By now yoga in its many forms has become a commonly accepted activity and is available to much of the populace, whether in yoga studios, gyms, community centers or through DVD’s and cable exercise programming. The information regarding the benefits of yoga is also easily accessible, available in a litany of mainstream and counterculture materials. The ability of a consistent yoga practice to positively affect the ten body-mind systems (skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, nervous, energy and mental-emotional) has been well-documented in medical studies and individual’s personal testimony. Renowned yoga instructor, Ganga White asserts in his book Yoga Beyond Belief that “as it has been handed down and expanded through the centuries, [yoga] has evolved, continually, into the most complete and sophisticated system of physical culture, health, and well-being ever known to humanity. Yoga practices work with and balance many interrelationships within body and mind.” This interrelationship flows through the ten systems mentioned above, from the dense physical systems of bones and muscle all the way through matter-energy continuum to the emotional-mental body, affording yoga the unique ability to positively affect your mood, balance your hormones, improve organ functioning and build strength and stamina.
With credentials like those, why not prenatal yoga! During pregnancy a woman’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies undergo a tremendous amount of change and this extends out into the way she experiences and is experienced in the physical world: culture, society, relationships, etc. As she navigates her way through these intense mind, body, and life-altering changes, which occur in a condensed and often overwhelmingly short time frame, what better tool to turn to than yoga. For thousands of years, yoga has been considered far more than a physical activity, but rather was viewed and practiced as a philosophical way of life, a way of harnessing and uniting the power of the body, mind and spirit, a way of creating a life based in peaceful co-existence and harmony within oneself as well as in relationship with others. Yoga teaches mindfulness, patience, balance and grace and it advocates utilizing these qualities as guideposts in all circumstances, both on and off the mat. Whether it is staying focused and calm in a difficult balance pose, navigating the shifting physical and mental changes experienced in pregnancy, remaining centered during a challenging interaction with a loved one about pregnancy or parenting choices, or finding beauty and grace in the midst of yet another sleepless night with your newborn, the multifaceted benefits of yoga are far reaching. A consistent yoga practice during pregnancy and beyond will prepare the expectant mother in particular, and expectant parents in general, with the tools they will need to not only navigate the shifts and changes of pregnancy, but of labor and parenting.
In addition, the mother-to-be is not the only one experiencing the wide range of benefits inherent in a consistent yoga practice. Studies, like those conducted by Dr. Thomas R. Verny, one of the world's leading authorities on the effect of the prenatal and early postnatal environment on personality development, have shown that a woman’s psychological state during pregnancy effects the development of the fetuses’ brain and its own psychological state. For example, a woman who experiences consistent and high levels of stress and fear during pregnancy will pass that on to her child, whose brain will be ‘wired’ to produce more stress hormones and fear responses as a result. It is a brilliant and effective way that evolution enables a newborn to survive in the same environment of its mother. However, if a woman has constructed her environment to include the relaxation, rejuvenation and loving self-care that is expressed through her time on the mat, and the mindfulness and peace that she takes with her off the mat, it can be inferred that her baby will partake in these qualities as well. Additionally, most prenatal yoga classes create space to build a mindful, peaceful and loving bond between mother and her in utero baby, which only enhance the positive report developing between the two, on and off the mat.
So whether it is in a yoga class or a DVD, creating the space for a consistent yoga practice during pregnancy and beyond is a gift every expectant mother should give to herself, knowing that she will experience many returns upon it in the days, months and years to come as she navigates the next stages of her life.
Megan Gala is a Registered Yoga Teacher, a Certified Prenatal Yoga Teacher and a Birth Doula, who delights in sharing in the miracles of pregnancy, birth and yoga with expectant mothers and their babies. Through her work she actively participates in visioning a world of happy families filled with Love and Well-Being. To learn more please visit her website: www.megangala.com