Monday, August 19, 2013

Fundamentals of Relaxation - Part 6 - Yoga

One of the CAMs (complementary and alternative medicines) used in pregnancy is yoga.  Research demonstrates that yoga improves birth weight, decreases preterm labor, and decreases IUGR either in isolation or associated with PIH, with no increased complications.  The various styles of yoga used for health purposes typically combine physical postures or movement, breathing techniques, and meditation.  Ranked in the top 10 of CAMs used by adults, yoga enjoys a strong following around the world ~ especially with expectant and new mothers.

I had the opportunity to email with Cheryl MacDonald, BA (Hons) CYT E-RPYT Principal Yoga Teacher Glasgow West Studio: YogaBellies Women Baby & Yoga Centre.  I asked her some questions as she is the Director of YogaBellies, an international yoga training and certification organization.

Connie: Briefly, what are the benefits of prenatal yoga for the mother?

Cheryl: As much as mum may have wanted to become pregnant, it can still create a number of conflicting emotions when those two little lines appear on the pregnancy test. Practicing yoga during pregnancy can help mum work through these emotions, stay flexible and healthy and become positive about birth and parenting.

Yoga during pregnancy is about so much more than safe asanas (postures), it’s about bonding with baby, staying strong and flexible for birthing and accepting where you are at and that life isn't just about you any more. It's a valuable life lesson.

Connie: Are there benefits of prenatal yoga for the baby?

Cheryl: Absolutely! A happy and relaxed mum equals a happy and relaxed baby. Every time mum stops to take care of herself, to relax and renew and become strong and healthy, this makes her baby's chances of health and happiness even better. The fact is that yoga actually makes you happier. The ‘love hormone’ Oxytocin helps you to relax and reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels. This is the hormone we produce during birth, breasfeeding and love making. The most important things is not to force yourself (or baby) to do anything you don't feel comfortable with. It's important to listen to your body's signals.

Also, in a study of 65 women with depression and anxiety, the 34 women who took a yoga class twice a week for two months showed a significant decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms, compared to the 31 women who were not in the class.

Connie: If someone has already had their baby, what are the benefits of yoga during the postpartum?

Cheryl: From a purely physical perspective, post natal yoga helps to rebuild the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles and to ease any lower back pain in a gentle but effective way.

Yoga helps to balance hormones and stabilizes the endocrine system. By practicing yogic relaxation techniques, we can balance cortical activities and the nervous and endocrine systems, reducing the body`s reaction to stress. As a result, the body produces less adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, (all stress hormones) and mum feels much more balanced and stress free.

Also, prenatal depression studies indicate clinical depression alleviates by half if only we can talk to a friend who listens to us and oxytocin is shown to increase when we receive empathy.  The social aspects of getting out to perinatal yoga classes either before or with baby help mum and baby socialize with other mums around them.

Remember oxytocin is about being personal in ways that give our time together significance and shape moments of laughter and pleasure.  Follow the instinct to reach out and strengthen ties with invitations to share together and enjoy your pregnancy and life.  
There is ample evidence, that oxytocin and another hormone known as vasopressin are critical for the bonding process, especially as it relates to social and reproductive behaviour. Both chemicals help encourage bonding and maternal behaviour.

Connie: Can prenatal yoga be modified if a mom has a complicated pregnancy or is on bedrest?

Cheryl: Absolutely. But it is very important to make sure your yoga teacher has a credible qualification in specialist perinatal yoga. It's important to find a yoga teacher that's right for you and if you're new to yoga, YogaBellies classes cater for all levels and make you feel comfortable wherever you are in your pregnancy or your yoga journey. Our teachers are fully qualified in teaching yoga for pregnant women accredited by the IYN and IPTI. If your prospective teacher does not hold a reputable Yoga Teacher Training qualification, look elsewhere!

 This is a video of me and a bit about what we do. 

Connie: Now, talk a little about you and your company and bringing YogaBellies to the US/Canada!

Cheryl: We have almost 100 franchised YogaBellies teachers across the world - but not yet in Canada or the USA! We are always looking for inspiring women to spread the YogaBellies message of women helping women. We offering training in four main paths: Yoga for women at every stage of life, yoga for children (YogaBelliesKidz), Birth ROCKS (our birth preparation program) and YogaBellies Mummy therapies (our specialist perinatal massage therapists.) You can find out more about YogaBellies and joing us here or find us on facebook at

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