5 reasons why prenatal yoga will serve you for life

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We often think that prenatal yoga, is only for when you’re pregnant. Of course right? It’s obvious, it’s in the title.

Yet, anyone is welcome to practice prenatal yoga and many who are not pregnant can benefit and enjoy it too! For example, my husband and his friend would join me during my first pregnancy. I’ve invited my mother and my sister-in-law to join classes with me, or follow the ones I teach online (and by the way, neither was pregnant or had the intention of being so!). The many benefits to prenatal yoga (breathwork, strengthening large muscle groups, the calming and grounding effect) are there for everyone, not just pregnant people.

However, my point in this week’s blog post is that not only can many people benefit from prenatal yoga, but is that what you learn in prenatal yoga, can serve you for after the pregnancy!

Prenatal Yoga helps for the birth preparation, and for after the birth during the postnatal period in many ways (another post for this!). What people don’t realise, is that what you learn during those 25-30 prenatal yoga classes (assuming you go once a week) can serve you for life.

Here are 5 ways how prenatal yoga can serve you for life:

#1 Teaches you how to relax.

Relaxation has come up a lot in my Yoga Bellies & Babies Podcast. Jennison Grigsby explained how her main tool to manage depression was rest. Frances Robertston-Richie talked a lot about conscious relaxation as a path to optimum health and wellbeing.

From a pregnancy and birth perspective, relaxation is important because:

  1. Babies grow in their sleep, and in our sleep!
  2. Healing happens when we sleep. When there is any risk, the mum is advised to go for bed-rest, not for a swim or a walk.

In Yoga however, relaxation is more than just sleep. It’s an active initiative to say ”I’m going to practice relaxation now”. It’s an actual productive activity, taking a slightly different, approach to ”I’m going to chill on the sofa watching Netflix” type of rest’. Note: No offence to anyone to goes for the latter option, I do too! Just be mindful that it’s not what I’m referring to as ”active relaxation”.

For example, relaxation is one of the foundations of hypnobirthing. In hypnobirthing you receive many guided relaxations and techniques to practice months in advance, in preparation for the birthing moment.

I wanted to try hypnobirthing during my first pregnancy. So a friend lent me this fantastic book. My partner and I read it once each, and we played the relaxations a few times. I thought to myself that when the moment came, I’d be able to slip into ”hypnobirthing mode” and just put it all into practice. Of course, I’m a yoga teacher, how hard can it be?

Well it was damn hard! After 17 hours of induced labour (i.e. contractions every 3 minutes), and me trying as much as I could do use my breath and whatever else I could remember from the book, I was still at 3 cm and nothing was happening apart from me (and everyone around me) getting more and more tired.

The nurses, very kindly told me that they respected my wish for having a natural labour, but I really needed to rest and relax, otherwise things could go worse very quickly. I appreciated their advice, took the morphine drug they suggested, and finally was able to relax. My brain knew, that all I need to do was relax to be able to dilate, but I couldn’t do it on my own, I needed the hospital drugs to help me relax. Thanks to that, in two hours I went from 3-9 cm.

With the second pregnancy, I took a different approach. I practiced. My partner practiced. We practiced together. We started practicing 3-4 months before the due date. We used all the tools we had from hypnobirthing and yoga. We regularly practiced relaxation in all kind of forms, from audio guided relaxations, to him reading me the relaxation, to the restorative poses.

And…..it worked! This time around I was able to fall asleep and doze off during contractions. It was an incredible feeling. So incredible that I even got worried about how I was drifting off so I called the midwife to come check on me! She said that because I was able to relax so well, my body was producing a more powerful painkiller than the morphine they gave me in hospital the first time round.

that was my proof.

Relaxation is a powerful tool. When the body and mind is relaxed it can work at its optimum and most efficient state. Whether its to birth a baby, or delivery your masters projects or create a piece of music. And, it required practice. Months of practice.

So then, what happens when you bring baby home? You don’t sleep, you’re physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and drained. The answer: active relaxation. It may no longer be 45 minute sessions, but it can be 60 seconds in between nappy changes and feeds. It might not be ”sleep when the baby sleeps”. We know that’s advisable but not always possible, so instead it can be ”lie down and breath for 5 minutes whilst baby is sleeping. This also does wonders for milk flow, and you can learn more about it from expert the Myrte van Lonkhuijsen.

And then, as baby grows, it’s important for them to see us being able to relax. Being a parent is intense. The opportunities to practice relaxation to the extent we did during our pregnancy may no longer be available, but we can still do it, for ourselves and our babies. Let them witness us practicing active rest, and invite them to join in too.

This tool will serve you for life.

***Deepen your knowledge in Prenatal Yoga by joining the Calm & Confident Membership***

#2 Awareness of the Pelvic Floor

I knew nothing about the pelvic floor until I took a Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training in my mid 20s. So I learned about the pelvic floor, and pelvic floor exercises (PFE) saw how valuable and important they were so I always included them in my prenatal classes. But to be honest, I never really practiced it myself, until I got pregnant.

