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Prenatal Yoga: More Than Relaxation
By Elizabeth Bonet

Prenatal yoga helps you during birth but even moreso before and after birth. During pregnancy, the breathing and body awareness help you stay connected to your changing body. The gentle stretches and poses develop strength and readiness for giving birth as well as improving your current physical health. Finally, the relaxation is so needed in our harried and stressful world.

Since so many changes are taking place in your body during pregnancy, prenatal yoga is a time to slow down and connect with the baby growing inside you. Yoga encourages you to be fully present and in the moment, a skill you will need as a parent as well.

Prenatal yoga also encourages you to tune into your body and really listen to what's going on, to accept the changes as positive growth. It helps to be surrounded by other women also going through pregnancy, to learn and to share with them.

Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
· Increase energy
· Decrease anxiety
· Strengthen birthing muscles
· Quicken postpartum recovery
· Improve sleep
· Reduce backache
· Improve circulation
· Increase chance of a healthy birth

Breathing for birthing
Yoga is a true complement to the birth process. A birthing woman has the choice to either fight her surges or to relax into them, to go with the flow of her body, letting it do its work. The task of yoga is similar in that while your body is working, you learn to relax into a pose, to find the peace that the pose offers.

During my classes, we also visualize birthing experiences so that women have positive images of birth to replace all the negative ones we are so inundated with in this culture. Women have the opportunity to picture their own perfect birth place and birth process. These images reduce fear about birth, which makes for a more relaxed birthing mama.

Many women use their yoga breathing when they’re in labor to help them stay focused as well as to release when needed. My yoga classes practice several different types of breathing: traditional yoga breath, a more open mouth breath, and some of the HypnoBirthing® visualization and breathing. Women can use them at various stages of labor to manage and reduce pain.

Easier post-partum recovery
After you have given birth, yoga remains a gentle exercise that is also beneficial for calming your mind. Practicing the poses you learned in prenatal yoga helps you gain back muscle tone and flexibility. Additionally, doing yoga post-partum keeps you in tune with your body as it once again goes through some radical changes.

Even if you're planning a cesarean, prenatal yoga can help you connect with your baby, keep muscle tone and manage pain during recovery from major abdominal surgery. I had an unplanned cesarean but was very grateful for my prenatal yoga. It allowed me to access muscles and move in ways that minimized pain and quickened the healing process. Yoga also helped me to accept a birthing process that did not go the way I intended.

Join a prenatal yoga class
To find a prenatal yoga class near you, contact a local yoga studio, do an internet search or browse local parenting magazines. Many studios integrate pregnant women into their regular classes, but those just for prenatal yoga offer opportunities to do yoga tailored to the prenatal period and to make friendships with other moms.

Find a teacher and a class where you feel accepted and encouraged during your pregnancy. Both your baby and you will benefit for years to come.

© Elizabeth Bonet

Elizabeth Bonet, Ph.D., is a freelance writer and prenatal yoga instructor who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with her daughter and husband. See more about her classes and who she is at or


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