Prenatal yoga benefits: What it is and why it's important

Chris Gill July 09, 2020
Prenatal yoga benefits: What it is and why it's important

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.

She Births

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. 

She Births

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

3 important benefits of 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

3 important benefits of yoga

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.

She Births

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!

She Births

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.

Nadine Richardson

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How to swaddle a baby in a muslin wrap


How to swaddle a baby in a muslin wrap

Whether you’re asking yourself ‘what are muslin wraps used for?’, ‘how to swaddle a newborn’ or ‘when to stop swaddling baby’, we’re bringing you a step by step lowdown with pictures. What are muslin wraps used for? If you’re totally new to the muslin wraps game, don’t worry. Many of us have been there. And, while you might already know about swaddling a baby, what you might not realise is there are plenty of other ways to use muslin wraps in your little one’s early days. Feeding If you’re feeding while on the go, a muslin wrap is a great cover to stop bub getting distracted. Tuck the muslin into your bra strap and place the soft fabric across bub’s cheek to keep them safe and comfy. Note: Always ensure there’s an opening to allow fresh air to flow through. Burping Aside from swaddling, burping is one of the most popular uses for the muslin wrap. The soft, thick and absorbent fabric will make sure whatever you’re wearing stays clean when you pat your little bambino gently on the back. 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Although delicate, these bamboo swaddles can stand up to all the required laundering, while their superior absorbency makes them an essential for all new parents. Or, as pictured above, you could use our Stretch Jersey Wrap as an alternative to the muslin wrap. Double it over, wrap, pull firm, and tuck the ends in well to trap even the squirmiest of kids. It works a charm for little Houdinis! But when is it time to stop swaddling? When to stop swaddling baby It’s important to note that you can stop swaddling your baby whenever you feel it’s best. While most people use swaddling during the newborn stage, before phasing it out around three or four months, it’s also common for babies to be swaddled when they’re six to nine months old. Most babies will begin to reject swaddling at a certain age, although not all. That said, the average age to stop swaddling bub is roughly three or four months. Newborns are born with the Moro reflex — a startle reflex — and most babies don’t outgrow it until they’re four or five months old. For this reason, be careful when stopping the swaddle too early. If your baby’s Moro reflex is still strong, they may startle themselves awake at night and during nap time. If your baby is able to break free of their swaddle, this doesn’t always mean that it’s time to stop swaddling. But if bub is persistently breaking free of their swaddle each night, it’s either time to stop swaddling or switch to a safer muslin wrap. Warning: Never allow babies to sleep face down. If your baby is rolling over onto their tummy while they sleep, it’s time to stop swaddling. Safety must always be top of mind when it comes to swaddling your baby! Although swaddling for sleep is generally all good, it’s important you don’t swaddle your little one all day long. Babies also need to move freely so they can develop their gross motor skills and become stronger. How to stop swaddling baby Some babies aren’t dependent on swaddling for comfort, making them much easier to stop the process. Other babies, however, can become very dependent on swaddling to help them sleep — making weaning them away from their cosy muslin wraps much harder. If your bub has become dependent on their swaddle to sleep, it’s probably time to stop! We recommend gradually easing your little one off their swaddle. Begin by leaving one arm or leg unswaddled, before moving on to both arms or legs. Before you know it, you’ll have reached a stage where your little bambino isn’t being swaddled at all. So, there you have it, newbie parents. It’s time to start swaddling!

How to cope with a new baby during COVID-19


How to cope with a new baby during COVID-19

Bringing your baby home from the hospital can be a surreal experience. There is a great deal of tears (from baby and parents), laughter, cooing, and chaos. But you don’t have to do it all by yourself – there are often family members and friends lining up to help you. At least, this was the case until 2020. With Victoria currently locked down and the threat of the second wave of the pandemic looming over the rest of Australia, isolation has become more important than ever. Of course, if you have a new baby at home, this can be easier said than done. In addition to handling your responsibilities as a new parent, you are also having to cope with the realities of parenting during COVID-19.  This can leave new parents feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Even if you have older children (which brings with it different challenges such as what’s being posted across social media), the idea of bringing up younger children during a pandemic is enough to put pressure on any parent. If parenting during COVID-19 is something that you’re struggling to do, here are some top tips to help you out during this difficult time.  Make sure you’re splitting duties  Before the outbreak, it was easy to get help from willing family members and friends. At the very least, you had a grandparent or two willing to hold the baby while you took a shower or ran some errands. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible anymore – new parents are on their own. Needless to say, this can lead to you feeling overwhelmed, since you have to juggle quite a bit more. So, how can you cope in this instance? Here, it is all about the division of labour. You and your partner should be equally sharing responsibilities. This way, the work gets cut in half. Not to mention, you will have a lot more time to spend together as well.  Take care of yourself  Whether it is the demands of being a new parent or the worries regarding COVID-19, it can be easy to stop taking care of yourself. You may not eat proper meals or fail to exercise on a regular basis. Not only can these bad habits compromise your health, but it can also have a negative impact on your mental health.  So, start by planning out your meals a little better. Not in the mood to cook? Look for healthy foods that you can whip up quickly, maybe even without turning your stove on. Keep the processed foods to a minimum and load up on fruits and vegetables instead.  If you can get some fresh air and exercise, do try to manage this. Take the proper precautions to wear a mask and ensure that your baby is well-protected to. Carry hand sanitiser and check that no one comes to close to you and your little one. You should also exercise indoors as well. Take a portable bed or cot and keep your little one beside you. Then, workout as needed. It will make you feel a whole lot better.  Look for online healthcare support It is natural to freak out about how your baby is doing as a new parent. Every sneeze or too-long cry can seem suspicious. To ensure that your baby is in peak health, accumulate a number of online healthcare contacts. This could be a paediatrician, pediatric nurse, or even a doula.  Just have someone that you can call or message if you have any questions. This way, you will be able to put your mind at ease and take some of the stress out of being a new baby. Remember that if you have serious concerns, though, it is best to take your baby to a hospital.  Social distancing doesn’t mean an end to socialising  The main problem with isolating during the pandemic is the feelings of isolation that come along with it! This can increase when you have a new baby. After all, this was supposed to be a time for you to show off your little one to family members and friends. Thus, you may feel especially removed from those closest to you, particularly your parents. Well, just because you need to partake in social distancing doesn’t mean that the socialising has to come to a total stop. Use technology to keep you with the people in your life. This is particularly important for new grandparents. They can often feel like they are missing out and may feel rather down about it. Video calls on a regular basis, however, can make them feel more involved.  These calls can be detrimental for your sanity as well. Talking to people – especially ones that haven’t thrown up on you that day – can act as a stress reliever. You can voice concerns, talk about any issues you may be facing, or simply gossip!  These are all the ways that you can cope as a new parent during the pandemic. It will be tough, but this is definitely something that you will be able to manage and get through.  Written by Chathurika Kahavita