I practiced PFE during my first pregnancy, I had my baby, and practiced again after giving birth. I felt good and thought I recovered pretty well. Then during the second pregnancy, I practiced less because I had less time (I now had a toddler to care for), and I still feel, two years later, a huge difference in the recovery of my pelvic floor. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t train my muscles enough, or if the change is simply greater after a second pregnancy, or both. Whatever the reason, it’s had an impact and all I know is that now I need to pee much more often than before!

The reason it’s important is because a weak pelvic floor can really impact us on a deeper level. I’ve personally been given these examples:

  • A friend who couldn’t help but pee themselves standing up a few days after giving birth. She was in the middle of a nappy change, couldn’t run to the bathroom in time so was left without a choice. Of course this can happen, but she felt embarrassment and ashamed.
  • A mum of 3 shared with me that how after the 3rd baby, she’d take a bath, and when coming out of the bath the water would just flow out and she’d continually be dripping bath water. And how she loved jumping on a trampoline but couldn’t do that anymore!
  • Another older lady who has a passion for travelling, confided in me that her lifestyle has had to change because she’s now afraid to go on long bus and train journeys because she needs to go to the toilet too often. It was making her depressed.

So, yes they are muscles, but the action of these muscles can impact our daily lives in many ways we don’t even realise.

We’ll talk more about how and why in another episode, but the awareness of the pelvic floor and PFE we start during prenatal yoga, can and should be carried on way after, and will also serve us for life!!

#3 Teaches you how to use the breath effectively

In any prenatal yoga class, there will be an element of breathwork. It might start with breath awareness and follow with breath control.

We know the benefits of working with the breath, and how this can be a very powerful tool, also equally dangerous tool when not used properly. And similarly to the relaxation, working with the breath can help regulate our nervous system. A balanced nervous system then allows the body to work at its peak performance and efficiency, you can again see how valuable this can be during the birth process.

So much so, that most hypnobirthing or antenatal courses, birth preparation courses will guide you through different breathing techniques during each stage of labour.

I’ll never forget how my midwife told me how to change the breath when I entered the last stage, the transition phase and had to start pushing my baby out.

Now, what about after the birth?

We’ve had the baby, and similarly to the relaxation…we drop these amazing tools we’ve been practicing for the last 6 months. Again, pick it up when you need. Take 1 minute to take 5 deep breaths. Take a breath in between activities.

I used to do this at work, when I was in an office with lots of meetings all day. Between one meeting an another. I quietly pause by the door, or the bathroom. Took 5 full deep breath. Thats about 1 min. The same approach works at home, with the children, or when you’re busy meeting people for coffee.

Use the breath, it’s a tool for life!

#4 Helps you recover quicker after birth

Prenatal yoga is of course used for the prenatal phase. Yet, what gets missed is that if you start practicing now, you’ll be able to recover better later. By recovering I don’t mean in terms of losing your weight and going back to your body quicker, but about recovering better from within and maintaining a healthy and strong body.

For example, if you’ve been practicing yoga during your pregnancy, you’re more likely to have trained the larger muscles in your physical body, like those in your arms, legs, glutes and back. Why?

Well because giving birth is an extremely physically intense process. I remember my whole body ached after the first baby. Not just the obvious bits like the vagina and the boobs, but my shoulders, arms, and legs where aching as if I’d just ran a marathon (which I’ve never done) or been at the most insane gym class.

Yet, I recovered quickly! My midwife was surprised, and I gave the credit to my regular yoga practice.

It doesn’t stop there. Because then you have to carrying a little one around you, who very quickly starts becoming heavier, and that takes its toll on you physically. So preparation, like anything is key. So, learning how to training those muscles during prenatal yoga, will serve you for birth and way after!

#5 Shows you how to connect with others in a new way

Finding out your pregnant can be exciting and scary. We can share the news with our friends and family as much as we want, but sometimes we may still feel alone.

There are so many moments when you’re thinking ”is this normal?” ” should I be feeling this” and then before you know if you’re up at 3am googling your or your babies’ symptom.

When you join a prenatal or postnatal yoga class, you realize you are not alone. We can share our thoughts and feelings with our partners, our parents and relatives, who may have the experience, but are not going through it the way you are.

Something strange happens during this phase. You are now able to connect with strangers on another level. You might not even know their surname, but you know how they’re feeling. This happens when:

  • When you’re alone in a cafe with your baby, and struggling to cut your sandwich, and a stranger comes over and offer to help.
  • When you’re pregnant and walking down the street, and another pregnant person looks at you, you make eye contact and you smile at each other secretly knowing what’s going on.
  • When you’re flying alone with your baby, and need to go for a pee, so the kind mum sitting next to you offers to hold your baby so you can go to the toilet in peace.
All these things happen without words.

These connections with people who on the outside are random, but can immediately feel and connect with you, because they know what it’s like, are invaluable.

We learn to make these connections in a group, a prenatal or postnatal group, such as a yoga class. It doesn’t matter if its online or in person, but we are sharing a common moment with people going through the same things as us at the same time, which opens us to a way of connecting with people for life.

And thanks to this last point, I’m adding a new element to my Yoga offerings. Since December 2022 Krish Yoga will have a Perinatal Emotional and Mental Health Coach joining the team, Helen Wright.

***Deepen your knowledge in Prenatal Yoga by joining the Calm & Confident Membership***

Thank you for listening!
Free Prenatal Yoga Guide