Ref: Nawa Yogini Tantra, Yoga Publications Trust Yoga for Pregnancy, Australia

Having a healthy baby is a major desire of a pregnant woman and a healthy baby is born from a healthy mother. The mother should be healthy both physically & mentally. Undoubtedly practicing yoga offers the pregnant woman a path to improve and maintain physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Taking care of your body, mind, emotions and soul during pregnancy doesn`t only prepare you for a natural birth but also gives your baby a strong feeling of secure, inner balance and clear awareness. 

The asanas give flexibility, strength and inner balance to the mother. They also make the mother aware of the needs of her body. As you will be more aware to the needs of your body, you will be able to select which practices are appropriate for you and which not. As the pregnancy develops, the needs may change. 

Practicing yoga regularly before pregnancy is the ideal preparation for this period. The mother will have gained flexibility from practicing asanas; pranayama will ensure that she`s charged with vitality enough for herself and the baby and meditation will promote serenity to the mother. If the mother practices meditation and chanting mantra regularly, it will bring greater mental focus and inner stability. 

When planning a baby the focus should be placed on following areas for a successful pregnancy and delivery:

• Abdominal muscles: to have a strong abdominal region will ensure that baby is carried well. Besides, during delivery abdominal muscles are very important to push the child from the womb.

• Spine: For nervous system and general flexibility a strong and healthy spine is needed. Because of extra weight shoulders will be loaded too much weight; so a strong spine will help to carry the weight.

• Lower back: Lower back is needed to be focused and straightened. The extra weight will also affect the back muscles, and strength in this area is a great advantage. If the mother strengths back muscles especially lower back, there will be no back pain during pregnancy. 

• Pelvic muscles: Internal muscles which keep the pelvis and supports the uterus should be strong enough, relaxed, elastic and flexible for easy child birth. 

As for practicing Yoga during pregnancy, it is for sure very beneficial to practice yoga with some certain modifications. If the woman never practiced yoga before, it is better to consult the doctor\midwife to check if she has any significant medical condition which may be affected by practicing yoga.

During first 3 months of pregnancy the preparatory asanas may be continued as usual, but after this time maybe some adjustment will be required. At the beginning of the 4th month upward stretching or strong abdominal contractions should be avoided. From the 6th month forward bending asanas and strong backward bending asanas will become increasingly difficult. The pawanmuktasana series can be used at this time; in this series the muscles and joints are exercised which ensures maximum flexibility and blood circulation. Squatting postures should still be practiced for loosening the hips. Sitting in cross-legged asanas (sukhasana, swastikasana, ardha padmasana, padmasana) are recommended as well. This will be very helpful to avoid circulation problems in the legs and swelling of the ankles which frequently develops in later pregnancy. 

Preferably practicing yoga early morning before breakfast is ideal. If it is not possible, choosing a time during the day which you will not be disturbed. It is needed to practice at least 4 hours after the main meal or 2 hours after a small meal. Besides, a regular practice is better than practicing too much once a week. 

