In the realm of prenatal yoga, Singapore offers a few options for pregnant mothers to follow along if you are already a practitioner yourself or even take up as a beginner. This restorative and often calming practice is touted to be laden with benefits for both the mother and the baby.
We talked to a prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher at COMO Shambhala Urban Escape, Sarah Manning, who gives us an in-depth look into the benefits of yoga when pregnant and after delivery, and the times when it is safe to engage in exercise.
Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
Benefits for the pregnant mum
According to Sarah, prenatal yoga poses many benefits for the pregnant mother. They are listed below in order of importance.
Allocation of time and attention to self
Women have the habit of putting everyone else’s needs first and then their own. Prioritising herself, her health and her fitness is key to the well-being of her child.
Allocation of time and attention to the baby while in-utero.
Prenatal yoga helps you get a headstart on the bonding process – stroking the belly; talking to the baby; recognising that your hormonal environment affects the baby; being aware that everything you consume in foods, drugs, drink, including air quality, affects the baby.
A space to be honest and truthful with oneself.
Being present at the moment and being in tune with your emotions – allowing and accepting all questions/ thoughts/ feelings to flood one’s mind.
Empowerment of women to reach inwards to feel, to think, to observe
This helps you deal with situations and take stock of things to take appropriate action. These skills are key for her, and her baby’s safety – whether in the delivery room or as a parent.
Practices that enable her to recognise that she is a holistic being
Prenatal yoga helps you to combine and interlink body, emotions, breath and mind.
For example, if you can feel the tension in your shoulders or feel your breath becoming more shallow before you explode in anger, the practice teaches you to respond with a cleansing breath to switch off the anger, focusing on being centred and opting to immerse yourself in love instead – all useful practices to maintain in your home and especially in front of your child.
While her pregnant body is getting ready for birth and “softening” – a process that allows the uterus to move into space where other organs have been, and facilitate the “relocation of other organs – a pregnant mother needs to be in tune with her body, listen to it and be aware of the sensations present.
Prenatal yoga helps you to slow down, be curious and gentle with your body, and move into challenges in safety.
Practice pelvic floor awareness
Pelvic floor exercises like some yoga positions help women during labour. Prenatal yoga also helps to rebuild your body after the birth of your baby from day one of delivery.
Prenatal yoga helps you practise breathing for calming and centring purposes, improving on parenting skills and helps calm you down to better deal with issues that may rile you up in the future.
Prenatal yoga helps you practise mindfulness to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system for support of the digestive, immune and reproductive systems.
Tension in the shoulders, neck and back is released, preventing back pain and other muscle soreness.
It further helps you strengthen muscles – legs, arms, and core. It further helps you strengthen quads specifically for lifting and carrying – to avoid back injury.
The practice helps in reducing heart rate and elevated blood pressure levels.
Prenatal yoga, Singapore classes in session at COMO. Source: COMO
Benefits for baby
Prenatal yoga has further positive impacts on a growing baby.
When engaging in prenatal yoga, the mother is benefitted from numerous aspects that act as a cycle in improving conditions and the overall experience for the baby in the womb.
The pregnant mother will develop good posture which in turn “affects her breathing and her energy (qi)”, helps to keep her moving and helps her avoid back pain.
Staying active during pregnancy improves circulation and helps keep energy levels up. The yoga poses and specific movements also “change breathing and qi circulation”, all aiding in improving conditions in the womb for the baby.
A relaxed and happy mother is a relaxed and happy baby.
The chanting and singing involved affect the mother’s hormones and emotions and aid in letting down a rush of endorphins, which the baby can immediately experience.
Further, according to Sarah, the concepts of practised breathing and mindfulness, switch off cortisol and adrenaline. A baby that experienced in the womb “constant cortisol dominance, would mark this as “normal” – and in their life seek it to the detriment of their long-term health of organs and mind.”
Prenatal yoga is beneficial for both mum and baby. Source: COMO
Risks in Prenatal Yoga for Pregnant Women
Now that we are aware of the benefits of prenatal yoga, are there any risks involved?
