Pregnancy yoga benefits for childbirth and beyond

Whether you choose yoga for pregnancy classes or decide to practise prenatal yoga from home using one of the growing series of pregnancy yoga videos that are available on YouTube; Yoga is a wonderful way to bond with your growing baby, keeping your body strong and flexible, prepare your body for the birth and develop a state of inner calmness. It is also a lovely way to meet new friends. Here is my pregnancy yoga story and the reasons why I am such an advocate of pregnancy yoga.

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It came as no surprise that pregnancy yoga became such an important part of my natural childbirth story. Yoga has been part of my life since I was a child. I was fascinated by my mum’s yoga books and by the time I was a teenager they had migrated up to my bedroom. After my brother died, yoga classes were one of the few things that got me out of the house – there were very few yoga classes in my local area and so I had to join a class for over 40s (I was 17 at the time). At university, I surprised the admissions nurse when I told her I practised yoga every day for a full hour. I also fell in love with Bikram hot yoga, ashtanga and kundalini. During one of the Bikram classes, my instructor led us in a pelvic tilt – it didn’t feel right. He asked me if I was currently menstruating – I explained that I wasn’t. He suggested that I sit that exercise out. Within days a sudden bout of sickness paired with heavy, tender boobs prompted me to take a pregnancy test. It was positive, I was overjoyed… I was also unable to return to Bikram. In fact, I left Scotland and returned to England to be near my parents much to the chagrin of my university teachers.

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After a little research, I was able to find a yoga class within 10 miles of my house. I was hoping for some gentle exercise to keep me healthy throughout my pregnancy but what I actually got was so much more.

Through the classes I met a group of wonderful like-minded people who were all due to have babies at a similar time to myself. 13 years later and a couple of us are still firm friends. As a young mum, I found this support invaluable.

I also met our wonderful instructor, Marilyn who spoke so passionately about active birth, owning your birthing experience and tapping into your instincts to enjoy an intuitive birth. This wasn’t just some hippy-dippy mumbo jumbo. Marilyn used a full-sized model pelvis to demonstrate how lying flat on your back restricts the movement of the coccyx. Her methods were based on her own birthing experiences, attending the births of friends and family and years of devoted learning. Marilyn herself had been inspired by active birth educators such as Janet Balaskas and Sheila Kitzinger. Marilyn’s support, inspiration and encouragement meant that I had a joyous birthing experience myself and went on to teach pregnancy and childbirth classes in children’s centres and ultimately to devote years of my life to researching and writing my first non-fiction book The Natural Baby.

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Practising pregnancy yoga not only gave me a new found confidence in my body, in its strengths and abilities but it also made me feel completely in control. It allowed me to have a depth of faith in my own body, that I hadn’t felt before. I feel like modern life has so many of us trying to block out the signals that our body is telling us. If we are tired we caffeine it up, if we are in pain we knock back analgesics, we ignore hunger pangs and so many of us ignore the signs of ill health until they are out of control. Taking the time to slow down, to breathe and to truly connect with your body, to feel its limitations and strengths is such a wonderful experience. It is something that I truly believe we should practise for life. It really helped me to own my labour experience, but this love of yoga is something that has continued right through the healing of the post-partum period and as my daughter has grown. Now she is in her teens and we still have great friends who I met in that pregnancy yoga class. In fact, we went for a curry just a few weeks back and from nervous women with glorious bumps, it was joyful to see that we had evolved into a room full of families. The children are all beautiful and had their own table, their own conversations and plenty of laughter. I am still grateful to those pregnancy yoga classes for bringing this treasured friendships into our lives. There is something especially beautiful about friends you’ve known since birth.

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For pregnancy yoga videos so that you can practise pregnancy yoga at home in safety and comfort, there is a series of prenatal yoga routines on the Natural Mumma YouTube channel.

There are numerous benefits of prenatal yoga and preparing for labour is just one of them. Whether you opt for actual yoga for pregnancy classes or decide to practise pregnancy yoga at home, you should always consult your medical practitioner before doing any exercise. Opting to attend a class is a wonderful way to meet other expectant mums but it can prove costly. If you like to exercise alone, then there are lots of wonderful pregnancy yoga videos around.

You can read my story here: From teenage pregnancy to international author; how I turned my life around.

You can watch me sharing my story and tips for active birth here.

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