Prenatal Yoga and Bonding with Your Baby: Strengthening the Connection
Prenatal yoga is very popular among expecting moms for the physical practice that can help alleviate many pregnancy symptoms, as well as help prepare the body for labor. But a yoga practice during pregnancy can offer so much more than just physical aid. (This blog and topic will be a little more esoteric, just FYI!)
Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice originating in India. It has been popularized in the West for its physical practice, but in this age of social justice reform, more and more people are starting to realize they need to honor the traditional roots of yoga. I aim to do that in my practice and my teaching, as my teachers taught me to honor the full scope of the yoga tradition, not just the popularized physical practice.
If we look at this full-spectrum yoga practice, prenatal yoga can be vastly more beneficial than simply assisting the body through pregnancy and birth. There is an opportunity for personal spiritual growth, energetic healing, and forming a strong connection with the baby.
Understanding the Importance of Bonding during Pregnancy
Creating a bond with your baby, whether emotional or spiritual in nature, can have great effects on how you perceive and experience the pregnancy experience. Depending on your connection and how you bond with the baby, some of those practices may even lend themselves to the baby’s physiological development.
A yoga practice can help you have a balanced nervous system for one, and a baby’s nervous system begins developing in utero. Babies and then children up to around 7 years old do not have fully developed nervous systems, but until they do they learn to regulate theirs by co-regulating with us. Some believe this happens even in utero. Certainly, stress levels, therefore cortisol levels, in the mother during pregnancy affect the baby’s development as well, so having this practice and bond of a state of calmness will help your baby in more ways than one.
Forming a more emotional and spiritual bond with your baby may help you navigate some of the more difficult aspects of pregnancy. Most women say they find connection with the baby easier once they can feel movements, usually in the early second trimester. If you are feeling some of the difficult symptoms of pregnancy, whether it be physical discomfort or pain, or hormonal distress such as perinatal depression, having that connection with your baby may help you stay in the present moment and remember that there is a point to all of this, and an end point to the journey.
The Role of Prenatal Yoga in Bonding
So how can a prenatal yoga practice facilitate this bonding with your baby? This could happen in a few different ways. Through physical practice, you will learn how to connect more with your body and breath. In general, as a modern-day species, we are very disconnected from our bodies. Most people sit more than they stand, are sedentary, and are distracted by their monkey minds, always consumed with the latest gadgets and distractions. Yoga asks you to sit on your mat and be present with yourself. This presence alone, of getting connected with your body, feeling how it changes through pregnancy, and feeling how your baby is growing inside of you, can help you form a bond.
Yoga also encompasses many different lessons in philosophy – how to live a better life, inside and out. Studying the Yamas and Niyamas, the first 2 limbs of yoga in the 8-limbed yoga path, can promote immense personal growth. The Yamas are 5 lessons in how to behave externally in the world, and how to treat others basically. The Niyamas are a guide for how to treat ourselves, and how to live internally. Exploring our inner worlds in this way can lead to spiritual revelations, healing of old wounds, and striving to be a better person. This will only begin to set you up to be the best mother you can be, and knowing you are doing the work before your baby comes should give you great pride!
Yoga is also an energetic practice. The Chakra system goes back to ancient yoga practices and encompasses our energetic body. It is said that we have thousands of energetic points in our body, but we have 7 main ones that the Chakra system focuses on. Through working with a yoga teacher, or Reiki practitioner, you can do energetic healing in these areas. Each Chakra aligns with different focuses of our lives, some physical, some more esoteric.
The Sacral Chakra specifically surrounds our creative center, our reproductive system. It can be very beneficial during this time in your life when you are using this chakra to its utmost potential to do some energetic healing in the area. You may be able to cut energetic chords and heal generational wounds that you can thus heal through your baby.
Gentle Yoga Poses for Bonding with the Baby
You can bond with your baby using any posture in any yoga class by focusing on the breath and bringing your attention to your womb. Here are some of my favorite postures to bond with babies through very specific means.
Belly breathing and gentle belly rubs to connect with the baby’s movements
Focusing on deep belly breathing can help keep your deep core strong, prepare you for breathing during labor, and connect more closely with your baby. As you inhale, puff out your belly and completely fill up your diaphragm, and as you exhale, engage your core muscles while hugging your baby into your spine. You can massage your belly too to stimulate their senses.
Cat-cow pose to create space and awareness in the abdomen
Cat-cow is another way to focus on the breath and activate your deep core muscles while simultaneously hugging baby into your spine. You can add intuitive movements by rolling your spine around in circles as well, stimulating the baby’s senses. These movements and working with gravity may also help the baby find an optimal birthing position!
Gentle twists to encourage gentle movement
You may have heard that twists are a no-no in prenatal yoga – I disagree! Your baby is protected by the amniotic fluid and your body will tell you when to stop if you are twisting too far. Gentle seated twists from side to side are another great way to stimulate your baby in the womb while you focus on sending them deep breaths.