During early pregnancy relaxation can be done in Shavasana. Shavasana can be practiced between asanas or at any other time. As the pregnancy develops, lying on the left side in Matsyakridasana (flapping fish pose) which will take the weight off the spine can be preferred. For relaxation resting the legs up a wall or over a chair can also be practiced in early pregnancy especially if the pregnant woman experiences varicose veins or swelling of the ankles. Toe, ankle bending backward and forward while sitting and knee bending while sitting or lying down will help to relax the legs. Supta Udarakarshanasana (sleeping abdominal stretch) will help to release congestion in the pelvic area. Khandarasana (shoulder pose) helps to strengthen the legs, provides a soft backward bend. Sitting in Ardha or Poorna Titali Asana helps to give flexibility to the hips and to strengthen the pelvic muscles. Sitting in Vajrasana relieves the pressure on diaphragm; because as the baby grows, breathing and digestion becomes more difficult. Sitting in Vajrasana for 10 minutes after eating is very beneficial for digestion. Gently twisting from Vajrasana also releases tension in the back. Cat pose and its variations are very helpful to take the weight off the spine and relieve backache which is very common during pregnancy because of the extra weight.  As the pregnancy develops, it is needed to be very careful as the weight of the baby would put too much strain on the spine. Tiger pose with both hands on the floor is very good to strengthen the arms and the spine. Parvatasana (mountain pose) provides a gentle inversion which will help to relieve pelvic congestion and may help the baby change position. It will also be a good stretch for the back of the legs and the arms. The ones who have high blood pressure or nausea should avoid this position. Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose) is also beneficial for the legs and hips and good backward bend. Shasankasana is also a wonderful position to relax, release tension from the back and encourages the baby to move into an anterior position. If the mother has high blood pressure, she should make sure that the head is not lower than the heart. She can use extra cushions. Finger, wrist, elbow bending, wrist and shoulder rotations are also good to practice during this period. If the mother doesn`t have a neck injury, neck movements are also good for relaxation and releasing the tension and heaviness of the head. Tree pose can also be practiced by gently raising up on the toes. Squatting positions can be practiced to strengthen the thigh muscles and increase the flexibility of the hips but for women who have a history of miscarriage or cervical weakness, squatting is not recommended. Eka Pada Pranamasa (one legged prayer pose) is good to improve the balance of the body. It will be easier if she stands next to a chair or a wall and also touching fingertips to the wall at the beginning of the position is allowed as well. Moola Bandha is also very beneficial to strengthen the pelvic floor. It can be practiced as frequently as you can remember in a day.

Pranayamas also have an important role during pregnancy to remove waste products and supply enough oxygen for both mother and child. Pranayama is the key to managing stress, calming and increasing vitality. During the first 3 months, the baby has no pranic supply of its own. It is therefore very important to practice pranayama during the early months of the pregnancy. For the new beginners only deep breathing is recommended. Regularly practitioners can practice pranayama but shouldn`t hold the breath. Heating effective pranayamas should be avoided by all pregnant women. It may cause abortion. Proper practice of deep breathing improves the blood circulation. It is also very healthy for heart health. When the circulation is improved, digestive system also increases. Also with practicing deep breathing, you can control your mind and emotions. 

Pranayama is also a primary emphasis during delivery. The harmonization of breath, body and mind allows the mother to control the labour. Rhythmic breathing also helps to avoid fear and pain. There are 4 types of breathing used during delivery:

• Deep yogic breathing at the beginning of contraction

• Bhastrika as the contraction peaks

• Normal breathing between contractions

• Antar kumbhaka (inner retention) while pushing in late second stage.

During pregnancy Om chanting is also very effective because it is also deep breathing. It starts from the heart, then throat and then finishes in brain. Omkar chanting has also a massaging affect to heart and circulation also improves. The baby in the uterus can only have hearing sense of 5 senses. It may feel the touch but can not respond. It can only communicate with hearing. The baby in uterus definitely responds to the sound. So Om chanting and mantra chanting affects the mind of the baby as well.

Practicing Yoga after the baby is born will help the body to regain its form and it will enhance the overall sense of wellbeing. Feeling positive as a mother will improve the relationship with the baby. Practicing yoga can be started immediately except inverted postures if it was a natural birth. But if it was cesarian, for the first 6 months asanas are not recommended. After starting yoga practice again, during the first few weeks avoid any inverted postures; take time to relax, and yoga nidra is invaluable during this period. To help the uterus return to its pre-pregnant position, spend time lying on your abdomen. Practice Marjariasana (cat stretch) to release back tension. Keep practice Moolabandha to prevent prolapsed and urinary problems later in your life. Continue to practice alternate nostril breathing. Aum chanting can be done softly when you are feeding your baby or at bed time. Daily meditation practice will help to have the balance between your body and mind. 

As  mentioned above Yoga practices offer a holistic approach before, during and after pregnancy and the positive outcomes will ultimately lead to increased harmony within your family.

“The views expressed above are solely those of the author. may or may not agree with these statements.”

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