A healthy and joyful pregnancy can be hard work but pre-natal yoga can bring many health benefits, says Dr Ashwini Gaddikeri, Specialist Gynaecologist at Burjeel Medical Center.
Yoga is a commonly-known generic term for the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India with a view to attaining permanent peace.
It is practised in many different ways all over the world. Yoga has also been popularly defined as a “union with the divine”.
Apart from the spiritual goals, the physical postures of yoga are used to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple. Yoga is also used as a complete exercise programme and physical therapy routine.
Prenatal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centring and focused breathing. Research suggests that prenatal yoga is safe and can have many benefits for pregnant women and their babies.
Research suggests that prenatal yoga can:
- Improve sleep
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
- Decrease lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, headaches
- When paired with a cardiovascular exercise such as walking or swimming, yoga can be an ideal way to stay in shape during your pregnancy. This age-old practice keeps you limber, tones your muscles, and improves your balance and circulation; with little, if any impact on your joints.
Prenatal yoga can also help you meet and bond with other expectant mothers and prepare for the stress of being a new parent.
Being in a positive, supportive environment with others can give you a regular emotional boost and keep you motivated to continue exercising.
Yoga also works because it helps you learn to breathe deeply and relax, which will help during labour, birth, and motherhood. A regular yoga practice will help you fight the urge to tighten up when you feel pain, and show you how to relax instead.
Along these same lines, according to a report in the Harvard Mental Health Letter, rigorous studies have found scientific proof that yoga helps the body deal with stress by slowing heart and breathing rates and lowering blood pressure, which can benefit new mums after the baby is born, too.
As with any exercise, you need to take certain general precautions when you’re pregnant.
- Consult your obstetrician before starting any form of exercise.
- Always have an instructor who is trained in Prenatal Yoga.
- Keep yourself well hydrated.
- Avoid overheating. Wear loose clothes.
- Skip positions that stretch the abdominal muscles too much
- Discontinue at once if you experience pain in your abdomen or bleeding. Rush to your doctor immediately.
Prenatal yoga can be started from the time you become pregnant, and can be continued until the day of delivery. Have a joyful and a healthy pregnancy and afterwards…
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1. Birdee, Gurjeet S. et al. Characteristics of Yoga Users: Results of a National Survey. Journal of General Internal Medicine. October 2008, Volume 23 Issue 10. p1653–1658
2. “Yoga could be good for heart disease. Simultaneous focus on body, breathing, and mind may be just what the doctor ordered”. (2010). Harvard Heart Letter: From Harvard Medical School, 21(3), 5. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.