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Consider yoga a way to stay physically healthy and emotionally grounded. It addresses challenges inherent to pregnancy and childbirth while nourishing the spirit to set the stage for confident parenting. Pregnant fitness buffs will find that yoga’s asanas (postures) rival any other workout in keeping the body toned and flexible. Women with more difficult pregnancies find physical and emotional comfort in yoga’s gentle, restorative poses and breathing techniques.
Prenatal Peace: Either way, says Patty Slote, director of the prenatal program at the Movement Center in Portland, Ore., the practice creates a solid foundation of inner strength during pregnancy. “You cultivate an openness to change and a connection to the baby growing within you,” says Slote, who also is the creator of the DVD Prenatal Yoga: A Complete Home Practice for a Healthy Mother and Baby (The Movement Center/Rudra Press, 2005).
Relax and Deliver: Yoga facilitates more comfortable birthing, with postures that open the pelvis and use gravity to your advantage. Mentally, it enables you to enter into delivery focused and relaxed. “In fostering your natural tendency to turn inward during labor, yogic breathing helps you find peace,” says Kristen Eykel, a kundalini yoga instructor in Los Angeles specializing in prenatal yoga and co-creator (with Lamaze and Yoga Journal) of the DVD Yoga for Your Pregnancy (Good Times, 2004). “You approach the birthing process with confidence rather than a stress response.” She says breathing techniques for relaxation apply even in cases of a planned Cesarean section.
After the Baby: Yoga’s benefits continue as you cope with the demands of caring for your baby—and the desire to get your body back. “You want exercise that replenishes rather than fatigues you,” says Jo Ann Colker-Arison, a hatha yoga teacher in Los Angeles and creator of the postnatal DVD Yoga Ma Baby Ga: Mama & Me Postnatal Yoga (Tapeworm, 2005). Devote just 10 minutes daily (even incorporating your baby into the routine), and you’ll see significant mind-body benefits. Best of all, it happens naturally and effortlessly, rather than through overexertion.