Pregnancy comes with its problems -- backaches, morning sickness and shortness of breath, to name a few. If you're looking for a way to ease these symptoms, you need look no further than yoga. Regular yoga practice will help not only your body, but your mind as well -- and it offers a chance to meet other mothers-to-be. Read on to learn more about the benefits of practising yoga during pregnancy -- and how to do it right.
Yoga -- right for everyone
You don't need to be a practising yogini to reap the benefits of prenatal yoga -- classes are open to anyone, even if you've never tried yoga before (although if you are a beginner, you should probably wait until the second trimester). This means that you may find people with a wide range of yoga experience in a prenatal yoga class. But this shouldn't be a problem, says Christine Reeves, head of the prenatal and postnatal yoga program at The Yoga Studio in Toronto. "Any well-trained prenatal teacher should be able to adapt the class both for beginners and more experienced students," she says.
As far as health goes, remember that it's your responsibility to keep the instructor informed of any issues with your pregnancy -- for instance, says Reeves, "in the third trimester the teacher needs to know if the baby's in the right position." Know what's going on with your pregnancy, and share that information with your instructor. It's also a good idea to let your doctor know about your yoga practice.
Help your body adjust
"Yoga is a perfect fit for pregnancy," says Reeves. "It helps prepare the body for birth and helps you recover afterward." Pregnant women need to be in good shape, she says. With regular yoga practice, you will strengthen and stretch your muscles, preparing your body for birth. You will also improve postural alignment, helping to prevent backache due to the added weight of the baby and larger breasts. Other physical benefits include better circulation and breathing. "We do lots of breathing techniques that help women find pockets of breathing space in their lungs that they might not normally utilize," Reeves says.
Centre your mind
Meditation has myriad health benefits, including stress relief and increased mental focus. Through practising yoga and meditation, you will improve your focus and learn to relax during labour as well as to cope with any stress that arises, whether during pregnancy or after the baby is born. "There are a lot of fears and worries that pregnant women deal with," says Reeves. "Yoga gives them the tools to be able to cope."
Meet new friends
It's not uncommon for a woman to feel isolated during pregnancy, even confused by the changes going on in her body. By attending a prenatal yoga class, you can meet other women who are going through the same life changes you are -- mentally, physically and emotionally. Participants "get to meet other women," says Reeves, "we talk in class, they realize that what's happening to them is happening to all of them, they meet friends who are going through the same things. Women have made lifelong friends during pregnancy and childbirth."
Page 1 of 2 -- Find yoga books, DVDs and other resources on page 2
How to find an instructor
It's always important to find a good, qualified yoga instructor -- but it's essential during pregnancy. First, says Reeves, the instructor should be a yoga teacher, with a minimum of a 200-hour yoga certification. Second, they need to have taken some sort of training that adapts yoga teaching for prenatal -- and the more training, the better. "Just being a yoga teacher and having a baby doesn't prepare them enough," says Reeves, who teaches a 60-hour pre- and postnatal advanced teacher training course at The Yoga Studio. "They don't have to have had a baby, but they do need to have had training above the regular training." Don't be afraid to ask potential teachers about their qualifications -- you want to work with someone you can trust. And make sure that the teacher -- and the style of class she teaches -- are a good fit for you. Shop around -- most studios should offer a trial class.
Prenatal yoga is increasing in popularity -- Reeves herself teaches more than 80 women a week -- and classes should be available in most major cities across the country. But if you live in a more rural area and can't find a prenatal yoga class, she recommends checking out your local community centre for prenatal fitness classes. Or try out Prenatal Yoga with Shiva Rea (recommended below) -- but make sure to do it under the guidance of your doctor.
Pregnancy is a lot to deal with, and yoga can help you through the changes happening in your body. Reeves recommends looking for a prenatal yoga class as soon as you find out you're pregnant. "You've got nine months to take in this life transition," she says. "Taking a class will enhance your experience."
DVD: Prenatal Yoga with Shiva Rea
"This is a very acceptable, safe one to be doing," says Reeves. "If you're not with a teacher, check with your doctor to make sure there are no unusual things happening in your pregnancy."
Book: Preparing for Birth with Yoga by Janet Balaskas
"This is a wonderful read," says Reeves, "the best one on the market." It contains information about pregnancy and birth in general as well as yoga specifically.
Book: Yoga for Pregnancy by Sandra Jordan
This book is heavy on the photos but light on the explanation -- a great complement to the book above.
Classes across Canada
Here are some of the studios across the country that offer classes in prenatal yoga. If your city isn't listed, that doesn't mean there aren't classes available there -- try searching online for a local studio.
Now & Zen
Therapeutic Approach Yoga Studio
Upward Dog Yoga Centre
The Yoga Studio
Page 2 of 2