Embracing Pregnancy with Pre-natal Yoga

Photo courtesy of Michael Robinson-Chavez

By Tara Stivers, CYC Yoga Teacher

Being a mother means being a nurturer. Pre-natal yoga provides a setting for mothers-to-be to develop nurturing skills by practicing on ourselves, caring for our own physical and emotional health, and for one another as we prepare for this life-changing experience. Just as we must put on our own oxygen mask in an airplane before helping our children, so must we as mothers practice the loving kindness and empathy required for parenting by developing a loving, patient and flexible attitude toward the myriad of changes that pregnancy brings in our lives.

In our Pre-natal class at Camarillo Yoga Center, women in various stages of pregnancy arrive and settle in, some attending their very first yoga class (for many, yoga practice begins during pregnancy.) The first part of class is set aside for sharing and support. Some women share feelings of awe in growing another person; others lament their physical challenges and changing emotions. Most feel relief in knowing they aren’t alone in their experiences.

Mothers are then guided into the physical yoga practice, ending with an extended period of relaxation. Throughout the class, the teacher encourages mothers’ connection with their babies and mindfulness of the amazing transformation taking place within their bodies. Among various forms of exercise, physical yoga practice is uniquely suited to pregnancy precisely because of the aspect of mindfulness that includes the baby, instead of exercising despite the fact of pregnancy.

Benefits of Yoga Practice During Pregnancy Include:

Strength. Pregnancy brings hormone changes that relax the joints and smooth muscle. Yoga helps maintain muscle strength to protect the joints and promote good posture, supporting your changing pregnant body. Pregnancy-friendly poses help develop strong muscles that are helpful during labor and birth.

Comfort and flexibility. Sharing your body is a new experience! Poses adapted to pregnancy are designed to help alleviate common physical challenges, such as hip and low back discomfort, sciatic nerve pain, difficulty breathing, heartburn, swelling and carpal tunnel symptoms. Safe slow stretching helps alleviate tension that may contribute to discomfort.

Relaxation and coping skills. A key part of any prenatal yoga practice is breath awareness. Many women claim this to be their greatest resource during labor. Breathing practice nourishes your baby and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby reducing fear and tension, which can make for an easier labor. In prenatal yoga, more time is usually spent in savasana – or relaxation at the end of class – than in a traditional yoga class. Guided relaxation and positive affirmations are used as mental preparation for labor.

Body awareness. Women have birthed babies since the beginning of time by listening to their bodies. Through yoga practice, you will identify and respond to discomfort – which becomes helpful during labor, where following your instincts to move becomes a powerful coping mechanism. Prenatal yoga can help you embrace your changing body, trust your ability to birth, and surrender to the process that is, for the most part, beyond your control (another great skill to have during motherhood!)

A safe form of exercise. Some traditional yoga poses are contraindicated during pregnancy, and a more gentle yoga practice may be best for you and your baby. Experienced yogis will learn which poses should be avoided during pregnancy, as well as alternative poses should they continue to participate in a regular yoga class. (Be sure to let any yoga teacher know that you are pregnant!)

Time to connect with your baby. Studies show that stress can negatively impact pregnancy and affect birth outcomes. Taking time each day to focus on simply spending time and relaxing with your baby, while leaving the events of the day aside, can be a wonderful gift for both of your physical and emotional health. Prenatal yoga sets aside time for just this – bringing awareness to the miracle of growing a little person who is very lucky to have you!

Sisterhood. Prenatal yoga classes provide a place to lend and receive support from other women making the same journey. This is a place where slowing down and taking it easy on a more challenging day is comfortable and accepted, and where processing emotions is welcome. Pre-natal yoga is often a place where friendships are formed, which continue through birth and into raising children together.

Yoga practice during pregnancy helps you tap into the innate strength and wisdom your body possesses to grow and bring your baby into the world, regardless of how your birth unfolds. Pre-natal yoga provides a safe place to practice, where slowing down and adapting to your physical changes is part of the process.

In a world where the pregnancy and birth experience can be overwhelmed by technology, interventions and an abundance of information, prenatal yoga offers the opportunity to reconnect with your body and your baby, and to find respite from anxiety or fear. Pre-natal yoga supports you to enjoy a positive pregnancy and birth experience!

Tara Stivers

Tara Stivers, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Certified Childbirth Educator, leads the Pre-natal Yoga, Infant Massage and Breastfeeding Support Classes at the Camarillo Yoga Center. She stepped into her first yoga class while pregnant 14 years ago, and continues to enjoy the friendship of her fellow “Yoga Moms”.

 Pre-natal yoga is offered weekly at Camarillo Yoga Center, as well as a quarterly Active Birth Workshop designed for couples.

Learn more about our Pre-natal Classes



Support is also provided after baby arrives!

Join us for our Baby Yoga & Infant Massage classes and our Breastfeeding Support Group.