Author: Patrick Attlee
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice dating back five thousand years. The word itself comes from the ancient Sanskrit word for "union".The benefits of regular yoga practice are many. Chief benefits include relaxation, normalization of body weight, improved balance, improved flexibility and muscle tone and increased energy.
People often ask if yoga is appropriate during pregnancy. As long as simple precautions and common sense are followed, prenatal yoga is a fantastic way of staying fit during your pregnancy and will help prepare you for labor.
Without doubt the most important thing to remember when performing yoga poses is to breathe. Few us breathe properly today, we are very uptight and constricted as a rule and tend to breathe from our chests. If you look at a sleeping baby, you will see her tummy rise and fall - this is where we have forgotten to breathe from. Yoga breathing fixes this, thereby relieving tension and ensuring that oxygen rich blood is circulating in your body which is obviously very beneficial for your baby. Yoga breathing can also make your labor much more manageable. When my wife was recently giving birth to our daughter, yoga breathing techniques were central to her strategy. She gave birth without any drugs, gas or air.
As with any physical exercise, you need to take general precautions when you are pregnant. It is recommended not to perform any postures that require you to lie on your back for longer than a few minutes, especially after the first trimester. Unless you are accustomed to inversion postures, you should not practice them while pregnant. Deep forward or back bends may also not be appropriate, as they may put too much strain on the abdominal muscles. As with everything associated with pregnancy, listen to your body at all times and do not push yourself. You should finish a yoga session in a state of deep relaxation, not heading for the freezer to get an ice pack!
As your body changes in each trimester, you will want to adapt your yoga practice accordingly. In the first trimester, it will likely be possible to perform poses that involve deeper stretching. Standing postures are very beneficial as they will strengthen your legs and improve your circulation. Spine twisting postures may also be practiced. In the second and third trimesters you may want to look ato postures that will help open your hips, for example, Triangle Posture. At this point you should take with your back and forward bends. The key is at all times to listen to your body and work with your breath. Once your breathing is out of control while in a posture you are not receiving any benefits. Back off until your breath returns to normal. Yoga is not about how deep you go, someone in the full expression of the posture will be getting just the same benefits as someone who is only in the first 5 percent of a pose but is working up to their limit.
There are lots of resources that can help you embark on a safe prenatal yoga program from DVDs to books to online articles. With their help you can find a practice that is right for you and your baby.
Patrick Attlee blogs on all aspects of Yoga. You can learn more about pregnancy yoga at www.pregnancy-yoga.com