How can pregnancy yoga combat stress?

By Lolly Stirk

Our senses are heightened during pregnancy.  Some say this is a safety mechanism, but it can make life difficult if we are used to living life in the fast lane.  Hormones are released into our bloodstream to facilitate pregnancy and this can bring up emotions that have lain dormant and under control for years. Not everyone finds pregnancy stressful, many women say it was the best they’ve ever felt in their lives, but many of us find the roller coaster of emotional highs and lows hard to negotiate. 

One powerful element to our YogaBirth classes, both online and in person, is that you recognise that many of the women in the class feel exactly as you do.  ‘OMG thank goodness I’m not the only one feeling and thinking that’, is something I have heard very often in my classes. The joy of realising that you are not alone with your sometimes exaggerated (according to some people!) emotions.  I’m not sure crying at toilet paper ads with puppies running about is crazy! ☺  Or throwing a hissy fit because someone who was trying to be helpful bought the wrong brand of spaghetti for you.   Laughing together at these things really lowers stress levels.  

To the first time mother

In an online class a month or so ago a young woman piped up and said, ‘For some reason I’m not anxious about the birth, but so worried about being able to look after my baby once it is born.’  Lots of nodding heads.  I asked if any of the second time mothers had anything to say about mothering and how it came to them with their first born.  A gorgeous woman, pregnant with her second baby took the floor and told the young first timer not to worry, just to hold her baby close and the baby would show her the way.  She too had been stressed and worried and realised that it was her anxiety that was blocking the instinct to mother.  She talked about the flood of oxytocin, the love hormone that came with the baby, how strong it was and how it would really help her to relax into motherhood.  She added that every baby came with more love so there was no problem about sharing what love there was.  There’s always more.  There were many sighs of relief during that five minute talk.

Reassurance from your YogaBirth teacher

Another reassuring feature of YogaBirth classes is the way your teacher will show you how cleverly designed your body is, particularly in regard to giving birth.  When you are thinking with your hands on your large belly, ‘how will all this manage to get through my pelvis?’ your YogaBirth teacher with all the tools of her trade, her pelvis and doll, charts and videos will show that you were built to do the task and that your body knows how to give birth, it’s just your mind that doesn’t know that your body knows how to give birth!   Also reassuring is the knowledge that if we need assistance it will be there. The safety net of modern technology is there to serve us if we need it.  Preparation and open mindedness are key in bringing down stress levels.

Women sharing experiences

Using yoga to release tension

And then comes the actual work, the yoga. YogaBirth classes are different in that we focus on the breath as we practise the postures as a way of releasing tension.  Slowly, mindfully we work our way into the tension that a posture has highlighted and as we exhale we melt the stiffness.  The exhalation is about letting go, not by collapsing but mindfully finding space where there is holding.  Not only do we hold in the body, but in the mind.  For some reason many of us meet tension with tension.  We try to force our way through and this only creates more tension.  You cannot force stiffness out of the body you can only let it go…….. through the exhalation.  This is the perfect preparation for riding the waves of labour and birth.   This is what we do in our classes.

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