A Complete Guide to Prenatal Yoga
Prenatal yoga is a style designed for pregnant women to practice, regardless of their due date. The mixture of stretching, controlled breathing, and mental focus offers a variety of benefits to expectant mothers. This form of yoga can also increase strength and flexibility in the muscles used during childbirth.
Prenatal yoga may reduce stress levels and improve sleep patterns during pregnancy. It may also alleviate physical discomforts such as nausea, headaches, and lower back pain. Another benefit typically associated with this type of yoga is the way in which the breathing techniques and state of self-awareness learned can help during a delivery.
A Prenatal yoga class will typically include deep breathing, gentle stretching, and suitable postures, with props often used.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Origin of Prenatal Yoga
- 2 - History of Prenatal Yoga
- 3 - Prenatal Yoga in Britain
- 4 - Prenatal Yoga in India
- 5 - Benefits of doing Prenatal Yoga
- 6 - Special safety Guidelines For Prenatal Yoga
- 7 - Types of Asana for Prenatal Yoga
Origin of Prenatal Yoga
Modern yoga as exercise has often been taught by women to classes consisting mainly of women. This continued a tradition of gendered physical activity dating back to the early 20th century with the Harmonic Gymnastics of Genevieve Stebbins in America and Mary Bagot Stack in Britain. One of the pioneers of modern yoga, Indra Devi whois known as a pupil of Krishnamacharya has popularised yoga among American women using her celebrity Hollywood clients as a lever.
The majority of yoga practitioners in the Western world are women. Yoga has been marketed to women as promoting health and beauty, and as something that could be continued into old age. It has created a substantial market for fashionable yoga clothing. Yoga is now encouraged also for pregnant women.
History of Prenatal Yoga
The history of Prenatal Yoga is developed by:
In 1936, the journalist Louise Morgan interviewed the rajah of Aundh, Bhawanrao Shriniwasrao Pant Pratinidhi, in the News Chronicle. Her report announced “Surya Namaskars – The Secret of Health” claiming that not only were the rajah and the rani in perfect health but the 60-year-old wife of the rani’s tutor looked younger than her daughters.
A pioneer of modern asana-based yoga, Indra Devi was born on Eugenie V. Peterson. Indra Devi is known as the Russian pupil of the founder of yoga as exercise. Krishnamacharya argued that yoga was suitable for well-to-do Indian women: “Yogic exercises since they are non-violent and non-fatiguing are particularly suited to a woman and make her more beautiful.”
The historian of modern yoga Elliott Goldberg notes that the normally progressive Devi was effectively arguing for “a gentle yoga for the fairer sex” deprecating the more energetic exercises such as Surya Namaskar. Devi was encouraged by Krishnamacharya to begin teaching yoga in China. In 1939, she opened the first yoga school in Shanghai continuing to run it for seven years where mainly teaching American women.
On her return in 1947, she opened a yoga studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood to teach yoga to film stars and other celebrities including Greta Garbo, Eva Gabor, Gloria Swanson, Robert Ryan, Jennifer Jones, Ruth St. Denis, Serge Koussevitsky, and the violinist Yehudi Menuhin. This famous clientele helped Devi to sell yoga and her books such as her 1953 Forever Young Forever Healthy, her 1959 Yoga for Americans, and her 1963 Renew Your Life Through Yoga, to a skeptical American public.
Not all her clients were women, but all the same much of the advice in her books was to women. For example, in Forever Young Forever Healthy, Devi advises her readers that “No make-up can hide a hard line around the mouth, a selfish expression on the face, a spiteful glance in the eyes.” She instructs them to stay absolutely quiet and ask themselves if they are as beautiful as they can be. In her view, yoga brought beauty by assisting with peace of mind
The American heiress Marcia Moore studied yoga in Calcutta in the 1950s and trained as a yoga teacher under Swami Vishnudevananda in Canada in 1961. Her father was the founder of Sheraton Hotels. She opened the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in Boston in 1962.
