Yoga And Pregnant: The Good, The Bad, And The Om
By your third pregnancy, you come to learn what your priorities are.
The romance has faded, and you do what you can to survive.
I found I have no patience for weekly pictures; most of the time, I can’t even remember how many weeks pregnant I am (14 weeks? I could have sworn I was 20!). There’s no more cute maternity clothes, over-purchasing baby clothes, or fancy baby announcements or gender reveals.
I’m running after a 3-year-old and 1-year-old all day. I don’t have time to be cute or stylish.
Despite dropping almost everything I did during my first and second pregnancy, there is one thing I’ve found essential: exercise.
My first pregnancy I turned to yoga for my exercise, and I was so happy with it I’ve turned to it again and again. With each baby, I’ve gained new insight and appreciation for yoga and have learned to embrace the occasional struggles that come with it.
Study after study has revealed benefits for women who choose to exercise during pregnancy. Studies have shown that physical activity makes labor easier and bouncing back after pregnancy much faster. This study links mother’s exercise during pregnancy and increase in IQ in their babies.
My main motivation for choosing yoga specifically was how good it made me feel. I had aches, pains and stiff joints that I didn’t know I could have under the age of 60. By stretching out my poor, tired muscles and loosening my aching joints, I found that life was so much more bearable pregnant.
The mental aspects of yoga are absolutely necessary as well. After taking the time to myself to clear my head, I can come to my family calmer and less stressed. The day always runs much smoother not only for me but also for my loved ones.
Yoga is incredibly beneficial for pregnancy because it’s possible to target very specific muscles groups. I worked on strengthening my core throughout pregnancy. That way I can avoid back problems and get the extra strength I need to run after a couple of high-energy boys all day.
Another targeted need for pregnant women is the pelvic area. With that added strength, there's no reason to waddle off to the bathroom constantly or give dirty looks to anyone who makes me laugh!
Lastly, my most motivating factor of all: shortening labor. My first pregnancy, I knew that in theory, it would make labor better. But by the second time around I was not joking around about it. Although I can’t say for certain that yoga specifically helped, I will say that my labor went from 24 hours with my first birth to four hours with my second … So, there’s that.
While pregnancy is so beautiful and such a special time, we can all admit it can also make things a lot more awkward. Yoga is no different.
My first yoga class, I was intimidated and sat off to the side. The instructor, a white-haired lady with the elasticity of Doublemint gum, still managed to call me out for my lack of grace and flexibility. I never went back to that class.
There are two options to overcome if you are not graced with the gift of flexibility: You can take yoga classes online (which I sometimes do while the kids are asleep), or you can just get over it and not take yourself too seriously.
Because here’s the thing no one told me about parenthood: It is embarrassing.
Kids, especially babies and toddlers, do not care what anyone else thinks. At some point, you’ll probably find yourself in the middle of the grocery store with one child melting down because he wants yet another toy, while the other is pulling everything off the shelves within arm’s reach. Ask me how I know.
Another awkward part of pregnancy yoga is the, ahem, gas. There’s no way around it, between the changes in hormones and a human being taking up room where your colon used to be, a certain amount of bloating and embarrassment is sure to follow. Be sure to eat fiber and drink water to help relieve it. Taking a probiotic can be quite helpful, too. Also, see the paragraph above about embarrassment. It’s great training ground for parenthood.
Here are several moves I find help me the most during pregnancy:
Malasana (The Wide Squat)
This is THE move for pregnancy. If you’re pregnant, want to become pregnant, or just know a woman who is pregnant, take note! Remember when I said my labor went from 24 hours to four hours? I did this pose at least twice a day during the second half of my pregnancy. It strengthens and stretches the pelvic floor, which will also help if you have an issue with incontinence (which is every pregnant woman ever).
I have yet to see any pregnancy yoga exercise routine without this move. For good reason, too: It’s purported to help with varicose veins and brings the baby into the ideal birthing position. In my experience, it definitely helped with back pain. Anytime my back starts to hurt, I immediately do cat/cow to relieve it (while trying to explain to my boys that it’s not the time for a horsey ride and getting them off of me).
This pose is great for relieving tension in the hips. I didn’t even know they hurt until I got relief doing this stretch! I also struggled a lot with restless legs during my first pregnancy, and this stretch did a lot to calm them. It was the only way I could sleep at night!
Pregnancy is such a beautiful, demanding, embarrassing and magical time. I know I need all the help I can get! Yes, it's true I may not have the same amount of time or energy I once had with my other pregnancies. But thanks to yoga, I know that I’m giving my little one, and me, the best start possible.