Yoga, Baby!

The Benefits of Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga

By Annie Damsky, Villager Yoga

The journey into pregnancy and motherhood is filled with variety of emotions. There is excitement and anxiety, joy and fear, wonder and confusion, and so much more. It is hard to find a clear and present moment to acknowledge and get comfortable with the simple truth that your body and your life are changing. In a grand sense, yoga is about being connected, comfortably, to your body, mind, and heart in a way that does not call for decision making and analysis. It is about finding a stillness in spite of chaos, comfort within discomfort, quiet amid the chatter. Prenatal and postpartum yoga will first and foremost help you find comfort and ease while you celebrate and cherish the growth of your family.

Prioritizing your self-care during pregnancy is critical. Yoga offers you the opportunity to connect to your strength, flexibility, steadiness, and ease. It is a wonderful way to stay active during your pregnancy and gives you the opportunity to bond with baby while connecting with physical, mental and emotional changes. Here are some of the many benefits commonly experienced in prenatal and postpartum yoga:

The Physical Benefits

Prenatal comfort and strength
Comfort during pregnancy requires a fine balance of stability and openness. Prenatal Yoga focuses on increasing strength in the trunk of the body, flexibility, and joint health, while also safely releasing the ligaments and soft tissue surrounding baby’s home. It is amazing how a few minutes each day can alleviate those sharp growing pains.

Postpartum comfort and strength
Once baby is in your arms, the shift of weight distribution in the body is dramatic. The upper body immediately takes on the bulk of effort, while the lower body is recovering from the effort asked of it for the past nine months. Postpartum yoga focuses on bringing release to the shoulders, neck, and upper back while reacquainting you with the foundational support functions of the pelvic floor, abdominal, and back muscles.

Calming effects
It can be very unsettling when you are not fully in control of what is happening around you or even in your own body. Establishing an awareness of your center helps you to navigate your space when life is physically or emotionally intense. By practicing yoga regularly, you will more readily access your center when chaos creeps in and around you.

Relieving fluid retention and swelling
Sequences and postures specific to circulation and joint decompression contribute greatly to reducing swelling and achiness in the feet, legs and hands.

Improving posture of your changing body
Sitting and standing “smart” help you to breathe more easily and find comfort for your back and hips. Your posture also affects the expansion of your rib cage and the balance of your pelvis and sacrum. The ability for your rib cage to expand with ease and the stability and neutrality of your pelvis contribute to helping baby move into the optimal position for delivery, and to helping you return evenness to your hips postpartum.

The Mental Benefits

Building stamina and focus needed for labor, birth, and parenting
There is really no way to simulate the intensity and frequency of labor contractions, or listening to your new baby cry. Everyone’s experience is unique. However, the key is to develop your tools for focus and stamina to maintain your steadiness and ease. We move into postures that activate intense sensation in order to engage with those tools.

Balancing energy while aiding sleep
Sounds nice, right? Getting more sleep—and better sleep? Yoga will help you to balance your energy, to let go of excess energy from nerves, excitement, and hormones! Hormones have a real effect on your capacity to focus. During my pregnancy, I found that the tools I developed in yoga helped me to fall back asleep more easily after getting up for the bathroom or to feed baby.

The Emotional Benefits

Developing breathing and relaxation techniques for calming during labor, birth, and parenting
Breathing exercises learned in a yoga class are specific to laboring, pushing, and strengthening and releasing the pelvic floor. However, these techniques, in addition to restorative yoga postures, will nourish you through deep relaxation for mental and emotional clarity, as well as hormone and energy balancing to help you find steadiness, ease, and stamina to nurture your growing child and family.

Providing a supportive atmosphere to meet other new moms and to share your experiences
At my studio, my goal is to create a community environment where you are able to lean on others’ experiences—both the positives and the challenges—and help other moms navigate the road ahead. It’s a chance to give yourself permission to both enjoy and to curse your pregnancy as needed!

When to Start

You may start practicing prenatal yoga at any stage in your pregnancy. Many women will start around 14 weeks when energy levels lift a bit, nausea has (hopefully) subsided, and they are more public with their pregnancy. However, I also see a lot of moms that begin in their third trimester, as there is little else that can provide physical comfort. As the reality starts setting in that labor and delivery is on the horizon, they begin to focus on preparation for the final stretch. Postpartum, you may return to yoga as soon as your doctor clears you for exercise.

There is a wide variety of experience in prenatal and postpartum yoga classes; a majority of women are coming to yoga for the first time, or for the first time in a long time. These classes are ideal for all levels. You are already tuning into your body more deeply, making pregnancy a wonderful time to discover a yoga practice! If you are a regular yoga practitioner, these classes will offer you a new perspective on your practice, as you are truly putting yourself in your present moment by bringing awareness to specific ways the body supports the growth of baby.

I invite you to try it for yourself with me at Villager Yoga!

Prenatal Yoga, Tuesdays, 6:00 – 7:15 pm
Prenatal Yoga, Saturdays, 10:00 – 11:15 am
Parent & Baby Postpartum Yoga, Wednesdays, 11:30 am – 12:15 pm

Visit villageryoga.com to stay up to date on new classes and workshops.

Annie Damsky is the owner of Villager Yoga, a studio that offers yoga for the whole family, located on Overton Road in Mountain Brook/Cahaba Heights area. She is certified to teach prenatal yoga, kids yoga, and grown-up yoga, and she has been sharing the practice of yoga with the community since 2009. Find her at villageryoga.com, at Facebook.com/VillagerYoga and on Instagram and Twitter @villageryoga.

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