Are all yoga poses safe for mums-to-be and can a pregnant mother turn on a random instructional video, on YouTube perhaps, that is not specifically meant for pregnancy, and follow through with no harm occurring to her or her baby? Are there any yoga poses to avoid when pregnant?
“As with all things – it’s not what you do but how you do it. When I was pregnant with my first child, and not a teacher myself at that time, I was practising yoga in classes at River Valley Road with a male ex-Singapore Olympic gymnast – this was 27 years ago,” recalled Sarah.
“He was a strong, dominating teacher and we just blindly followed his instructions. I felt my rectus abdominus “unstitch” with some double leg raises, and realised it would have been so much better and safer doing the kind of practise we do now at our own Yoga centre,” she says.
Since then, Sarah made it a point to teach women to be aware, move slowly, and explore for themselves how to practice prenatal yoga safely.
As a practice in her class, she gives three variations of the pose that will cater to the level of difficulty of the student.
“This gives a woman a chance to explore and be mindful as she deepens the challenge,” she adds.
But as with all exercise, there are issues that some women will have to watch out for:
When to start prenatal yoga
At COMO, there are no prerequisites and prior fitness levels for women to join the Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes. However, Sarah encourages women to wait until the first trimester has passed to attend classes.
“In those first key weeks, the biggest changes are happening in your body and your baby’s development. You feel fatigued and should listen to your body,” she says.
“You are not sick when you are pregnant. However, you are softer and easier to injure. And, you will have issues that you have never had to work with before.
Build your strength of mind and body with prenatal yoga, prepare for your childbirth and parenthood and have fun,” she advises.
General Rules When Practicing Prenatal Yoga
Avoid certain poses and make sure to follow guidelines in place for the safe practice of prenatal yoga, Singapore. Source: COMO
If you’ve been practising yoga before you got pregnant, you can continue doing so unless your doctor advises you to stop. However, if you’re a first-timer, experts suggest waiting to start doing the exercise after your first trimester, around the 14th week.
What yoga poses to avoid when pregnant
To make the practice safe for pregnant mothers, certain guidelines will have to be followed, which typically differentiate prenatal yoga from the regular variation. They are detailed below:
- No inversions
- No heavy abdominal movements or compressions
- No strong backbends
- No sudden jerky movement
- No closed twists
- No strong forward bends
- No straining or overstretching
- No prone poses
- Avoid long periods lying on your back after 20 weeks
- Avoid all breath retention
- Avoid yin yoga – better to do restorative variations
- Avoid overheating – dress appropriately and practise in a well-ventilated space
Similarly, postnatal yoga – after the delivery of your baby – will further aid in restoring the body. Postnatal yoga differs in the approach of the practice and looks into nurturing the body and focusing on the postnatal issues that women may be dealing with.
According to Sarah, they focus on the physical body in three ways:
- Relief of shoulder and neck tension and pain
- Rebuild core – pelvic floor/ transverse abdominus and multifidus and then develop the challenge to include quads, inner thigh, and deep gluts – addressing issues of stress incontinence/ back pain/ belly shape/ lifting safely. They also deal with energy work to combat fatigue. Yoga is restorative for the immune and digestive systems and helps mothers who have just delivered rest and recover.
- Pep up women after delivery – using qigong breathing and movement.
“But it is more than that – we gather together a community of women who have transitioned through a life-changing experience. They need emotional support. A shared safe, space to speak her truth,” says Sarah.
On being asked when it is safe for women to practise postnatal yoga, she says:
“We usually recommend that she completes her Gynaecologist’s 6 weeks check of uterus and structures in the pelvis. Mothers who come earlier than that, come for emotional support and are never turned away.
We tailor the exercises to make them appropriate for their body as it heals after delivery. There is a whole range of strengths, birth experiences, pelvis instability, back pain, confidence and ability, the key is to make it appropriate so that they are challenged enough to rebuild without overdoing it and injuring themselves. It’s a balance.”
Remember, pregnant mum: before you start on any exercise routine during your pregnancy, seek the advice of your doctor first to prevent injuries and complications.
Image Source: iStock
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