Yoga is known for its ability to strengthen and relax the practitioner, but this is only the beginning of what this ancient practice has to offer, especially for pregnant women. According to Senior Pranakriya and Kripalu yoga instructor Jacci Gruninger Reynolds, prenatal yoga offers expecting mothers community support, physical and mental preparation for labor, and lasting emotional tranquility. In this piece, she introduces us to the benefits of prenatal yoga for mothers as they prepare for the life-long journey of motherhood.
Pregnancy and motherhood are journeys we sign onto for a lifetime. Think of the last journey you planned. How did you prepare? Did you read a book about your destination? Did you contemplate what to pack? Maybe, if the journey was physical, you started training.
The only difference between motherhood and other journeys is that it continues on. Although I am well into adulthood, my mother still worries about me. She is still on her journey, not only as a mother, but now as a grandmother too.
Imagine preparing for this journey of motherhood being surrounded by a group of other women training for the same event. This is the greatest benefit to participating in a Prenatal and/or Baby and Me yoga class. A sense of community and camaraderie is developed with other women going through the same experiences.
Ask any pregnant woman how’s she’s feeling and, depending on how well you know her, you may get a long list of concerns – from back aches, to swollen feet, digestive issues, and let’s not forget, fear and anxiety surrounding the impending birth. Or ask a new mom how’s she doing and she’ll probably respond, tired, worried, not sure if she’s doing the right thing.
Prenatal yoga is a place for women to share information, ask questions and connect with themselves and their growing babies.
Labor and motherhood can be intense and one of the most physical and exhilarating things we will do as women. At the same time, women are not in the same physical shape we were in 100 years ago and we are more stressed. As with anything else in life, we need to ‘train’ for labor and motherhood.
Many expectant moms are discovering an all-natural way to stay fit and flexible, reduce stress and prepare for the challenges of labor. Their secret is not new — it’s actually thousands of years old. Prenatal yoga can prepare new mothers physically, mentally and spiritually for the day-to-day changes in their body as well as for the “marathon” of labor.
Specifically, yoga poses and intense sensation work can build the strength, flexibility and stamina needed for labor and delivery. Meditation, visualizations, and sounding (use of one’s voice) aid women in relaxing and letting go of control. Breathwork can aid in pain management, enhanced sleep and decreased moodiness. Yoga eases pregnancy discomforts such as heartburn, shortness of breath, nausea, and back pain.
Here’s what pregnant moms have to say about practicing yoga during pregnancy:
“Each week my body would ache to be in class, knowing how good it would make me feel. I felt like the class relieved so much stress and anxiety and gave me strength and stamina for the months to come — the baby loved the extra room I was creating too! The best part may have been the bond Jacci helped nourish between me and my baby.” ~ Jessica, Atlanta, GA.
“Prenatal Yoga has been a blessing for me. I love communing with all the other pregnant mama’s and being nurtured by the practice that I feel is especially for me. There truly is no substitute for the feeling that’s generated each week!” ~ Terina, Santa Fe, NM.
Many pregnant women are also finding that the inner focus required to maintain a yoga pose allows them to quiet the constant chatter in their minds, and brings out a feeling of mindful tranquility.
In fact, it is not uncommon for “graduates” of Prenatal classes to stop by with their babies and share their birthing stories with the class or join a Baby and Me class which focuses on the next part of the journey…bonding with baby in this world and regaining one’s strength and inner focus. “Every mother can benefit, even those with scheduled Cesarean-section deliveries,” says Reynolds .
Regardless of the type of birth a mother is planning, the focus and serenity she learns in her yoga for childbirth practice will help her through pregnancy, labor, birth and afterwards, experts agree. But just as marriage is more than a wedding day, motherhood is more than a delivery, Reynolds remarked. “The empowerment you learn in yoga can also help years later when you’re dealing with your willful 2-year-old. When your toddler is in the throes of a tantrum, you’ll do well if you remember your breathing!”
Jacci Gruninger Reynolds, MS, ERYT, RPYT, YT is striving to use yoga and all its tenets on and off the mat to be fully awake and alive by seeing the extraordinary in every day. Jacci is a Senior Pranakriya and Kripalu yoga instructor and leads a variety of yoga teacher trainings around the country including: 200 Hour Pranakriya Teacher Training, Prenatal Teacher Training and Restorative Yoga Teacher Training. She attributes the start of her yogic path to her Masters in Health Science program at The George Washington University. Here she was able to devise a program that emphasized wholeness. After graduation, she went on to create and manage wellness programs for The George Washington University and Arlington County Government. Her work introduced her to the practice of yoga and she hasn’t looked back. She continues her studies with her teacher Yoganand Michael Carroll. She completed her Yoga Therapist Certification and also practices Thai Yoga Therapy. Both modalities give her an opportunity to work one-on-one with clients during their healing. Jacci hopes to help students see the reflection of their own possibility by guiding them in compassion, permission, acceptance and patience. Jacci lives with her son in Santa Fe, NM.