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Yoga & Pregnancy

by Claire Murphy

The practice of yoga has grown in popularity enormously in the west. Not that yoga is anything new, having been around since 500BC, originating in India. Role models such as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, with yoga mats under their arms photographed arriving and leaving their yoga classes has contributed enormously to this growth.
Generally yoga has peaks in terms of being tried out for the first time. Each January sees a boom in demand as most individuals start their New Year campaign of getting fit and feeling healthier. The other time it is tried is during pregnancy.

Most women come to an ante-natal yoga class usually having read an article which promotes it as a healthy practice during pregnancy or by referral from other women at hospital sessions. Yoga can promote many benefits to the pregnant woman. In class we focus on:

An everyday occurrence that many of us take for granted but essential for the vitality of life of both mother and baby. Women are encouraged to find their own rhythm instead of following that of someone else (or set breathing patterns which were prescribed many years ago!).

The rhythm of labour is as individual as each of us and therefore it is crucial that they are able to find a way of breathing which feels comfortable and relaxing.

The asanas (postures) of yoga are modified to suit pregnancy. They provide a framework in which the woman can safely stretch and create a sense of space within. Encouraging postural alignment and an increase in circulation throughout the body ensures a healthy nervous system as well as encouraging the building of strength and stamina in parts of the body, which we rely on during labour.

The postures of yoga lend themselves to birthing positions perfectly, making use of gravity as well as knowing how to use the body intuitively to encourage the birth of baby.

Focused Relaxation
An essential component of any yoga practice, relaxation promotes the absorption of the energy that the practice has developed. In addition it provides the perfect space for any healing, if necessary, to take place. Understanding how to release tension during pregnancy enables the woman to tap into these resources whilst in labour ensuring that tension and holding-on doesn't happen at a time when we need our own hormones and endorphins to allow us to release and surrender. Naturally, relaxation is also about undisturbed 'me'  time in which the women have an opportunity to be with their babies and encourage the bonding process further.

Birth Art
The use of art is also an element that creates amazing results. A birth art session is held every couple of months during which the women are able to be creative with paint in order to express any aspect of their pregnancy or up-coming birth. Occasionally these sessions also serve as an opportunity for some women to release a previous birth experience in a way that words have been unable to.

The Classes
The ante-natal sessions are extremely open and friendly. Many friendships have been forged over the years, which have extended well into the post-natal period and beyond. The openness and sense of safety of the classes lends itself superbly to the opportunity of being able to discuss anything that may be concerning members of the group or to be able to talk through general pregnancy/birth issues.

There is of course much celebration when babies are born and there are opportunities to meet and greet mums with babies both in the classes and at post-natal reunions every few months or so.

About Claire
I have been teaching yoga for about 15 years, having trained with the Yoga for Health Foundation in both General and Remedial teaching (of which pregnancy was a module). It was some years before I started to run separate ante-natal sessions and now I can't imagine teaching any other way! Additionally I have trained in Active Birth with Janet Balaskas and attended numerous trainings and study days associated with ante-natal care. This continuity in training has led to me applying for midwifery training in 2006.

I am married and have two daughters who have embraced birth as a natural, wonderful event in a woman's life. They often play waterbirth scenarios with their dolls and teddies and it is so encouraging that they have the belief that birth is normal and not something dreadful that a woman has to endure.

For more information about Claire's classes do call her on 07980 415698 or visit her website at www.esprit-yoga.com