An essay by Claire Palvetzian
Yoga is a spiritual and physical exercise that has many beneficial factors to the variety of individuals who engage in its practice. People of all ages, genders, and cultures are encouraged to participate in yoga not only for the physical activity aspect, but also for the well-rounded healthy lifestyle it promotes. In society women share many crucial roles, one of which is to bear healthy children. To do this, they need to eat well and take care of their bodies in which the developing child exists. Yoga has been proven to assist in the wellbeing of the growing foetus, as well as helping mothers through a successful birthing process.
Through the various postures and techniques of yoga, pregnant mothers can greatly benefit both physically and yoga postures can have many benefits applied to the pregnant mother as well as the unborn child. A growing fetus requires essential nutrients, constant blood flow, and protection. The postures of yoga including its many movements and various positions, encourages blood flow which transports much needed oxygen and blood through the mother to the baby. This allows the fetus to grow into a healthy baby.
Although it is a wonderful and beautiful process, the procedure of giving birth can sometimes be dangerous for the baby as well as for the mother. Mothers can suffer from complications during labour, which can lead to high blood pressure, mental stress, and further reproduction difficulties.
Certain precautions and lifestyle choices can be made by the mother in order to prevent this from happening. Eating properly, living a stress-free life, and most importantly, exercising, are all choices to reduce pregnancy related problems.
Women are discouraged, however, from lifting weights, or any other strenuous workouts in order to protect the baby from harm, therefore alternative forms of exercise are encouraged such as gentle, prenatal yoga.
A study done in India researched the effectiveness of yoga on pregnancy outcomes. Doctors enrolled 169 pregnant women in daily yoga classes, and 166 women in daily walks.
Results of all pregnancies were monitored and the results were as follows: pre-term labor was significantly lower in the yoga group, complications including intrauterine growth retardation, and pregnancy-induced hypertension were also significantly lower in the yoga group, and finally, the number of babies with birth weight under 2500 grams was higher in the yoga group (Shamanthakamani, 2005).
This study demonstrates that not only is yoga safe to practice while pregnant, but it should be encouraged to improve the well-being of the baby, as well as the mother.
In society today, I feel as though yoga is not targeted to pregnant mothers enough. These statistics from research studies prove that yoga is very beneficial, and should be promoted for everyone to participate, especially pregnant women. I believe that if women took their health into consideration while pregnant, and began practicing yoga, we would notice a powerful change in the health of the new generations of babies.
Another doctor who encourages yoga among pregnant women is Dr. Janet Balaskas. She is the author of the book, The Encyclopedia of Pregnancy and Birth, and wrote that, “The woman giving birth needs to learn to trust her body and its potential.” (Balaskas, J.) This sort of mentality is taught through yoga practice in that one must be able to trust their minds while meditating and exploring themselves. Balaskas also argues that a woman’s body is designed to give birth in an upright position in which the woman is squatting. To strengthen legs muscles without demanding workouts, a yoga-based program is recommended by Balaskas to “develop strength without overdoing it” (Balaskas, J.).
Stretching allows the body the move comfortably in all positions and would be beneficial for women giving birth when they are forced to use the strength of their legs and stomach. Strong abdominal muscles allow for a less forceful and smoother pushes when removing the baby from the woman’s uterus.
Evidence from scientific research and studies has proven that through the postures of yoga, pregnant mothers can assist themselves in the birthing process, as well as their growing baby.
Yoga can also have psychological benefits to expecting mothers. Due to raised levels of hormones, women can go through serious mood swings during pregnancy. These mood swings can cause mothers to feel self-conscious, unappreciated, and alone. Occasionally, prolonged mood swings can develop into mental disorders such as postpartum disorder, and severe depression.
A study done in Australia researched the perceived body image and psychological well-being between exercising and non-exercising pregnant women. Through self-reported questionnaires, research proved that the 25 exercising pregnant women found to have reduced frequency of somatic symptoms, anxiety, insomnia, and a higher level of psychological well being, compared to the 18 non-exercisers (Goodwin, 442). The exercises included activities such as yoga, walking, and swimming, which demonstrates that yoga can be very beneficial to the minds of pregnant women. Pregnant women face tremendous anxiety issues because their bodies are changing shape, they tend to gain more weight in places they are not used to, and therefore begin to develop confidence issues. This should be taken seriously because mothers have many responsibilities, and if their minds are not focused on their newborn children, they could bring harm to the baby and to themselves.
Yoga should be practiced after women give birth as well as before, to help the body get back to its normal state. The breathing techniques used in yoga exercises also teach expecting mothers how to relieve their anxiety and stress levels which is extremely important during the process of labor.
Deep, slow breaths lessen the stress on the heart and enhance the entire cardiovascular system. (Kappmeier, 39) This allows pregnant women to feel relaxed and stress free during the painful aspects of pregnancy. Practicing these breathing techniques before labor is especially important so that the body goes into a recognizable calm state that can be applied at any period of time.
The pranayama breath practiced in yoga is the breath that connects the mind and body with a shared consciousness (Kappmeier, 40). This allows the individual to focus on their breathing instead of the chatter in the mind, which in turn improves circulation, bringing more blood, oxygen, and fuel to the muscles, as well as enhancing concentration (Kappmeier, 40). This is a great breathing style for pregnant women because they will be able to learn how to clear their minds from stress or pressures of labor, and focus on their task. This research and these findings prove that yoga plays a crucial role in developing a strong mind in pregnant women.
In conclusion, the physical and spiritual practice of yoga is beneficial to all people of different cultures, genders, and ages. Yoga encourages a healthy body and the overall well being of the mind. Expecting mothers require both physical activity and mental stimulation, which is properly applied through the practice of yoga. Through the many studies and research, doctors have found that yoga is very profitable for pregnant women both before and after they give birth.
Through the various postures and techniques of yoga, pregnant mothers can greatly benefit both physically and mentally.
Balaskas J., Yehudi G. The Encyclopedia of Pregnancy and Birth. Retrieved from http://www.activebirthcentre.com
Goodwin, A. (2008) Body image and psychological well being in pregnancy: A comparison of exercisers and non-exercisers. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 40 (4), 442-447.
Kappmeier, K., Ambrosini, D. (2006). Instructing Hatha Yoga. USA: Versa Press.
Shamanthakamani N., Raghuram N., Vivek N., Sulochana
G., Hongasandra R. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. April 1, 2005, 11(2): 237-244. Doi: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.237