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Regular yoga can ensure a healthy pregnancy, writes Maneka Gandhi

Prenatal yoga experts and medical professionals emphasise that prenatal yoga paired with cardiovascular exercises (such as walking) can ease the discomforts of pregnancy and help you prepare for the rigors of labour

opinion Updated: Jun 21, 2018 07:57 IST
yoga,International Day of Yoga,International Yoga Day
Being physically fit and emotionally strong directly affects the baby’s physical, neurological & psychological development. Practising prenatal yoga during pregnancy gives you the ability to stay calm and eases most physical problems during these nine months.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Pregnancy is an odd time for a woman. On the one hand, one is filled with joy and anticipation, on the other, there are worries about whether the baby will be normal and healthy. As the woman’s body changes, there are mood swings, fatigue, cramps, difficulty in breathing.

Being physically fit and emotionally strong directly affects the baby’s physical, neurological & psychological development. Practising prenatal yoga during pregnancy gives you the ability to stay calm and eases most physical problems during these nine months.

Prenatal yoga experts and medical professionals emphasise that prenatal yoga paired with cardiovascular exercises (such as walking) can ease the discomforts of pregnancy and help you prepare for the rigours of labour.

Pranayama, or the group of several breathing exercises, have been found to have exceptional benefits during pregnancy. It must be incorporated in the daily regime all through the three trimesters as it helps release negative emotions. Two most useful forms of pranayama or breathing exercises are: ujjayi, a long, strong, deep breath that helps women redirect their concentration to the present moment and maintain calm; and nadi shodhana, (alternative nostril breathing), which helps to balance the body’s energy flows. However, avoid any kind of breath retention or hyperventilation that could limit the foetus’s oxygen supply. The postures and exercises differ for each of the three trimesters of pregnancy.

The first trimester (0 to 13 weeks) brings nausea and fatigue. Severe biological and musculoskeletal alterations take place in the body. Yoga experts advise that one must be extremely cautious while practising yoga in this trimester as a wrong posture can obstruct the implantation of the foetus and placenta.

The following asanas are ideal for this trimester:

•Marjariasana (cat stretch): Stretches the neck and shoulders, lessening body stiffness and keeps the spine flexible because the back has to support more body weight as the pregnancy advances.

•Konasana (standing sideways bending the arm): Keeps the spine flexible and helps alleviate constipation, a common symptom of pregnancy.

•Badhakonasana (butterfly pose): Improves flexibility in the hip and groin region, stretches the thighs and knees, relieving pain, alleviates fatigue and helps facilitate smooth delivery when practised until late pregnancy.

•Yoga nidra (yogic sleep): Reduces tension and anxiety, helps regulate blood pressure and relaxes every cell in the body.

During the second trimester (14 to 28 weeks), the volume of blood in the body expands 50-60% to support the foetus and placenta, the blood circulates faster, the rate of metabolism increases and heart rate rises. The body’s sugar gets used up faster and important reserves are used to support the placenta and foetus.

The following asanas are beneficial during this trimester:

•Vajrasana (diamond pose) –Enhances digestion and can be done directly after meal. It also helps strengthen the pelvic muscles and assist women in labour too.

•Kati chakrasana (spinal twist pose) – Relieves physical and mental tension and tones waist, hip and back.

•Tadasana (mountain pose) – Helps stretch and loosen the entire spine and also helps in developing mental and physical balance.

•Uthanasana (standing forward fold)– Strengthens muscles of uterus, thighs, back and ankles.

By the third trimester (29 to 40 weeks), the body has already undergone drastic physical and biological changes and also the movement of the baby is strong now. The protruding belly and additional weight are likely to challenge one’s balance. Simple balancing postures can make women feel lighter and more aligned. It is advisable to practise yoga with a prenatal teacher at this stage. If you ever feel uncomfortable doing any posture, stop.

Basic balancing postures like utthita trikonasana (extended triangle pose), utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose), virabhadrasana (hero pose) and vriksasana (tree pose) are ideal for building strength in the legs, for proper alignment in the spine and for easing blood circulation.

According to a review of recent research studies, prenatal yoga drastically lowers the chances of pregnancy complications, stress levels and pain, and possibly even the risk of the baby being small for her gestational age.

As we mark the 4th International Day of Yoga, I urge all expecting mothers to join prenatal yoga classes. Not only will you feel better but you will probably make friends with other soon-to–be mothers and your children can become friends.

Cherish this time.

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi is Union minister for women and child development

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Jun 21, 2018 07:53 IST