian women and puts you in a higher risk category. A healthy diet is critical but a regular yoga practice will also help you maintain a healthy weight which reduces your chance of developing Gestational diabetes.
  5. Build strength. Yoga poses strengthen the legs and core to prevent and ease lower back problems so you can carry your growing baby with ease.
  6. Reduce back pain and constipation. The weight of your baby can cause issues like back pain and constipation. Yoga will stretch out your upper and lower back and your internal organs, reducing these problems.
  7. Feel prepared and confident for an empowering birth. Yogic breathing techniques and positions for active birth will build your confidence ready for the birth of your baby, increasing your chance of a natural delivery.
  8. Improve your posture and help to position your baby correctly. Prenatal yoga is designed to assist with correct positioning of the baby – making the labour as easy and smooth as possible!
  9. Build your pelvic floor muscles. Pregnancy and birth places your pelvic floor muscles 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.
  10. Get back into shape more easily after giving birth. Keeping active during your pregnancy will make it easier to bounce back after giving birth.
  11. Start bonding with your baby. A yoga class gives you special time to turn your attention inwards, learning to listen to and connect with your baby. Guided visualisations and touch are an important part of prenatal yoga.
  12. Connect with other pregnant women. It’s lovely to be able to share this special journey 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. Being a new mum can be isolating so these friendships are important.

So what exactly happens in a pregnancy yoga class? A typical class includes meditation, pranayam (breathing techniques), asana (yoga poses), and relaxation. It’s a great combination of getting a gentle work out, relaxing and preparing for labour and birth.

Perhaps you did some yoga a long time ago and are nervous about joining a class because you’re not very flexible, or you’re not sure what to expect. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! In fact many women try yoga for the first time when they are pregnant. Choose a specific pregnancy yoga class. You’ll find it is gentle, suitable for beginners and all stages of pregnancy.

“When is it safe to start?” is one of the most common questions. Many ladies choose to wait until after the 12 week scan but the sooner the better before your bump gets too big! If in doubt, discuss your specific circumstances with the instructor.

Here are 3 Pregnancy Yoga poses for you to try now:

Child’s Pose (Balasana) – Bring your knees wide and your feet together, sit back on your heels, rest your head on the mat, or a block/your hands. Send the breath into your back as you surrender down to the mat. This is a very grounding and relaxing pose, as well as a good hip opener. It can release tension from your lower back.

Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) – Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop down to the sides. Sitting up on a blanket/towel can help to create extra length in the spine. Hold onto your ankles, take your elbows out towards your knees and keeping your spine straight to allow space for your baby, begin to come forwards. Relax your shoulders. Spend 5 breaths here. This is a great hip opener and increases circulation to the pelvis.

Seated Side Stretch – Sit in easy cross-legged. Take your left hand out to the side and as you inhale raise your right arm. Get length through both sides of the waist before coming over into a side stretch to the left. Open your chest to the ceiling and turn to look up. Send the breath into your right lung. Keep your left elbow tucked in to your waist. Take 5 breaths here then swap sides. This pose is great for stretching the sides of the body, creating more space for your internal organs which become compressed during pregnancy, especially your lungs, and opening the front of the body.

 

Caroline Bagga is mum to three beautiful girls aged 5, 2.5 and 4 months. She is the Founder of Mother Nurture Yoga, Sydney’s leading Pregnancy Yoga School. Check out the timetable to find a class near you, join a Retreat or purchase a copy of the DVD to practice at home: www.mothernurtureyoga.com.au