Why am I so passionate about yoga during pregnancy? I really believe it must be the most important time in a woman’s life to practice yoga. From the moment of conception, our baby experiences life through us, our emotions and state of mind. Our little baby feels our sensory impulses, and recognizes what brings us joy and what feels toxic. Deep inside the womb, our baby feels our neurological responses to daily situations. They can feel when we are stressed, and they can enjoy the moments of happiness and contentment with us. That is because whatever emotion we experience, our brain releases the corresponding hormones into our bloodstream. Those hormones cross the placenta and travel through the umbilical cord to our baby.
~I am holding a four hour prenatal workshop on March 11th at Buddhi Yoga in La Jolla, CA ~ 8:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Neuroscience and yoga philosophy come together and agree on the fact that life learning clearly starts before birth, and that experiences long before birth can affect and mold personality. When a pregnant mother is at peace and harmony, the more harmonious and content is her baby’s development. To the contrary, when a pregnant mother is constantly stressed, her unborn child experiences the bouts of fight or flight stress response with her. Stress hormones act by mobilizing energy from storage to muscles, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate and shutting down metabolic processes such as digestion, reproduction, growth and immunity. That used to be a life-saving reactions back in the days when we actually faced real fight or flight situations on daily basis. Nowadays, without us actually having to undergo fight or flight, stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) just travel through our body and cannibalize our health. Unfortunately, they also travel through the umbilical cord to our baby.
Through yoga, we can become more centered, calm, content and present - and our baby enjoys these feelings being transferred to them. They literally bathe in our happy hormones, and their developing brain is absorbing our endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. Through yoga, we can help mothers get into a peaceful state of mind, so that their babies enjoy feeling loved, nourished, secure, happy and content, long before birth.
There is no way we can simply eliminate stress from our lives. But we can certainly change the way we react to it. Pregnant women usually seek out prenatal yoga classes to help them with physical ailments such as achy body, fatigue, nausea and leg cramps. Soon they realize, that while enjoying all of those benefits, yoga also helps pregnant women to become less reactive. By emphasizing breath and relaxation, we teach pregnant women to create their “yoga bubble” around them to shield them from the outside world. We can teach them to flow through their daily life without reacting to stressful situations or annoying comments from strangers and coworkers. (Yes, during pregnancy everyone feels to have the liberty to give you “friendly advice” and unsolicited comments about your body, belly size, even what type of birth you should choose). Being less reactive means brushing these situations off, and preventing stress hormones from rising in our body.
Just like our body protects our baby physically from the outside world (always the right temperature, no sharp edges, no loud sounds, everything is muffled and absorbed by the amniotic fluid), our mind needs to do the same mentally. Otherwise we are exposing our baby to the stress epidemic we see out there today. Mind and body are inseparably one, just like the pregnant mother and child create one unit. You are your unborn baby continuously share each others feelings and experiences, and our baby is mostly just the helpless recipient, who cannot protect themselves from stress or sadness.
Prenatal yoga is so wonderful because pregnant women are such natural yogis. Even if they have never done yoga before, they just get it. The elusive yogic goal of “being in the moment” or “being present” becomes so natural to pregnant women. They put their hands to their belly during meditation and immediately feel so deeply connected with their baby, experiencing the miraculous process of growing a little person inside, the ancient wisdom of the woman’s body, the miracle of life. Meditation becomes very deep and profound. The respect for our incredible body and for nature becomes very deep. Our pregnant body miraculously delivers just the right amount of nutrients with each bite of food we take, and just the right amount of oxygen with every breath we take. Nobody has to teach us how to be pregnant, our body does it automatically, as if it has done it many times before. We call that the ancient wisdom of the female body, and through yoga, we can learn to channel all the ancient midwifes, doulas, and all the women who were pregnant before us and who gave birth. It is a very powerful feeling.
Prenatal yoga is so much more then a series of modified poses. It is all of the above and more. With breath work and meditation, we prepare the pregnant mother for the progressing pregnancy, labor and birth. We teach her how to be present and connected with her baby. We teach her how to appreciate every moment in her pregnancy in a society that only has us looking forward and counting the weeks to our due date.
I am holding a four hour prenatal workshop on March 26th at Buddhi Yoga in La Jolla, CA. More details and to register here