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Pregnancy yoga is an incredibly positive experience for expecting mothers, and it aligns very well with the vegan lifestyle. While I've never had a yoga instructor try to push his/her beliefs onto me, I often find that their take on life is similar to the compassionate ideals of vegans. Many yogis eat very plant-based, low impact on the environment, low-violence foods.
While it's really tempting to take pregnancy as a time to slack off and sit on our butts, I think all pregnant women know that exercise during pregnancy is healthy, both for you and for your baby. Even though you might find yourself feeling more tired than usual and the idea of exercising might be less than appealing, most people actually feel more energized after getting a little bit of exercise.
Pregnancy yoga is one of the amazing exercises you can do to prepare your mind and body for labor. For thousands of years, yoga has been helping pregnant women relax, focus on the positive and happy parts of pregnancy, and prepare their bodies physically for the exertion of childbirth.
Pregnancy yoga can help alleviate many of the less positive side effects of pregnancy because it enhances strength, flexibility, circulation, and the balance between mind and body. Some exercise routines that might work really well when you're not pregnant can actually work against you during pregnancy, whereas prenatal yoga helps to make your body more flexible, and open for the changes in pregnancy.
Yoga helps to reduce swelling in your wrists, ankles, and legs and improve circulation of blood and oxygen by reducing water retention. If you're having trouble sleeping and find yourself changing positions often, you might notice your back starting to hurt. Prenatal yoga helps to strengthen the spinal column.
When you start having trouble breathing toward the end of your pregnancy, you can use yogic breaths to gather air from your belly, rather than just above your ribs. After doing yoga for a few weeks, you start to walk with better posture and that creates more space inside your stomach for the baby to wiggle, and for your organs to function without being squished.
Prenatal yoga helps reduce that annoying lower back pain that comes from having a body that's bigger in front than the back by reducing the amount of pelvic tilt. It can also help to calm your anxiety, stress, and hormonal mood swings, which should be a benefit for both you and your partner. And lastly, it helps to control weight gain, minimize fatigue, and ensure you don't have constipation by giving your internal organs a little break from the pressure of the person sitting on them.
There doesn't have to be an ending point for your prenatal exercises, and many people practice yoga right up to and during labor. If you have to choose a certain time period during your pregnancy and can't practice for the entire time, I'd definitely advise doing yoga toward the end of your pregnancy over starting it and then not continuing through the end of pregnancy. I've read studies that show that if you only do prenatal yoga at the beginning of pregnancy, you won't experience as many of the health benefits.
I find that many women say their prenatal yoga classes helped tremendously during their actual childbirth. Physically, the squatting exercises you learn in prenatal yoga classes will tone the muscles in your lower pelvis so you can maintain that position during labor. You will often find yourself tense during labor, and one of the benefits of prenatal yoga is that it teaches you to find and release the tension in your body.
You can use the breathing exercises you learn to help calm your mind and focus on the task at hand… getting the baby out! You'll also probably learn to surrender control and let the events happen as they naturally will, a lesson that many of us struggle to comprehend in our daily lives. It is incredibly empowering to know that you can trust yourself to know exactly what to do when the time comes, and yoga teaches you to do just that.
If you're already in the practice of doing yoga, you will be happy to know that there are only a few modifications to make to your yoga poses during pregnancy. Most of the poses to avoid are focused around the abdominal area, of course. You can ask your instructor which pregnancy yoga poses to add in as modifications to your current regimen, and often s/he will remind you of those throughout class. You could also switch to a prenatal class, which are often much more simplistic, depending on your energy level.
In fact, many people start doing yoga when they are working to conceive, in an effort to get in shape physically and spiritually for the arrival of a new baby. After birth, pregnancy yoga can help to lose the baby weight, maintain a healthy supply of breast milk, and provide you with well-needed extra energy. Pregnancy yoga also helps your body to prepare for the new baby in your life by strengthening your back muscles to help hold the new baby.
Even if you've never done yoga before, many prenatal yoga instructors are completely prepared to teach you from the ground up, so there's no reason to be bashful.
A really cool thing about many pregnancy yoga classes is that the instructors will often build in time for you to ask questions about anything from natural childbirth to doulas/midwives, and specific pregnancy yoga poses for peak performance. It's a great time to make friends and find emotional support.
Overall, pregnancy yoga is typically an incredibly positive experience for the expecting parents. You learn to focus on what is actually important in life, and it helps the mind to relax from the stress that often comes at us in all directions when we're going through a major life change. You will learn to trust your intuition and listen to your body.