September is National Yoga Month and as advocates for a healthy pregnancy and birth, we couldn't love yoga any more! Yoga is an exercise that can be done at any time during pregnancy and after birth, and works well with all levels of physical ability. Time and again, research has proven the many benefits of practicing yoga. Today I'm sharing with you how the benefits that affect everyone can benefit you during pregnancy.
Based on the top 10 reasons to practice yoga from Yoga Alliance, the following are 10 ways yoga can help you during pregnancy.
Stress relief - Life can feel stressful, and unfortunately, pregnancy can add an extra layer of stress. We have recently begun to learn that high stress in pregnancy can cause increased risks like premature birth and a baby with low birth weight. A regular yoga practice (think 1-2 times per week) can help you reduce feelings of stress, which is helpful for you and your baby's health!
Pain relief - Yoga has been shown to reduce both physical and emotional pain, both of which can show up throughout pregnancy. Yoga may be able to ease the physical pains you experience from pregnancy, like muscle and joint soreness, and chronic health conditions like arthritis, as well as emotional pain, like anxiety, stress, and mood disorders.
Better breathing - Yoga teaches you how to breathe -- like, really breathe. Breathe so deep that you can practically feel all of the cells in your body receiving oxygen. Learning how to breathe through yoga will allow you to access that kind of breathing at any time, which will help you bring on feelings of relaxation and release of tension whenever you need it. This is helpful throughout pregnancy and in labor.
Flexibility - As your body shape and weight change during pregnancy, specifically where you carry your weight, your body's alignment can get thrown off, which can cause certain muscle groups to become uncomfortably tight. Regular yoga can help maintain or increase your flexibility, with a specific focus on alignment and stretching.
Increased strength - Yoga increases all over body strength as you hold different postures throughout the practice. Muscle strength is important during pregnancy to help prevent injuries and comfortably carry your growing body, and in labor to increase your ability to find comfort by using and holding different kinds of positions for labor and birth.
Weight management - Yoga can also help with weight management as well as encourage healthy eating habits, both of which are important for a healthy pregnancy.
Improved circulation - Poor circulation is a common problem in pregnancy and often shows up as swollen hands and feet and/or varicose veins. Yoga postures in a regular practice helps improve blood flow and moves oxygenated blood more efficiently to the body's cells.
Cardiovascular conditioning - Most people don't think of yoga as a cardiovascular workout, but even gentle yoga can have cardio benefits, like lowering your resting heart rate, increasing endurance, and improving oxygen uptake. Since pregnancy puts stress on the heart and cardiovascular system, exercise like yoga can have powerful counteractive benefits.
Focus on the present - Mindfulness and the ability to focus on the present moment aren't just gimmicks -- they help combat stress and fatigue, and improve concentration and memory (goodbye, pregnancy brain!). So much of pregnancy seems to focus on the "what's next" -- it's helpful to be able to slow down and spend time in "just this moment."
Inner peace - Similar to the ability to focus on the present, finding "inner peace" through a regular yoga practice (it's a real thing!) helps you find peace and comfort with yourself, your life, and your unique set of circumstances, which in turn can help lower your anxiety, stress, and improve your mood.