Heart-opening poses to promote a sense of love and connection
Getting back to the esoteric side of this blog, you can practice heart chakra balancing postures to connect with your baby as well! The heart chakra connects us to love and relationships. Typically backbends open up the heart chakra, but in the case of pregnancy, you can simply place one hand on the heart and one on the belly and focus on breathing love into your heart space and into your womb.
You can also practice some restorative, well-supported reclined postures such as reclined butterfly, fish pose, or hero’s pose.
Additional Practices For Bonding with Baby
In addition to physical postures, there are 7 other limbs of various practices in the Ashtanga yoga tradition. You can use aspects of each of these to enhance your practice and to connect with your baby! Here are some of those practices:
As mentioned above, pranayama is a breath practice. Pranayama is more than simply breathing in and out anatomically correctly. Pranayama translates to prana – yama, or life force restaurant. Prana can mean life force, breath, life energy, etc. This is not just simple oxygen! Our breath is our connection to life. Breath is how we send oxygen to our baby while they are womb side. Without our breath, the baby would not be able to grow. Breath is also one of the very first initiations that a baby has into the physical world.
Focusing on a breath practice can do way more than fill up your diaphragm and strengthen your core. Pranayama can help you cleanse your energetic field, it can help you connect with your deepest sense of self – with your life itself. And it can help you connect with the greater divine – whether that is nature, the universe, or God. Connecting with breath in this spiritual way can help you and your baby form a bond beyond the physical while they are still inside you.
Meditation is one yoga practice that actually brings about the whole purpose of the 8-limbed yoga practice. One of the yoga sutras (which are the spiritual text of Ashtanga yoga) is:
yogas chitta vritti nirodha – which means “yoga is the calming of the mind”. And meditation helps us do just that! Adding all of the yoga practices together – physical, breath, meditation, and philosophy, is meant to bring about this stillness, but we can begin with 5 minutes of sitting calmly and quietly.
We are constantly bombarded with information, content, and stimulus – everywhere, all day long. It can be very challenging in the technological age to put your phone down and just sit for 5 minutes. So try sitting in a chair, or on the floor, rest your hands on your belly, and just focus on your baby. No music, no screens, just you and your thoughts. Begin by letting your mind wander and just see where it goes. You’d be surprised what you think when not bombarded by outside distractions!
Chakra balancing practices – meditation, breath, etc.
The Chakra system is a system of our energetic center. All beings and everything are made of energy at our core, atomic level. Our energy layer can be confusing to work with, so this may take some time to understand. There are certain practices you can do to focus on balancing each of our 7 chakras, which are:
- Root Chakra (Muladhara)
- Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)
- Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)
- Heart Chakra (Anahata)
- Throat Chakra (Visshuddaha)
- Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)
- Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)
You can work directly with a yoga instructor to better understand this system, or with a Reiki practitioner. There are practices such as specific yoga postures, breathing exercises, meditations, visualizations, and more to help balance each of the 7 Chakras.
Partner Yoga and Bonding with Your Support Person
A birth though centered around the pregnant mama, is a family event! Whether you have a partner or not, surely you have family and friends that will be a part of your little one’s life, and maybe even a part of your birth experience. There are some yoga activities you can do with your partner to help prepare for the difficult journey of parenting, as well as prepare them for labor. You may be the one doing the pushing, but in order to best support you during labor, your partner should understand what to expect and can be there for you emotionally if you share the yoga bonding experience with them.
You can simply practice yoga with your partner, or you can do partner postures such as:
– Sit knees to knees, hold hands, and practice breathing together. Take time to let your partner bond with the baby in your womb as well.
– Meditate together in silence,
– You may also just spend a lot of time talking about your emotional and spiritual experiences as you go on the prenatal yoga oath toward birth and then parenting.
Creating Rituals and Practices for Bonding
As you explore all of these various yoga practices, see which ones resonate the most with you and create your own personal home practice rituals. You may light some candles or incense, say an intention, and then do breathing exercises. You might enjoy turning on some birth affirmations during meditation, followed by journaling or writing a letter to your baby.
Any ritual you create during pregnancy is something you might use in labor, and beyond in your postpartum period. Some mamas (especially if birthing at home) like to set up a birth altar. Here you can place candles, incense, essential oils, crystals, your journal, pictures, affirmations, and any other trinkets that make you feel safe and connected to your baby. You might spend a little time here each day just focusing on your birth and your baby.
Nurture the Bond Beyond Prenatal Yoga
Your bond with your baby while wombside can be carried right on through labor and into motherhood. Attachment parenting encourages closeness with your baby such as baby-wearing, skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, or cosleeping. Simply holding your baby very often in those first few months can also ensure a close bond is formed.
If you wish, once you are cleared by your birth team you might also continue your yoga practice into parenting! It might look a little different especially if you are a first-time parent, but rest assured there are ways to work your baby, and then your kids, into your yoga practice.
If you are ready to explore your yoga practice beyond the physical and incorporate it into your bonding with your baby, there are many ways you can begin a practice:
Practice with me for free on YouTube
Purchase my Soulful Pregnancy Journal here with practices, journal prompts, philosophy lessons, and more for each week of pregnancy.
Heal the mothers, heal the world.