1. Strength: It's important to maintain muscle strength during pregnancy. As well as generally keeping a woman healthy, strength in the legs can be summoned upon during an active birth. The experience of having regularly doing squats and generally strengthening the legs can be particularly useful for labour, especially when it is practiced and has become so normal that you don’t have to come out of ‘labourland’ to think about it.
2. Get ready for baby: Working with the arms keeps them strong and toned, ready to care for your newborn baby who is used to being held and rocked all day. Poses that raise the arms can also stimulate the lymph glands (part of your body’s detox system) and strengthen chest and arms in preparation for breastfeeding or carrying baby. Arms raised positions will also create more space in the ribs for breathing and the organs in general, which can help with common pregnancy difficulties like indigestion and heartburn.
3. Find balance: Help you adjust to your shifting center of gravity and sense of balance. Working slowly with asanas can help adjust to the changes within the body, literally finding your centre and feeling your way through the changes in the body. Many women also find that they feel more centered and balanced emotionally through yoga, which is a useful thing to be able access during times of change and there’s no doubt that pregnancy is one of those times.
4. Get a better night’s sleep: Exercising the body may help women sleep better at night. Research shows that regular exercise really helps to improve sleep patterns.
5. Those deep breaths aren’t just about relaxation: Movement and breath together help to improve circulation and oxygenation of blood. This in turn may help avoid issues like preeclampsia; through lowering blood pressure and general health improvements from exercise, plus it lessens the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes.
6. Embrace your changing body: As the flow of relaxin in the body works to gradually soften the joints yoga practice can help gently assist and ease aches caused by shifts within the body. Common pain areas such as hip or pelvic soreness, lower back pain and tense shoulders can be gently released and space found. Poses can be adapted for the individual and women encouraged to follow their body's cues and their own instincts as to what is right for them. This in turn is a great preparation for both birth and parenting.
7. Find relaxation and release: Maybe you're normally a quite a stressed person? Relaxation is one of those things that you need to practice to be able to use. The good news is that it is a simple practice and you can learn through just a few minutes practice a day. Being able to release your mind from worries is useful for everyone.
8. Discover you are stronger than you think: While I would not encourage anyone to stretch beyond their ability; sometimes it can be helpful to focus the breath and breathe relaxation into an area of tension, such as the neck or shoulders, where many of us hold worries. As well as helping to release tension in the stretch itself and giving the body more space, coming to the breath will help you to focus and relax further. This can helps you get used to using your breath as a tool for working through pain in labour.