Practicing yoga during your pregnancy is a great way to feel relaxed and comfortable and, at the same time, it is a deeply empowering way to prepare for your birth. You will learn how to relax and connect with your body and your baby, while building the powerful ‘body memory’ that you can instinctively draw on during labour and birth
There are many different approaches to yoga and not all are suitable for pregnancy. Mine has developed over decades of experience working with pregnant women and has proven to be most effective and enjoyable. Here are my responses to some of the most commonly asked questions…
What does pregnancy yoga do?
An awareness of the presence of the earth and your breathing are two great allies when practising yoga, just as they are during labour. So, when you practice with this awareness while in the postures, you begin to build a ‘muscle memory’ that is there for you during labour and birth.
It’s very powerful, yet simple – exhalations travel down towards the earth and inhalations bring length and freedom into the body. I realise this doesn’t mean very much until you try it, but when you do, you’ll feel it happening naturally in your body. This is a great way to release tension in in pregnancy and can also be miraculously helpful in labour.
What are the most important pregnancy yoga positions?
People often ask which yoga positions are good to do in pregnancy, but yoga practise when you are pregnant is not about the postures or asanas – these are vehicles.
They are useful, but of course some are more useful than others, and some should be avoided. It’s important to work with a teacher who knows the difference and can help you find the yoga practice that’s best for you personally and consider how you are feeling to keep you safe as well as gently stretched and extended to your comfortable limit.
Essentially, pregnancy yoga is about the experience you have while in the positions; it’s what you feel in your body, combined with an awareness of your breathing and the influence of gravity.
Will it help me during birth in any circumstances?
What will happen on the day is unpredictable and sometimes can be very unexpected. Recently I heard of a woman who, after a previous C-section, ended up giving birth to her second baby in the back of a taxi on all fours – a position we regularly do in yoga. Her partner caught the baby!
She said the breathing awareness she had developed during pregnancy helped her so much: “I just breathed and exhaled toward the earth and breathed in calmly. Those still moments at the end of each exhalation were my anchors.” Despite the difficult and potentially stressful situation, she went into her ‘yoga zone’, body memory kicked in and she experienced a completely peaceful birth in the back of the taxi!
Equally relaxation and breathing you learn in yoga classes can help you to remain calm and relaxed when interventions are necessary.
Can I do pregnancy yoga if I have never done yoga before?
Women who have done yoga before may have an advantage over other women – unless they’ve done a practice like Ashtanga which is not suitable for pregnancy. Pregnancy yoga is very different, and they may have to learn a new, much softer way of moving. In some ways being a complete beginner with no previous yoga habits is the greater advantage.
Yoga that is specifically helpful to pregnant women needs to go deep. It needs to be slow and meditative and take her on a deep journey into her own body. That experience needs to be repeated, regularly until the end of her pregnancy.
What are the other benefits of pregnancy yoga?
Inspiration is one of the main benefits of yoga. My own inspiration came from a great yoga teacher, Vanda Scaravelli. I met her personally and had some lessons with her, and I also studied for years with her closest student Sandra Sabatini, who is a font of inspiration for me. Like her, I work slowly and gently. When I feel I’ve given a good class it’s because I’ve succeeded in drawing the women to a deep place inside themselves.
If I’ve been able to do that, they feel great, energised and relaxed and they want to come back and do more.
I like to help each woman to go deep within, rather than learning a wide range of postures in a more external way.
The practise and the way of moving and being that they are embodying then sinks into their awareness and awakens the instinct for birthing that they already have.
Is yoga hard work?
All you need to do is turn up regularly for the class – ideally once a week – and enjoy it. The teacher will take you on a journey and lead the way so you can follow and relax into the positions. Its more about letting go and surrendering than trying or working hard. In fact, it should be easy and enjoyable – never painful or hard work!
It’s this approach to how I teach pregnant women, that brings ease and joy to pregnancy and makes the classes so empowering as preparation for birth.
Why are you so passionate about pregnancy yoga?
Yoga is an amazing way to prepare for an active birth, and an active birth is what a woman’s body is designed for. So, if you are doing work like yoga, then you are discovering and enjoying your body. Inevitably this will influence the way you give birth.
Yoga practise is personally empowering too, because it brings you to your inner core in a deep and focussed way, and there you find your truth and your voice. You become more grounded, more peaceful, and more centred. You can speak more easily about what you really want and who you really are. And what could be more appropriate, as you are becoming a mother!
Wishing you all the best
Founder of Active Birth & Pregnancy Yoga
You can find out more about Janet’s online Pregnancy Yoga classes here – all classes are live via Zoom.