Her classes were, according to the journalist Jess Stearn, “wholly attended by upper-middle-class fortyish housewives”. She learned to reflect on why their husbands did not join the classes. He supposed that the men were put off by how easily their wives performed the asanas, and being unfit office workers, felt they would lose face is seen to be less physical than their wives.
Moore explained to Stearn that the women were more interested in caring for their bodies than their husbands. Since they had been caring for that “package” all their lives, and they didn’t want to “see the wrapping wrinkled and spoiled.”Goldberg adds that this did not explain why the women chose classes rather than home practice.
He suggests that as well as the skill and motivation that a teacher could provide. They developed their own subculture with yoga books, lectures, classes, friends, and a shared uniform of black leotards and stockings, combining a dancer’s “hip severity” with a chorus girl’s “ostentatious allure”.
Prenatal Yoga in Britain
While Devi and Moore were spreading asana based yoga on the other side of the Atlantic, women in Britain took up the practice from the 1960s and yoga. In other words, asana sessions became a common option among adult education evening classes. For example, In Birmingham, a local newspaper editor Wilfred Clark gave a lecture on yoga to the Workers’ Educational Association in 1961 meeting such an enthusiastic response that he proposed yoga classes to the local education authority and founded in turn the Birmingham Yoga Club, the Midlands Yoga Association, and finally the British Wheel of Yoga in 1965. Yoga groups soon sprang up all over Britain.
Yoga reached London’s evening classes in 1967. The Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) stated that classes in “Hatha Yoga (sic)” should not cover the philosophy of Yoga favoring “Keep Fit” classes in asanas and “pranayamas (sic)” especially for people aged over 40, and expressing concern about the risk of “exhibitionism” and the lack of suitably qualified teachers. The ILEA’s Peter McIntosh watched some classes taught by B. K. S. Iyengar was impressed by his book Light on Yoga, and from 1970 ILEA-approved yoga teacher training was run by one of Iyengar’s pupils, Silva Mehta.
Yoga classes grew beyond those of local education authorities when ITV screened Yoga for Health from 1971. It was adopted by more than 40 TV channels in America. The yoga researcher Suzanne Newcombe estimates that the number of people mainly middle-class women who were practicing yoga in Britain rose from about 5,000 in 1967 to 50,000 in 1973 and 100,000 by 1979.
Most of their teachers were also women. With the rise of feminism and being well-educated, middle-class British women were starting to resent being housewives, and given their relative economic freedom were ready to experiment with new lifestyles such as yoga. Newcombe speculates that their husbands may have found having their wives attending “course on traditionally feminine subjects like flower arranging or cooking … less threatening and more respectable than employment outside the home.
The women saw evening classes as safe, interesting, and a good place to make friends with like-minded people. Further, women in Britain were accustomed to gendered physical education, dating back to Mary Bagot Stack’s Women’s League of Health and Beauty before the Second World War.
Prenatal Yoga in India
Little is known of many of the women who helped to develop modern yoga in India but one of Bishnu Charan. Ghosh’s pupils in Calcutta were Labanya Palit who published a manual of 40 asanas. Shriram Adyam in 1955 who worked as an admired by the poet and polymath Rabindranath Tagore.
Benefits of doing Prenatal Yoga
Some of the benefits of doing Prenatal Yoga are listed below:
- Improves sleep
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Increases the strength, flexibility, and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
- Decreases lower back pain, nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath
Special safety Guidelines For Prenatal Yoga
To protect your health and your baby’s health during prenatal yoga, follow basic safety guidelines. Some of them are defined below:
Talk to your health care provider
The first special safety guidelines for Prenatal Yoga is to talk to your care provider. Before you begin a prenatal yoga program, make sure you have your health care provider’s OK. You might not be able to do prenatal yoga if you are at an increased risk of preterm labor or have certain medical conditions such as heart disease or back problems.
