Yoga postures are called asanas, each posture works on different sets of muscles, the nervous system and our internal organs, making the body strong, healthy, relaxed and calming the mind. For pregnancy the postures can be modified to make them safe and easier to practice using props such as blankets, straps, blocks and bolsters. By doing slight variations it is possible to make a growing body more comfortable by making room for the growing baby inside. Pregnancy postures focus on strengthening pelvic floor muscles that are needed during the birthing process.
Prenatal yoga boosts circulation and helps balance; reduces shortness of breath, fluid retention and swollen ankles, it can help lower blood pressure, improve digestion and helps expel toxins from the body. Standing postures, like Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose), can increase your leg strength and also generate courage and confidence in the body’s ability to do its job during pregnancy and labour. Modified Cat-Cow, on hands and knees rounding the back up toward the ceiling can help a woman rehearse tilting her pelvis to facilitate the baby's delivery. Sitting in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), with the soles of your feet together and the knees towards the floor, and doing modified squats can increase blood circulation to the pelvic floor
Most women begin their prenatal practice during the second trimester. Yoga helps prepare your body for the birthing process; it stretches and strengthens muscles to make the delivery easier. Labor is one of the most physically challenging feats a woman will perform and like any feat of endurance, such as running a marathon it is important to prepare your body. In yoga class a woman learns to tune in and respond to her body's needs, to trust the wisdom of her body. Deeper intimacy with the body allows pregnant women to rely less on rational thinking and more on intuitive wisdom so that during her labor, when rational thought may be suspended, she'll be able to identify and ask for what she wants.
During pregnancy your body produces a hormone called relaxin which makes ligaments more elastic, softening connective tissue to allow the pelvic joints to become more flexible while the uterus expands, this can lead to lower back pain, and sciatica. By improving posture, yoga relieves these problems. Sleep can be difficult during pregnancy because your body feels different, you may have aches and pains or not be able to lie comfortably. Yoga teaches your body to relax and it sleeps better, it relieves aches and pains making your pregnancy a much more comfortable experience.
Yoga also teaches you how to control your breath, which comes in very handy when giving birth, it teaches you how to relax and not to stress. When you're in pain or afraid, your body produces adrenalin and may produce less oxytocin, a hormone that makes labor progress. A regular yoga and meditation practice will help you fight the urge to tighten up when you feel pain, and teach you how to relax and help manage the pain of contractions. Stretching improves flexibility, enabling use of various positions in labor to ease pain and facilitate delivery.
Yoga will also help you get your pre-pregnancy shape back faster!