teaching prenatal yogaBy Natalie Lucero

Baby yoga is an amazing interaction between parents and babies which can bring many positive benefits. I chose to research baby yoga, because as an early childhood educator, baby yoga has inspired me to become a yoga instructor. I love working with infants and enjoy practicing yoga, it is a wonderful opportunity to combine these two passions of mine which will benefit not only my students, but their parents as well. Many mothers become stressed and overwhelmed as they experience the prenatal and postnatal period of pregnancy. This is one of the main reasons why prenatal, postnatal and baby yoga is on the rise. New mothers are searching for a gentle exercise which is geared to the needs of new mothers and allows the new babies to accompany them. It’s a perfect balance of strength and relaxation for the parents and babies.

What to expect in a baby yoga class?

Deciding to take a prenatal, postnatal, baby yoga class can be a difficult choice. Many women want to work out during pregnancy, but they are afraid of accidentally hurting the baby. This is one reason mothers should take a baby yoga class, it is a gentle exercise pacifically to improve strength in the mother and the baby throughout the whole pregnancy process. A trained yoga instructor guides each mother through the steps of pregnancy as she experiences each stage. To start a prenatal or postnatal yoga class regardless if the mother chooses to practice at home or in a studio she will need a blanket or two, a pillow or two and a yoga mat. It’s a really relaxing experience for the mother and she can play soft music to lift her mood for further support. A mother can choose to practice with a yoga strap, cushion, and a bolster. The dress code for parent and baby are casual, comfortable workout attire cloths. Clothes that are loose enough to move around in are ideal. An important part of any yoga is to bring lots of water for the mother and the baby. It sounds simple and fun, but there are a few things to be aware of besides dehydration. One precaution for prenatal yoga starting in the first trimester is that mothers must always remember to listen to their body, even if the parent is a regular yogi; that growing baby is changing her body and yoga should not be painful or strenuous. A tip for mothers in the second and third trimester is to move slowly into each pose and try not to hold the poses for too long, remember that the body is shifting a lot of extra weight and too much pressure at a time can cause unpleasant complications. Another tip for the second and third trimester is for the mother to avoid laying flat on her back for long periods of time. Particularly in third trimester use props such as blocks, straps and extra pillows to support the positions, as the mothers center of gravity has significantly shifted at this stage of pregnancy. Any trained prenatal, postnatal or baby yoga instructor will warn a mother about these safety guidelines which is why when a mother chooses to practice baby yoga regardless of the stage in pregnancy or age of the child she should work with a trained professional to get the best results, superb benefits and full relaxation without worries or complications.

How does prenatal yoga benefit expecting mothers?

Exercising during pregnancy and immediately after pregnancy, including yoga can be tricky, but it’s extremely beneficial and hardly harmful as long as the mother listens to her body. Any style of yoga in the very beginning teaches two basic steps. One is to first listen to the body’s breath and hear the pulsing rhythm. The second is to follow the breath as a flowing sequence of strength mixed with an equal balance of both energy and relaxation, also known as prana. One of the most beneficial parts of prenatal yoga is that it teaches the mother how to breathe properly and when a mother is breathing for herself and a baby, it can get challenging. Yogic breathing rejuvenates the body by bringing more oxygen into the lungs and produces more energy by pumping oxygen into the blood stream which energies the cells. There are different types of breathing for prenatal yoga one specific type for prenatal is called Belly Breathing. Belly Breathing tones the abdominal muscles and teaches moms to breathe fully and deeply for 2 or 3 minute. This rhythmic breathing pattern breaths through the nose and fills the belly with air and energy on a refreshing inhale as it expands and releases slowly in relaxation as the belly and the abdominals hug the baby. Belly Breathing can be practiced further with Alternate Breathing, which is the same concept only every other inhale and exhale switches nostrils starting with the right and then alternate to the left for a few minutes this will bring balance to the body. There are two other common styles of prenatal breathing called, Three-Part breathing and Clean Breathing. All of these breathing excurses help calm nerves, center the body and bring mindfulness, which can be a blessing to an expecting mother.

Learning how to breathe is only one benefit of prenatal yoga. Prenatal yoga also teaches moms how to mentally let go, relax and sleep. Early mothers often find it difficult to let go because they have so much planning to do before the baby arrives and as the third trimester approaches simple daily routes become uncomfortable, even sleep. Many of the relaxation positions can help relieve pressure and support the mother for a good restful sleep. Some examples are, the Reclining Buddha, the Side Lying Pose and the Supported Savasana (corps pose.) Meditation combined with breath helps moms move deeper into relaxation and for her to pull away from her stress and really concentrate on her and her baby as one. This also strengthens the bond between mother and child as the mother can mentally and emotionally prepare for her little bundle of joy. Meditation often allows a person’s mind to open through thoughts, memories, hopes and fears as they surface and release. The stress and tension melt away then as a result the new mother’s mental and emotional perception will have become clearer and stronger. The chanting of “Om” is sound with healing vibration and deepens the medication of all types of yoga including prenatal yoga. By chanting “Om” during meditation and practicing throughout the pregnancy can make a difference when the mother is in labor; when practiced often enough it can calm the mind in the most intense situations.

