Having a baby can be an exciting time, but as the body changes, it can also be an uncomfortable time for the mom-to-be. Prenatal yoga can help relieve the discomfort and prepare the body for delivery.
Rachel Dilworth, yoga instructor at Rasa Yoga Studio in Medford, wants women to appreciate and honor themselves during this time. “Pregnancy can be a lonely journey,” she says. “I try to provide a safe place where moms can connect with other moms in a shared experience. They find camaraderie and support. They leave feeling positive and fulfilled.”
Michelle Baumgarten, yoga instructor at Ashland Yoga Center, says women come in looking for community. “I want each woman to have a space to take care of herself,” she says. “I try to make sure each one gets what they came for. And I don’t want anyone to stay at home because they feel bad. If a mom comes in with morning sickness, I will stay with her and give her special attention while the class continues.”
What to expect at a class
Both instructors focus on breathwork to lower the heartrate and create mental focus.
“This is an effort to allow mamas to feel graceful and to remember that they are still a person, not just a pregnant woman.” – Rachel Dilworth, Rasa Yoga Studio, Medford
Dilworth says her classes begin by sitting in a circle to encourage community. “As we practice breathwork, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which puts the women in a more relaxed and responsive state. It relieves stress and makes for a thoughtful practice,” she says.
Baumgarten adds that proper breathing techniques (in through the nose, out through the mouth) help with labor.
Dilworth says the warmup begins with small meaningful movements and smaller versions of larger poses. “After warming up, we have a potty break and the ladies visit with one another for a few minutes before starting on poses that are modified for the pregnant body,” she says. “All of our movements are heavily propped, taking into account that hormone changes make the muscles more flexible during pregnancy and we want to avoid injury. For instance, during forward fold, we have to be attentive to the hamstrings, so we don’t overextend.”
During cool-down, Dilworth takes the class into a seated meditative state. “Being seated opens the hips,” she says. “We continue with breathing techniques and offer mantras that are beneficial for labor. This is an effort to allow mamas to feel graceful and to remember that they are still a person, not just a pregnant woman. The ladies leave slowly with a sense of peace and more at ease.”
Baumgarten notes that one of the benefits of prenatal yoga is that it keeps edema down. “Also, some poses are great for labor, such as squats and hip work for strengthening and opening. You can start at any time during your pregnancy from the first to the third trimester.”
Baumgarten emphasized the importance of women’s pelvic floor and strengthening the pubic symphysis, which is the area where the pubic bones connect and create the opening the baby passes through during birth. “Some women experience pain in this area during pregnancy, which can be relieved through yoga poses,” she says.