The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Consider yoga a way to get physically stronger and emotionally healthier during pregnancy. Even if you've never done yoga before, the modified moves taught in prenatal yoga are both safe and beneficial to expectant moms. Pregnant fitness buffs will find that yoga rivals any other workout in keeping the body toned and flexible, and can be done up to delivery. Women with difficult pregnancies may find comfort in yoga's gentle motions and breathing.
How it energizes
In yoga, the act of breathing is just as important as moving your body. During normal activities, breathing is shallow and air stays in your upper chest. The deep-breathing techniques used in yoga bring air into your abdomen and, in turn, deliver more oxygen to your body.
The deep breathing helps during labor, too. It's different from the shallower Lamaze breathing many women learn because you draw in more oxygen. "Yogic breathing helps you approach the birthing process calmly," says Kristen Eykel, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles specializing in prenatal yoga. The breathing techniques can also help relax you in case you need a Cesarean section.
How it prepares you
Prenatal yoga addresses the physical challenges inherent to pregnancy, such as a shifted center of gravity and lower back pain. These moves will help alleviate aches and build strength in your legs, back and abdominals to prepare you for giving birth. Yoga also can ease labor and delivery, with moves that relax the hip muscles and use gravity to your advantage.
Breathing for labor
While you're in labor, you can rely on ujai pranayama, an ancient breathing technique, to help you relax through contractions. Keeping your jaw and face relaxed and eyes closed, place the top of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, and hands on your belly. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and imagine drawing the breath into the crown of your head and the deepest part of your belly. Then exhale through your nose, drawing the belly in to empty all the air out.