Prenatal Yoga/Massage

Prepare your body for childbirth!The Prenatal Yoga/Massage 6 Week Series is taught in Del Ray, Alexandria at 6:45 pm on Thursdays.  Sign up online. Next session starts 3/29.

Taught by Sara VanderGoot, co-owner of Mind the Mat, certified prenatal massage therapist and yoga instructor. See what she has to say about prenatal yoga below.

As a mother of a six month old, I am here to tell you that pregnancy and yoga are the perfect fit.  I practiced yoga throughout my entire pregnancy and it worked wonders on my mind, body and spirit through one of the most challenging experiences of my life: pregnancy, labor, delivery and motherhood.

If you are pregnant there are a lot of things that don’t fit like they used to.  Your favorite jeans.  Your favorite cuddling position.  Your bra.  And your exercise routine.  The “no fit” phenomena can be frustrating because it requires us to change.  Resisting the change only makes it worse.  Instead, we can choose to see pregnancy as an opportunity to learn, grow, and discover new things about our bodies and ourselves.

Let’s start with your lovely hormones.  We know, and so do our partners, that pregnancy can be emotionally challenging due to constant hormonal shifts.  Studies show that yoga releases “pleasure” hormones in the brain similar to those that are released when lovers touch or when a mother breast feeds her child.  Yoga counteracts stress by reducing cortisol levels.  It is a natural anti-depressant.  It makes your brain happy!  In addition, taking a prenatal yoga class is a great way to meet other pregnant women and become part of a community.   Being in a positive, supportive environment where you can talk to other women like you is a great emotional booster.

Now for your sweet breath.  Many pregnant women report shortness of breath due to a growing uterus putting pressure on the diaphragm. One of the first things you learn in a prenatal yoga class is how to breathe more fully.  Deep breathing expands the rib cage, taking pressure off the diaphragm and creating more space for your vital organs to function at their best.  In addition, learning how to breath effectively will help you stay calm when you need it most during labor and childbirth. When you’re in pain or afraid, your body produces more adrenalin and less oxytocin, a hormone that helps labor progress.  Deep breathing aids relaxation and the production of oxytocin.

Another thing to be aware of when you are pregnant are your precious joints.  Your joints are more vulnerable during pregnancy because the hormone relaxin is present in your body in 10 times its normal concentration.  Relaxin plays an important role in opening the joints of the pelvis so your baby can pass through.  Unfortunately, relaxin can also cause abnormal motion in other joints, resulting in inflammation and pain.  In addition, the extra weight you carry during pregnancy can stress your joints.  Yoga is an ideal way to stay in shape during your pregnancy because it keeps you flexible, tones your muscles, improves your balance, and stimulates circulation, with little, if any, impact on your joints.

Many pregnant women are concerned about their poor abdominals.  Your abdominals don’t need your pity, it’s your beautiful back that needs your attention.  As your baby grows, your abdominal wall stretches to accommodate your expanding womb.  As a result, your abdominal muscles lose their ability to perform their normal role in maintaining body posture and your lower back takes on the extra weight from your torso.  In prenatal yoga class, you will do safe abdominal strengthening exercises designed to take pressure off your low back as well as low back stretches to ease discomfort.

Another part of your body you will become intimately aware of throughout pregnancy and after is your dear pelvic floor. Keeping your pelvic floor toned is essential to prenatal health.  The pelvic floor is related to urine control during and after pregnancy.  A taut pelvic floor also helps during the pushing phase of labor and facilitates smooth delivery.  In a prenatal yoga class you will do exercises that engage and strengthen your pelvic floor.

As you can see, yoga for the pregnant has many benefits.  Others include aiding in proper fetal positioning, decreasing hypertension by lowering blood pressure,  as well as prevention and relief of neck, shoulder, and sciatic pain.

If you already practice yoga regularly, it may still be the perfect fit for you to stay in shape during pregnancy.  If you haven’t tried yoga before, pregnancy is the perfect time to start.  No experience is necessary.  The beauty of yoga is that it is adaptable.  All poses have variations for beginners as well as for the first, second and third trimester.  Yoga will provide you an opportunity to listen to your body and gain a deep awareness of your body’s new needs.