This week's expert: Ginny Ross is a prenatal yoga teacher at Success Naturally in Springfield, and is a registered nurse and a doula (birth coach).
Q. Can pregnant women practice yoga?
A. Absolutely. It is highly recommended for pregnant women.
Labor and delivery nurses have told us that they can tell when women have done yoga because those women have good breath and body awareness.
Women who do yoga also tend to be calmer during birth and they push better because they are more aware of their bodies.
Q. In what ways can prenatal yoga be beneficial to pregnant women before, during and after birth?
A. Prenatal yoga:
- Calms both the body and mind.
- Strengthens the pelvic floor, which helps women push better during labor and helps their bodies return to normal after pregnancy.
- Increases body awareness.
- Helps women overcome negative feelings such as fear, worry and anxiety, which can slow down the labor process.
- Helps to relieve sinus conditions, which are common during pregnancy.
- Strengthens the nervous system.
- Can minimize and/or eliminate headaches and insomnia, which are common during pregnancy.
- Can help keep blood pressure at normal levels, which is particularly important during pregnancy.
- Makes women feel peaceful and serene.
Q. How does prenatal yoga differ from regular yoga? Are there certain poses or types of poses that pregnant women should not do?
A. In general, prenatal yoga is a gentler practice than regular yoga. It focuses on poses that strengthen the parts of women's bodies that are under strain during pregnancy, such as the lower back, or that will be under strain during labor, such as the pelvic floor. It also focuses more on relaxing or restorative poses.
It is important not to overextend your joints during pregnancy because the same hormones that prepare your body for delivery can make your knee, ankle and lumbar joints less stable. Therefore, it is important that yoga instructors help pregnant women with proper alignment and that pregnant women not push themselves too hard while in a pose.
It is also important for pregnant women to avoid poses in which they lie on their back. Instead, when they feel fatigued during pregnancy (which is normal), women should use side-lying restorative poses. Certain back poses are fine, however, provided that pillows and other props are used to maintain the body in a reclining position rather than a flat position. These reclining poses are also recommended for nausea and indigestion.
Q. Have you witnessed any women directly benefiting from doing prenatal yoga?
A. As a doula, I see amazing differences with women who use yoga. The main differences are how they breathe and how they are aware of their bodies. They respond to the need to change positions during labor.