Yoga for Pregnancy & Birth
Hello! I’m Katy Appleton from appleyoga.
Having taught yoga for 20 years and been through 2 pregnancies myself, I’m a firm believer in the benefits of yoga to help women through pregnancy and birth. I welcome the opportunity to offer some tips and advice to myBirthBox mums-to-be and hope you find my answers and videos useful.
Here’s a little intro from me in person and I wish you health and happiness in your journey into motherhood.
“Katy is unique in her ability to make yoga so enjoyable..”, Sarah, The Duchess of York
“Katy is a breath of fresh air, physically, mentally and spiritually… I love her.”, Geri Halliwell
How can pregnancy yoga help?
Yoga brings many wonderful benefits to pregnant women and their babies both physically and mentally.
Commonly known yoga benefits are that it helps to increase strength, flexibility, and endurance of muscles, and pregnancy yoga can focus these benefits on the muscles needed for childbirth.
It also promotes a boost in circulation, which can help with fluid retention. Swelling of hands, feet, face and legs is quite common in pregnancy and increasing fluid retention helps the body to soften and expand as the baby grows.
Other benefits are that is can help to reduce stress and anxiety, calm the nervous system and improve sleep, which pregnant women can often struggle with, especially as the pregnancy progresses.
Taking time out to do it helps you get in the practice of deep, mindful breathing and encourage your body to relax and open up which will help during labour.
What if I haven’t done it before?
You can easily start pregnancy yoga from being a beginner, as it’s a gentle, low impact form of exercise which focusses on stretching and strengthening the body to help to support changes in your body during pregnancy
Just remember to start slowly and take it easy, don’t over stretch. I’d suggest going to a class first if you’re a complete beginner to get a little guidance and introduction.
I also have this gentle beginner’s introduction to pregnancy yoga available on YouTube:
Where should I do yoga?
Making the time to do it in a class or at home is ideal as you’re giving yourself the mental headspace as well to relax into it and benefit from the breathing and quietening of the mind.
My pregnancy DVD can be done at home around a time that suits your schedule, to support & inspire you through your pregnancy :
Common pregnancy problems yoga can help with
I’ve just listed a few common pregnancy discomforts in case you are suffering from any of them and weren’t aware that yoga can help:
- Lower back pain- probably the most common pregnancy complaint. Stretching and holding gentle yoga poses will help muscles relax, release tension and compression of the joints.
- Nausea – particularly common in the first trimester. A simple yoga position to help with this is to sit cross legged on the floor with a chair infront of you and cushion under your sacrum (to prop up your tailbone and prevent you curving back), lead forward to put arms crossed on the chair, rest your forehead on your arms and breath.
- Insomnia – which women suffer at all stages, particularly later as the baby gets more active. Just a few minutes of yoga in the evening can help to soothe your mind and body before bed.
- Headaches – positions to help with headaches include child’s pose (which drops shoulders, releases tension, expands back and drives oxygen up the spine) and cat pose (sending movement up through the spine and spreading the back joints that get compressed). Both of which are demonstrated in my pregnancy videos.
- Shortness of breath – very common in pregnancy and can be improved through practising deep and mindful breathing.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – up to ¼ of pregnant women in their 3rd trimester get this during pregnancy; pins and needles, numbness or weakening of the hands which gets worse when doing things with your wrists. Gentle stretching of the fingers to and from your body during yoga can help this.
If you only have a few mins a day…
How you spend these few minutes will probably change as you progress through your pregnancy. I think it’s important to listen to your body and focus on the areas that benefit you the most as pregnancy impacts people in different ways. Some might need to spend their 5 minutes around the hips and pelvis, others on the back, hands etc.
To give a very general answer, I would say, especially in the later stages of pregnancy you might prefer to work on rotating your hips on all fours, leaning back onto your heels and stretching arms out infront to bring space in your back. It’s good to free up your back between lower back joints, because as the body gets bigger, it naturally leans forward to increase a lower back curve & the joints get compressed. You might also enjoy doing some gentle side stretches and chair assisted squats to help open the pelvis.
The breathing is as important as the physical stretching, so I’d recommend taking a couple of minutes at least to do some calming breathing (Pranayama) to release tension in your body and bring oxygen to the brain.
Is it difficult to keep it up as I get bigger?
The most important thing is to listen to your body and adapt yourself as it changes. Coming into your 3rd trimester it is likely you will need to slow down and be careful not to overstretch. There are also some positions that will not be appropriate for you to do while being pregnant, so I recommend you follow the guidance of a teacher either in class or with a DVD / video.
Don’t be put off though, there are yoga positions appropriate for all stages of pregnancy, such as my video offering positions for your 3rd trimester:
Useful positions for birth
During birth, your midwife will suggest you focus on breathing, movement and keeping the pelvis open, so you’re encouraged to stay active rather than compressing the cervix by being on your back. Each woman is different and the positions you’d planned to use may not be comfortable on the day, so remember to listen to your body.
Popular positions you may practice during pregnancy yoga are being on all fours, rocking, rotating your hips (maybe with birthing ball) or stood up with arms around your partner’s neck
Squatting is a common way to birth a baby as there is less distance for the baby to come down and it opens the birth canal. Squatting upright or against something for support puts gravity on your side as well.
Yoga in the 4th trimester
Again, each body is different, so listen to yours and take it easy for the first 4-6 months after birth as ligaments and muscles have not yet returned to normal and it takes time for your body to adjust.
Postnatal yoga can usually start around 6 weeks after birth, but that depends on the type of birth you had and how your body is recovering. It helps to strengthen abdominal muscles and your pelvic floor. It also helps you to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape faster.
A lovely way to ease yourself back into it and maybe make some friends along the way is to find a local mother and baby yoga class, so you can start off with gentle postnatal instruction while your baby watches from the mat and no one minds if you need to comfort or feed them.