Set realistic goals
The second special safety guideline for Prenatal Yoga is to set realistic goals. For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity is recommended on at least five, if not all, days of the week. However, even shorter or less frequent workouts can still help you stay in shape and prepare for labor.
The third special safety guideline for Prenatal Yoga is to pace yourself. If you can’t speak normally while you’re doing prenatal yoga, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard.
Stay cool and hydrated
The fourth special safety guidelines for Prenatal Yoga is to stay cool and hydrated. You should practice prenatal yoga in a well-ventilated room to avoid overheating. Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated.
Avoid certain postures
The fifth special safety guideline for Prenatal Yoga is to avoid certain postures. When you are doing poses, bend from your hips — not your back — to maintain normal spine curvature. you should avoid lying on your belly or back, doing deep forward or backward bends, or doing twisting poses that put pressure on your abdomen.
You can modify twisting poses so that you only move your upper back, shoulders, and rib cage. As your pregnancy progresses, use props during postures to accommodate changes in your center of gravity. If you wonder whether a pose is safe, ask your instructor for guidance.
Don’t overdo it
Pay attention to your body and how you feel. Start slow and avoid positions that are beyond your level of experience or comfort. Stretch only as far as you would have before pregnancy.
Types of Asana for Prenatal Yoga
Some of the types of asana for Prenatal Yoga are:
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
The first type of asana for Prenatal Yoga is Tadasana(Mountain Pose). Tadasana is the basic yoga asana which can be performed by anyone. This asana should be generally performed in the morning hours.
As such, there is no strict rule to do this asana on an empty stomach, but if it is followed by other asanas, then you need to perform it on an empty stomach. Tadasana is a great Yoga pose for pregnant women. This asana improves blood circulation, posture, and strengthens thighs and legs. This asana also provides relief from back pain.
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
The second type of asana for Prenatal Yoga is Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). Trikonasana again is a wonderful pregnancy yoga asana. This asana helps throughout the pregnancy.
Trikonasana strengthens thighs, knees, ankles, arms, and chest. It also helps improve digestion during pregnancy. This asana also stretches and opens the hips, hamstrings, and groins. Trikonasana can even be performed post-pregnancy.
Virbhadrasana (Warrior Pose)
The third type of asana for Prenatal Yoga is Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose). Virabhadrasana is one good asana for strengthening your lower body. Virabhadrasana helps in strengthening the back, shoulders, calves, ankles, and thighs.
It improves the balance of the body and increases stamina.
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
The fourth type of asana for Prenatal Yoga is Sukhasana (Easy Pose). Sukhasana is a pose of meditation and should be performed in the morning hours. This yoga asana is best for beginners.
Sukhasana is an easier alternative to Padmasana which is an advanced yoga asana. This asana relaxes your mind and body, stretches knees and ankles, and strengthens the back.
Marjaryasana (Cat-cow pose)
The fifth type of asana for Prenatal Yoga is Marjaryasana (Cat-cow pose). Marjaryasana or the cat-cow yoga pose for pregnancy should be performed only in the first six months and not beyond that. This asana strengthens shoulders and wrists and improves blood circulation levels.
Marjaryasana tones the abdomen and helps the body deal with additional weight during pregnancy.
Uttanasana (Forward Bend)
The sixth type of asana for Prenatal Yoga is Uttanasana (Forward Bend). In pregnancy doing the normal Uttanasana is hard, but you can make slight changes in this asana and perform it in a way you feel comfortable. Uttanasana provides relief from back pain.
Uttanasana is generally not recommended during pregnancy. And if you feel uncomfortable or have a problem in balance, then avoid doing it.
Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
The seventh and the last type of asana for Prenatal Yoga are Shavasana (Corpse Pose). Shavasana should be performed at the end of a yoga session. After a strenuous pregnancy yoga workout relaxes your mind and body with ‘Shavasana’.
Shavasana helps your mind and body to relax. As anxiety and stress are a common problem in pregnancy, this asana can help you tackle it easily.