How Prenatal Yoga Can Help Alleviate Common Pregnancy Discomforts
Pregnancy can bring a lot of discomfort to the expectant mother, and this is quite common. There is so much happening inside your body all at once, it’s only natural that you would feel some discomfort and not feel quite like yourself. And 9 months is a long time to feel that way! Through hormone changes, a growing baby and belly squishing all your internal organs, to the symptoms caused by this growth – hip pain, back pain, and more – there are so many things happening. So what can we do about it??
Prenatal yoga is popular for many reasons, and one of them is the relief it can help bring to the discomforts of pregnancy.
What are the Common Pregnancy Discomforts?
Your hormones change drastically when you are pregnant, reaching levels and shifts in 9 months that men will not experience in their entire lifetime. That’s a BIG shift! Hormones are known as the culprit for mood swings, but they also cause a lot of physiological changes. The hormone relaxin helps to soften the tendons and ligaments, particularly in the pelvis, so they can open for birth. Estrogen and progesterone production changes as your placenta takes over, producing additional levels so you can grow your baby. And later on, oxytocin flows when you go into labor to help you bond with your baby, as well as to help in the production of breastmilk. Prolactin also plays a role in breast milk production.
When your belly grows and expands, and your hips widen to prepare for birth, you can be left with aches and pains. Common discomforts are back pain, sciatica, and pelvic girdle pain. There are other pregnancy symptoms that may not always be painful but can cause discomfort such as dizziness due to increased blood volume, edema, or swelling, of the feet and ankles, and digestive issues such as nausea, bloating, constipation, or gas.
The hormones also play a role in the emotional symptoms of pregnancy, such as feeling irritable or weepy for no apparent reason. It can be very frustrating to feel out of control of your emotions while pregnant. A first pregnancy can also bring a lot of uncertainty and fear. Labor and birth are intimidating, raising a child is a major life shift, and both of these realizations can bring even more emotional discomfort. Pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period can be some of the most stressful times in a woman’s life, even through the joy of your new baby to love.
Benefits of Prenatal Yoga for Alleviating Discomforts
Good news! Practicing prenatal yoga regularly during pregnancy can bring some definite relief for some of these pregnancy discomforts! Yoga means union, which is a spiritual practice of connecting with one’s inner self, or with a higher power, and practicing these connections with your body and mind can help so much with discomforts.
Practicing yoga asana, or physical postures, can help with the physical discomforts of pregnancy. Yoga postures warm and stretch the muscles, which can help with back pain. Certain postures help with hip opening and pelvic balance, so may help relieve pelvic pain. You can also gain strength from practicing prenatal yoga, and building strength can help with bad posture, muscle tension, and stiff, sore muscles.
Additional elements of the yoga practice such as breathing exercises and meditation can help with some of the hormonal and emotional discomforts you might experience. Practicing pranayama, or breathing exercises, can boost oxygen flow throughout your body (helping further with physical discomfort) as well as helps calm the nervous system. Meditation can help with settling a monkey mind that won’t stop going – thinking of all the things you have to do to prepare for baby, how your life will change, and how you’re feeling about all of the newness.
Prenatal Yoga Poses for Specific Discomforts
Here are some yoga postures you can try for alleviating certain common pregnancy discomforts:
For back pain:
Head to knee pose – janusirsana
For pelvic pain:
Reclined, supported butterfly
For relieving pressure and tension:
Restorative forward fold
For digestive discomforts:
Gentle seated twist
Wind-reliving pose (first trimester)
Reclined, supported hero’s pose
For swelling and circulation:
Legs up the wall
Wrist and ankle rolls and stretches
Practicing Prenatal Yoga Safely
It’s important to understand your pregnant body and all of the changes it’s going through as you embark on your prenatal yoga journey. You should always discuss physical movement and exercise with your birth team to ensure your and your baby’s safety. You should also always trust your body. If something doesn’t feel right or adds even more discomfort, definitely pause and reassess before continuing.
If you are a seasoned yoga practitioner, you may be comfortable modifying your practice in your regular yoga class or at home in your regular yoga practice. If you aren’t a current practitioner, or you would be more comfortable with a guide in your pregnant body, it can be valuable to find a certified prenatal yoga instructor. Basic yoga instructors complete a minimum of 200 hours of training, and a prenatal yoga instructor usually has an additional 85+ hours of training! That’s a lot of hours learning about the pregnant body, the stages of pregnancy and labor, and modifications of poses. Ultimately, use your best judgment on what feels safest for you.
Complementary Self-Care Practices to Complement Prenatal Yoga
There are various holistic approaches to comfort in pregnancy that would greatly complement a prenatal yoga practice. For the care of your physical body, you might consider visiting a chiropractor (who is trained in pregnancy), a pelvic floor therapist, or a massage therapist. You can likely get referrals for these types of services through your birth team.
Self-care can also extend to anything you can do for yourself, such as taking warm relaxing baths, going on a long walk in nature, taking care of your mental health (therapy), visiting a Reiki practitioner, or anything else that helps you feel good emotionally and spiritually. Finding a community of other mamas to be in your local area may also help when you are feeling discouraged or alone. I guarantee you can find another mama who has been through whatever you may be feeling!
Get Started Practicing Prenatal Yoga
You can practice prenatal yoga with me right here online to start! Here are a few ways to work with me:
Purchase the Soulful Pregnancy Journal for guided weekly yoga practices (yoga philosophy, yoga classes, journal prompts, and more)
You can also find local prenatal yoga classes by searching local listings on Facebook, Eventbrite, and YMCAs, as well as inquiring at your birth team’s office.
Happy practicing mama!
Heal the mothers, heal the world.