Prenatal benefits are in the breathing process and the meditation process, but those are extra perks. Most of the benefits come from the physical movement and exercising that is centered on the physical needs of pregnant mothers. Prenatal yoga uses gentle asanas (poses) for mothers to flow into slowly and breathe through, so that they can tone their body without harming the baby. Prenatal Yoga helps mothers learn more about their anatomy, understand all the little muscles that are being used to support the baby and learn about the muscles that will be used to deliver the baby. For example, prenatal yoga places a lot of emphasis on the Kegle muscle. This is an exercise specifically to strengthen a mother’s pelvic floor, which is a band of muscles between her pubic bone and coccyx. Practicing kegles not only strengthens the pelvic floor it also stimulates the blood circulation under the baby and relives pressure from the weight of the baby. The baby over time presses on the pelvic floor as the uterus expands, which reduces blood circulation and places uncomfortable pressure that this exercise can minimize. Some of the most common poses to practice during pregnancy are, Shoulder rolls, Wag the tail, Cat to Cow, Pigeon, Squats and Child pose these all happen to be beneficial for excepting mothers. Asanas bring great benefits such as, increased overall strength, stability, flexibility, blood circulation and helps prepare the body for delivery. Furthermore, prenatal yoga improves a mother’s digestive system, which tends to be greatly affected by a growing baby. Asanas can really make a difference in a pregnancy by, reducing lower back pain, relieving aches and fatigue in the thoracic and cervical region of the spin. There are numerous postures and moves that target pressure points to tone and relax the body during pregnancy.

Prenatal yoga prepares mothers for birth and can continue to benefit new moms, while spending quality time with their new born babies through postnatal yoga. Practicing postnatal yoga physically improves a new mother’s posture, flexibility and energy. Postnatal yoga strengthens, stretches and relaxes the new mom as she holds her baby in different yoga poses. In addition, postnatal yoga reduces the effects of postpartum depression. After a mother delivers a child she often feels, alone, scared, overwhelmed, and anxious, all this mixed with hormones still out of rhythm can bring on a deep distracting depression. Mother’s who practice yoga through prenatal yoga and move on to postnatal yoga has already learned how to calm the mind down and reduces these feelings by meditating, they center their body and as a result they minimize the effects of postpartum depression. Postnatal yoga has all the benefits of prenatal yoga only in postnatal yoga the mother gets a chance to experience the yoga practice with her new born and her baby benefits too.

How can postnatal yoga benefit the mother, baby and father?

The babies experience one on one quality time with their parents through baby yoga. Baby yoga is emotionally enjoyable for the new born. Babies love to gaze at faces, feel a touch, listen to a heartbeat, or a parent’s voice and baby yoga provides them the opportunity to do that and much more. Baby yoga also provides psychological benefits to the new born such as, enhancing body language, build strong social skills, feel confident and nurtured through all the attention the baby receives during yoga practice. Infants who practice baby yoga really feel loved, cared for and nurtured; it’s an important connection to make during the first year of a baby’s life. Infants are dependent on others and need to learn how to trust, in child development the first stage of learning is the trust verse mistrust phase. Babies benefit more noticeably through their physical and physiological reactions to baby yoga. Baby yogis also known as Buddha Babies tend to physically be a happier child compared to other babies, because they receive positive interaction, use their energy in a playful bond on a daily bases which as a result regulates their bodies in a predictable daily pattern. Buddha Babies experience early stimulation that most babies don’t get to feel such as massages from the face, chest, back and legs, which increase the baby’s security emotionally and soothes the baby’s nerves physically. Baby yogis tend to cry less and sleep better than others. Partly because the mother is calmer and children pick up on adult’s energies, but the baby is also more relaxed through yoga. Furthermore, through all this activity the baby’s body is stimulated and helps calm the baby’s nervous and regulate the baby yogi’s digestive system. Any child educator or doctor will agree that physical activity, such as yoga absolutely improves a child’s health in an emotional, psychological, physical and physiological development. Baby yoga allows the child to start learning these self soothing habits at an early age.

Baby yoga is not just for mothers to connect with her new born; the dad’s can practice baby yoga too. Once the baby is born dads can help calm his own anxieties, fears, stresses and enjoy quality play time with his baby in a fun, physical, healthy practice. It is common for new fathers to feel uneasy and a bit fearful to touch the baby, because men are not as gentle as women by nature or women get upset because they fear that the men are too rough in their play time. Baby yoga defuses those insecurities by providing specific moves which are beneficial for both parents and the baby. The whole family can even practice together in a partner baby yoga session. Fathers can even participate during prenatal yoga by supporting his partner in some partner poses which are allowed in different stages of pregnancy. Baby yoga really improves communication, mental and physical strength along with strong trusting bonds for the whole family to start their journey as a happy new family.

I have been an early child educator for five years and have not only learned about, but seen the importance of physical, emotional and mental health. Studies have proven that the more infants are touched, the more secure and loved the baby feels. Additionally, the more a mother is physically fit and mentally balance, she gains energy and clarity. When a father physically interacts with the baby the bond between him and the baby become stronger, as a result both parents feel calm, comfortable and confident with raising their young child. Unfortunately, many parents don’t have the access, money or time to find a baby yoga class. My mission is to help new families find a unity and provide education not just for the children, but a support for the parents too. I believe I have found a way to help new families be successful academically as well as physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Teaching prenatal, postnatal, baby and children’s yoga along with a strong foundation of academics all in one preschool facility is my professional goal.

Natalie Lucero is a certified Yoga teacher.  She teaches Yoga classes in Covina, California.

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