Even as the world celebrates the fourth International Yoga Day, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development, had a special message exclusively for pregnant women. “Regular yoga can ensure a healthy pregnancy,” said the Minister.
According to the minister, being physically fit and emotionally strong directly affects the baby’s physical, neurological and psychological development. There is usually a misconception related to pregnant women indulging in physical activities but the minister enlightened the women of the country by saying that practising prenatal yoga during pregnancy gives women the ability to stay calm and eases most physical problems during these nine months.
Giving useful tips she emphasises that Pranayama has been found to have exceptional benefits during pregnancy. It must be incorporated in the daily regime all through the three trimesters as it helps release negative emotions. Two most useful forms of pranayama or breathing exercises are: ujjayi, a long, strong, deep breath that helps women redirect their concentration to the present moment and maintain calm; and nadi shodhana. The postures and exercises differ for each of the three trimesters of pregnancy.
The first trimester (0 to 13 weeks) brings nausea and fatigue. Severe biological and musculoskeletal alterations take place in the body. Yoga experts advise that one must be extremely cautious while practising yoga in this trimester as a wrong posture can obstruct the implantation of the foetus and placenta.
The following asanas are ideal for this trimester:
- Marjariasana (cat stretch): Stretches the neck and shoulders, lessening body stiffness and keeps the spine flexible because the back has to support more body weight as the pregnancy advances.
- Konasana (standing sideways bending the arm): Keeps the spine flexible and helps alleviate constipation, a common symptom of pregnancy.
- Badhakonasana (butterfly pose): Improves flexibility in the hip and groin region, stretches the thighs and knees, relieving pain, alleviates fatigue and helps facilitate smooth delivery when practised until late pregnancy.
- Yoga nidra (yogic sleep): Reduces tension and anxiety, helps regulate blood pressure and relaxes every cell in the body.
During the second trimester (14 to 28 weeks), the volume of blood in the body expands 50-60% to support the foetus and placenta, the blood circulates faster, the rate of metabolism increases and heart rate rises. The body’s sugar gets used up faster and important reserves are used to support the placenta and foetus.
The following asanas are beneficial during this trimester:
- Vajrasana (diamond pose) –Enhances digestion and can be done directly after meal. It also helps strengthen the pelvic muscles and assist women in labour too.
- Kati chakrasana (spinal twist pose) – Relieves physical and mental tension and tones waist, hip and back.
- Tadasana (mountain pose) – Helps stretch and loosen the entire spine and also helps in developing mental and physical balance.
- Uthanasana (standing forward fold)– Strengthens muscles of uterus, thighs, back and ankles.
By the third trimester (29 to 40 weeks), the body has already undergone drastic physical and biological changes and also the movement of the baby is strong now. The protruding belly and additional weight are likely to challenge one’s balance. Simple balancing postures can make women feel lighter and more aligned. It is advisable to practise yoga with a prenatal teacher at this stage. If you ever feel uncomfortable doing any posture, stop.
Basic balancing postures like utthita trikonasana (extended triangle pose), utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose), virabhadrasana (hero pose) and vriksasana (tree pose) are ideal for building strength in the legs, for proper alignment in the spine and for easing blood circulation.
According to a review of recent research studies, prenatal yoga drastically lowers the chances of pregnancy complications, stress levels and pain, and possibly even the risk of the baby being small for her gestational age.