Prenatal Yoga Makes Labor, Delivery, Postpartum Easier
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
This is a story of Kate Magee, who recently gave birth to her second child, Jane Iris. During Kate’s first pregnancy she was very active with cardio and fitness routines and didn’t seem to have any problems. But the second pregnancy was different. From the start, she experienced morning sickness and exhaustion, and her hormones levels were not optimal. On the recommendation of a friend, she started classes at Alcove Yoga.
Every woman comes to pregnancy with her own experiences and unique personality. Kate describes herself as "a competitive person by nature." She is tough, athletic, and driven to excel. Her cardio and weight routine were not feeling right to her anymore, but she didn’t want to be sedentary.
For students like Kate I know my job is to help find relief for nausea and calm the nervous system. Then teach a sequence of asanas (yoga postures) that will bring a physical challenge and mental cleansing.
Asanas (postures) taught in the Iyengar method are infinitely challenging. Once you get into the posture, you have to become strong and steady so stillness is possible. We work the body structures to relieve aches and pains, increase strength and suppleness, and enhance the ability to concentrate the mind and go inward. Yoga eases anxiety and tension. It takes one out of the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system and into the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system. The practice of yoga during pregnancy leads to the ability to enter a meditative state during labor and delivery.
For someone like Kate, who has a lot of physical preparedness, the emphasis is on deeper work in smaller muscle groups, more opening of large muscles, relaxation of the sense organs, breath awareness, and bringing the mind to a meditative state. All these would be in addition to perfecting each asana and increasing her time in it.
Not all pregnant students are like Kate. At Alcove Yoga we have a range of students; some have never done yoga at all. In our small classes we address each one’s individual needs to perform the asana to the best of her ability at her current stage.
Props are used to prod, promote and support the practitioner in yoga postures. Some persons require more external support because they lack flexibility; or to make the pose more intense; to work more deeply in a particular area of the body. Often we use props to support a long holding of a posture, for maximum benefit. For these and other reasons, we provide blocks, a wall, or a chair, and so many other things.
Using props allows persons of very different states of fitness to be taught together in the same class. For pregnant women, the props also help to create more space in the torso, reduce exhaustion, and promote easier breathing. Pregnant women need to work to build strength without increasing the heartbeat and blood pressure and build flexibility without overworking their hormonally relaxed joints. You can read about props here.
For those less physically capable, we use a “touch and go” approach. We give the instructions to get into the postures. The woman makes an attempt at the asana and works to touch the optimum shape for a moment, then releases, and repeats. As she becomes familiar with the sensation of stretching and pulling and observes its dissipation with the breath, she becomes less fearful. Within a few weeks she is able to hold the pose longer and go deeper. She witnesses her own improvement, and this gives her confidence and courage. Calmness, confidence, and courage are exactly what you want to have when it comes to the intense stretching sensations involved in giving birth.
Coming to prenatal yoga at Alcove Yoga gave Kate the exhilarating experience of deep physical work, refined breath work, and inward concentration. She says, “I was feeling stronger physically and more calm in my mind after just a few classes.” And after class, she always felt “more energized and able to slept better”.
That was the pregnancy. But yoga also makes labor and delivery go more smoothly. Kate described her labor and delivery as "quick and easy." And, recovery appeared to be smoother too. Just 5 days after giving birth she wrote: "I feel ten times better than I did with my first.” Her body felt well on the road to recovery, more quickly than the first time, and she attributed most of that to her practice of Iyengar yoga during pregnancy.
Kate compares her first pregnancy and birth, without our prenatal classes, and the second, with the aid our classes. Even though her first pregnancy was easy to endure and she was able to continue running and doing cardio, it was “tough on me because I just felt like I lost so much fitness (even though I stayed really active). This pregnancy, your classes gave me such a sense of accomplishment and progress. It was amazing to feel and see myself improving my strength and flexibility in the final months of pregnancy.”
Not everyone has a quick and easy birth. But all birthing experiences are enhanced by physical and mental preparedness. Some women will have to labor for many hours. Some have emergency C-sections. Some have all-natural, home births. Nearly all of our students report feeling well-prepared for labor and delivery. Yoga is the discipline that best prepares a woman for this intense work of giving birth. It also helps a woman cope with unforeseen events with equanimity.
At Alcove Yoga, we have worked over a ten-year period with over 1000 women during their pregnancies. We have a continuity of experience teaching Iyengar Yoga to pregnant women that is unmatched. For the time being, classes are online through zoom. During this time, we support our students by loaning prop kits, free of charge.
You too can gain the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of yoga during your pregnancy through our prenatal classes.
If you're interested in our prenatal yoga classes, please go to our website and fill out the prenatal yoga application. Our classes are offered three times per week: Mondays, 6-7:30 pm; Wednesdays, 5:15-6:45 pm; and Saturdays, 10:30am to 12pm. May special: Unlimited prenatal yoga classes for only $150! Or, opt for 4 classes in 4 weeks, at $100.