As I lay in a supported position with the soles of my feet touching and my hands on my belly, I could feel my baby fluttering around in my growing belly. I wasn’t in my own bed or at the OBs office. I was on my yoga mat giving myself time and space to connect with my body, my breath and most importantly, my baby. The weekly prenatal yoga classes that I was attending allowed me to come to class and prepare my mind and body for the journey of pregnancy, labor, and motherhood.
Prenatal yoga prepares your body and mind for labor as well as providing a community of women going through the same life changing experience with you. I found that the prenatal classes I took in Seattle for all 40 weeks of pregnancy were like group therapy sessions where women could share the highs and lows of their pregnancies as well as sharing resources like childbirth classes I met some great moms who I still stay in touch with to this day. I believe all moms need a strong community of other moms to connect with and share stories during this incredible period.
Attending prenatal yoga normalized labor and childbirth for me by removing some fears and uncertainty. It gave me the confidence that my body was perfectly built to have a baby. The active part of yoga, poses called asanas, allowed me to stay fit and I think they aided in my quick labor in which I was able to incorporate poses with breath work. My prenatal yoga teacher taught me to identify and effectively deal with the intense sensations of each contraction by using my breath to let go. I learned the concept open mouth/open vagina and fluttering the lips, which was called horse breath. This helps open the pelvic outlet allowing baby to come out more quickly. I learned other techniques for labor, including counting breaths, which I used during active labor and nothing could stop me from my counting during each contraction.
Yoga helped me develop strong muscles for childbirth. During labor, I got into puppy pose (which is like being on all fours but with your elbows down instead of your hands) and it was the ONLY position I used throughout labor. I stopped and used puppy pose as I walked to the car to go to the hospital, in the hospital lobby, and while laboring in triage and the delivery room. I also used the squat bar at the hospital and it was lucky that I’d practiced squatting in yoga class because it can be a tiring pose if your body isn’t ready.
Prenatal yoga can assist low risk pregnant mamas as well as high risk pregnancies. A recent study out of India has shown that yoga can decrease negative impacts of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and intrauterine growth restrictions by lowering moms blood pressure and stress levels*. Moms who were considered high risk for these factors ended up having lower blood pressure and a lower maternal stress rate than moms who didn’t practice yoga. Prenatal yoga is a natural way for moms who are high risk to continue to be healthy and active by reducing the stressors of diseases that can occur during pregnancy.
As I prepare for my second pregnancy I continued to use yoga techniques to help me relax and take deep breaths, especially when dealing with my 2 year old! The reason I got certified to teach yoga with a specialty in prenatal yoga is that there are so few classes offered to moms in Columbia. This is a stark contrast to Seattle which had classes every day of the week and at multiple locations around the city. There are so many women in Columbia having babies that I want them to have this amazing chance to connect to their bodies, minds, and other women going through pregnancy.
*”The Effects of Yoga in Prevention of Pregnancy Complications in High Risk Pregnancies: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, conducted by the SVYASA University’s Department of Life Sciences in Bengaluru, India.
Kyla Saphir is a new mom to Columbia, who recently moved here from Chicago via Seattle for her husband’s work. She has a 2-year-old daughter who she is at home with when she’s not teaching prenatal yoga at the Downtown YMCA. Kyla is a 200 hour certified yoga teacher with 85 hour prenatal certification.