Last updated: October 3rd 2019
Written by Nadine Richardson, mother, yoga teacher, doula, speaker, Director of The Birthing Institute, Creator and Founder of the world’s only scientifically-verified childbirth education program, She Births® and host of The She Births® Show Podcast. She is an expert in childbirth, pregnancy and prenatal yoga.
When I was pregnant 18 years ago there really wasn't much prenatal yoga available. Of the one or two weekly classes (held at very strange times of day) here in Sydney I found all of them to be more like a ‘geriatric’ yoga class.
Teachers appeared to be scared of what might happen to our precious pregnant bodies through movement and stretching that I even fell asleep in class, mid-stretch! And there certainly wasn’t anything specific preparing me for labour and birth.
Interestingly over the last 20 years, we have seen a huge uptake in prenatal (and postnatal) yoga. You will notice that a clear majority of yoga practitioners, in general, are women, and a majority of women will also venture onto the yoga mat for the very first time when they are pregnant.
Although yoga itself has been practised for many thousands of years, it was created by men and for the male body. Women have historically been far too busy tending to children, pre-industrial revolution and feminism so Vedic development and cave-dwelling were left to the guys.
The early pioneers of prenatal yoga in the West were the midwife and yoga teacher, Jeannine Parvati Baker and Janet Balaskas, who both published mainstream books in the 1980s. After that, we started to see a slow uptake which required an actual ‘creation’ of the yoga style itself. Since then, numerous health practitioners will highly recommend prenatal yoga and Amazon now has over 6,000 prenatal yoga titles, all of which has been created in the last 30 years.
As a yoga teacher, I found it interesting to give birth, especially after so many people had said I would be great at labour (whatever that means) because I was young and a yogi. But in an attempt to connect my yoga practice to labour I feel like I was at a loss! The art of combining surrender and strength, being both passive and active, breathing and movement were so unique during birth that all the yoga I had done didn’t prepare me at all.
In my work as a doula, I discovered many of the strategies and pain management techniques that really worked so as a teacher I was able to formulate them into a specific prenatal yoga practice. In She Births Prenatal Yoga we teach clear tools for labour, as well share a philosophy to help you embrace the impending challenges of motherhood. You can watch more about the emergence of women in the yoga world as well as see our unique prenatal yoga in the award-winning documentary Yoga Woman.
Over the years as I began to develop our style my yoga students began to attribute their great birth experiences to the She Births® prenatal yoga. And finally, some great research began to happen.
The benefits of prenatal yoga
There are numerous studies showing the benefits of yoga during pregnancy. In prenatal yoga randomised controlled trials discovered that women experience more pleasure during their birth!
They have lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression during pregnancy. Even high-risk mums have lower incidences of hypertension and gestational diabetes. The majority of these trials included not only asana (physical postures and movements) but also breathing and meditation as well.
It has been proven that a consistent yoga practice of two hours a week can lead to the following benefits of yoga:
- lower levels of stress
- lower levels of anxiety
- a lower level of depression
- increase pleasure during birth
- prepare you physically for the birth
- reduce medical intervention
If you are pregnant and thinking about starting yoga here are a few pointers that will help:
When can I start?
Most teachers recommend starting after 14 weeks. Generally, the first trimester is exhausting but also the chances of miscarriage are greater. However, for mums that are missing their yoga desperately and who have a long-standing practice, I allow them to come into classes and just avoid all the deep pelvic opening poses.
Is it too late to start at 37+weeks?
Not all all. There are numerous benefits of yoga and anything is always better than something. Even if you come to class and just roll your hips around, rest in Child's Pose and stretch in Downward Dog, it can have fantastic benefits for your sleep quality and optimal positioning.
Is there any cardio in prenatal yoga?
She Births Prenatal Yoga has cardio involved via our modified sun salutes and kundalini rolls. Anytime you take the arms above the head, you will be lifting your heart rate. Of course, we don’t want to exhaust mums but a bit of heart rate increase is a great practice for labour.
If I’ve never done yoga before, can I start while pregnant?
Yes, it is a great time to start. Your joints will be more flexible so the space you make in the body and endorphins you release will give you a great foundation to continue going forward. And it is obviously so much easier to start now than after birth!
You can practice with internationally renowned prenatal yoga teacher and creator of She Births®, Nadine from the comfort of your own home.
Use this special code boodyyoga50 to receive a 50% discount off the She Births® at home prenatal yoga sequence.
Or if you are in Sydney, join a weekly class with Nadine at The Dharma Shala Bondi Yoga School on Monday or Saturday.
She Births® has Weekend Courses in NSW and VIC and their Full Online Program is available through their App around the world. Use code boody10 to receive a 10% discount off the Full Online Program.