We have all heard it, that regular exercise contributes to a healthy lifestyle. And more and more healthcare practitioners are recommending that moms exercise throughout their pregnancy.
In fact, the 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy was recently published here. Overwhelmingly, the consensus is that pregnant women should be physically active throughout all stages of pregnancy. Maintaining physical activity throughout the three trimesters has been associated with an abundance of benefits for mom and babe, as well as improved birth outcomes. They recommend “at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week over a minimum of three days.”
How do we incorporate 150 minutes of exercise each week? That can be difficult with our super busy lifestyles. Most of us live in cities and work as much as we can until baby’s arrival. Often this busy lifestyle doesn’t allow us to sit with the fact that we are about to become mothers and that our upcoming birth is approaching. It can feel daunting to even process the thought of giving birth, with all the other things going on in our lives. This is where Prenatal Yoga comes in.
As a a co-founder of MOGA™ Moms and a yoga instructor who specializes in prenatal instruction, I am absolutely thrilled that our national guidelines are not only recommending that moms should be physically active throughout their pregnancy, but are recommending yoga. So many people question if prenatal yoga is safe. Not only is it safe, but it has so many benefits to both mom and baby. Here are 3 reasons why you should use yoga stretches and movement during your pregnancy:
IT HELPS YOU CONNECT WITH YOUR BABY AND YOUR BODY
Yoga is one of the best ways to drop into the body. And what I mean by that, is to get out of our heads and be present with our breath and what is going on physically in our being. This also helps expecting moms connect with their growing baby (whatever the trimester!) All women without contraindication can start prenatal yoga as soon as they feel like exercising (don’t force yourself if you are feeling nauseous or sick). If you are concerned at all, speak with your healthcare provider and ask if it’s an appropriate exercise for you.
Our emotions, fears and anxieties live in the body, and sometimes movement can help you release certain feelings, process them or help let them go. It’s not uncommon to cry in a yoga class or in the final resting pose (Savasana). Most expecting moms feel calm, energized and grounded after moving their bodies in prenatal yoga. At the end of class, we always take a few minutes resting together with our babies soaking in all the benefits of mindful movement and breath.
IT’S GREAT BIRTH PREPARATION
Birth is one big marathon. In fact, it might be the most challenging marathon our body and mind will ever go through as women, and we want to prepare for it! Yoga is a wonderful tool to give an expecting mom to add to her “birthing toolkit.” We teach breathing techniques, safe stretches that honour baby’s space, ways to help with positioning of baby in the pelvis, strengthening postures to help with endurance, and ways to relax key muscles in giving birth, like the pelvic floor.
IT ASSISTS WITH OPTIMAL POSITIONING OF BABY
Many of us have heard of back labour (often associated with long and painful labours). It happens when the baby comes into the mom’s pelvis and their occiput is to the posterior of the mom’s body (an OP baby. They’re sometimes known as “stargazers”). This means the occiput of the baby’s head puts constant pressure against the mom’s tailbone. It also means a wider diameter of the baby’s head needs to pass through the pelvis. What we want is the baby to be facing down and looking down towards the mom’s tailbone so that the occiput it tucked, and this small part of the baby’s head is what presents when she goes into labour. So how can we help our babies look down at the tailbone? Yoga and movement!
Here are 2 easy yoga postures and movements that I regularly recommend to my students to help with the optimal positioning of baby in the pelvis:
Cat-Cow Pose: Come to all fours, with your hands below the shoulders, and knees below the hips. With an inhale, curl the tailbone and lift the heart through (if it pulls too much on belly, keep the gaze to the floor).
On the exhale, curl the tailbone in, snuggle baby to the spine, and bring chin to chest, pushing the palms into the floor so you get a stretch in the spine. If wrists are sore, come into fists. Repeat 4-6 times, focusing on long, slow inhales and exhales.
Another benefit of Cat-Cow Pose: Baby moves away from the bladder as you rock them back and forth with your inhales and exhales. This can help reduce bathroom breaks (great to do right before bed).
Hip Circles: From Cat-Cow Pose, move your knees a bit farther apart, then rock your hips back and forth. Then if it feels comfortable, start moving your hips in small circles, leading with the hip to the right for 3-4 circles, then switch directions, leading with the hip to the left. You can bring your knees closer together too and make your circles bigger – whatever feels good in your body. You can also play a song that you like while you do Cat-Cow Pose followed by your Hip Circles daily (your baby can hear this song too around 14 weeks gestation!).
Remember, movement and stretching is especially important if you sit all day at a computer, then sit in your car or on transit, then sit on the couch or recliner to watch Netflix, T.V. etc., after work. Movement will become very important for you to feel better in your pregnancy, helping with circulation to your baby and your full body (down to the fingertips and toes), stretching, strengthening, learning breathing techniques to relax, and movements to help align baby in the pelvis after all that sitting all day! (This is especially important after 30 weeks). Additionally, it usually helps you get a better night’s sleep, too. What expectant mama wouldn’t benefit from that?