By Nishta Shukla
As the most ancient form of fitness that strengthens your mind, body and soul, yoga sets you on the healthy road to motherhood
You might wish to be a mom, or you might be on your way to becoming one. And you know that this is an experience that is emotional, dynamic, and one that will possibly include some of the most precious moments of your life.
Even though childbirth is the most natural of all phenomena, an increasing number of women these days need the doctor’s spatula and scissors to deliver their babies. This is partly because their muscles simply don’t have the strength to hold the baby and to deliver it naturally into the world. This could be attributed to our junk food diet, sedentary lifestyle, or simply poor states of mind—the mind-body-soul fitness that we are unaware of.
A lot of mothers-to-be today realise that balance is required, and are turning to yoga as part of their plans to give birth as effortlessly as possible. Seema Sondhi, author of Yoga in Pregnancy and Childbirth, who teaches pre-natal yoga at her Yoga Studio in Hauz Khas, New Delhi, says that pregnant women are initially apprehensive about beginning yoga, but they are taking it up. “Women these days are enjoying the concept, since it is calming and also eases you into childbirth,” she says. Sarah Dhar, who runs the spinning centre Tailspin in Defence Colony, New Delhi, and is to turn mom soon, agrees: “Yoga is something fun that you can do with your baby.”
If you are going to have a baby, it is best to get started right away by preparing yourself for motherhood, mentally and physically. You can do this by telling yourself how much you will love the child, how much you want one and how it can fulfil a special desire. A hypnotherapist once told me that during her pregnancy, she felt that her baby could hear everything she said, from the moment the child was conceived. This made her decide that she would only talk positive to her baby throughout her pregnancy. Suggested asanas for conception are agni sara (encourages digestion, tones reproductive organs and facilitates sexual functions), sarvangasana (regulates menstrual activity, beneficial for women with a displaced uterus), upavistha konasana (stimulates the ovaries).
Since ages, we have known that the state of mind of the mother affects the baby in the womb. Once you know you want to bring a baby into the world, eat green, laugh more and quit smoking. Seema Sondhi says: “The way to approach your conception is to create the correct environment for becoming pregnant, which means that as a prospective parent, your body must be in optimum health and in good condition to facilitate conception.”
“Pre-natal yoga,” says yoga instructor Monicca Chand, “makes the body a fitter instrument to carry the baby. It gives one overall strength and generates a general sense of well-being.” She feels that the mental, emotional, psychological and physical strength that yoga provides makes childbirth an easier process. Yoga relaxes the body, making it better prepared to deal with labour. It also helps rid fear, irritation and resistance.
Physically, there are two important aspects of yoga and childbirth—the working of the spinal chord (and therefore the nervous system), and the flow of oxygen that yoga’s deep breathing facilitates. Seema writes: “During pregnancy you put on weight, and the abdomen expands to accommodate the growing baby. This will put a lot of pressure on your back. Regular asanas will help ease the stress on your spinal column, tone your internal organs, increase blood circulation throughout your body and nourish the growing foetus inside your body.”
The gulpha sakti asana is good for tired feet and ankles and swollen feet and toes. The torso and hip need special training when you are on the delivery table. Asanas like jathara parvritti release the tension in the muscles in these parts. The setubandh asana reduces backache, massages your abdominal organs and aids digestion. The baddhakon asana also improves the flexibility of the pelvic region, since it has to bear considerable weight and stress during pregnancy, preparing you for easier labour. Tadasana stretches the entire body and increases the flexibility of the limbs, tones the muscles of the spine and stimulates spinal nerves.
Yogic asanas exercise every part of the body, stretching and toning muscles and joints, bones, the vertebral column and the entire skeletal system. Vishali Jain, pregnant for the second time, agrees: “I didn’t practise yoga during my first pregnancy. I had weight problems then, it was more painful and I was much more worried. This time it’s a different experience!” Sarah Dhar also believes that during pregnancy, one has to be more cautious about fitness. She has included grilled protein, salads and shakes in her diet. Fitness helps the body to be flexible, and with no excess weight, Sarah is not worried. This is her ninth month and she is still spinning.
Yogic breathing (pranayam) is a high form of purification and self-discipline for the mind and the body and is therefore being medically recommended for pregnant women. Pranayam ascertains better flow of oxygen and regulates the condition of the mind,” says Seema Sondhi.
Efficient breathing is necessary because a pregnant women requires oxygen for two bodies. Sarah agrees that with breathing, you can keep your core strong and yourself balanced, so you can go in stronger for the delivery. Pre-natal yoga is bigger in New York in the US, she says, and is used to facilitate normal deliveries.
Pranayam also helps gain control over pregnancy anxieties and keeps a person calm. During breathing exercises it is important to sit up in a comfortable position, supporting yourself with cushions, keeping your facial muscles released and breathing natural. Says Vishali: “I regularly do ujjayi pranayam and it has helped me be prepared and positive. I am much more balanced this time.”
Yogic asanas make the body supple, improving its pain-bearing capacity. If you have been doing lower abdomen and hip asanas, childbirth labour is also made easier, for the body is flexible, helping the processes of dilation, expulsion and delivery. It is easier to bear the pain if the muscles have been worked out (an important function pranayam performs). When it comes to post-pregnancy backaches, uterine cramps, stiffness and digestion problems, yogic asanas help in releasing a set of energy boosters into your system.
While those who have been practising yoga before pregnancy can continue to do so all through their nine months, beginners are advised to begin only after their first trimester. One has to be extremely cautious about practising yoga during pregnancy, and it is better to do it under guidance. Do simple asanas, do them with caution. Eat well and keep fit. These simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in ensuring an easy pregnancy and an effortless delivery.
Yoga in Pregnancy and Childbirth
by Seema Sondhi, Wisdom Tree, Rs 145.
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