Yoga is an oriental therapy that uses postural exercises, breathing techniques, meditation and relaxation to improve joint suppleness and overall health, and to relieve stress. During pregnancy, yoga helps to maintain flexibility and to relieve back pain. By encouraging rest and relaxation it also boosts blood flow through the placenta so more oxygen and nutrients can reach the baby. Research has shown that women who took part in prenatal relaxation classes, such as yoga, had fewer problems during pregnancy and have a lower risk of a low birth weight baby than those who do not relax regularly throughout pregnancy.
Yoga is an important part of the active birth movement, which was founded in the late 1970s by Janet Balaskas. She describes her philosophy below:
The active birth movement
The active birth movement encourages women to use upright positions and remain mobile during labor instead of lying or semi-reclining in bed. The approach is practical with the emphasis on preparation of both body and mind, as well as on-going emotional support throughout pregnancy.
Pregnant women are encouraged to join active birth classes as early as possible in pregnancy, although it is never too late to join. You will be invited to attend a weekly class of easy and relaxing ‘gravitational’ yoga, which is non-strenuous, can be done without previous experience and is ideally suited for pregnancy. These yoga-based exercises help to relieve tightness and tension in the body, improve flexibility, and encourage good breathing and circulation. They also relieve many of the common complaints of pregnancy, such as back ache or cramps, and are emotionally supportive and deeply relaxing. Besides helping to make pregnancy more healthy and enjoyable, these classes offer effective practical preparation for labor and birth. You will learn to be comfortable in upright positions and to manage pain in labor with breathing and relaxation. The classes may also offer informative courses or workshops that aim to increase the potential for a natural birth and breast feeding, whilst introducing expectant parents to a wide range of possibilities and options. They have an open-minded approach, covering the same ground as traditional antenatal classes, with an additional emphasis on upright labor and birth positions, relaxation, breathing and the use of warm water during labor and possibly also for birth.
After your baby is born, Active Birth teachers offer ongoing support in the form of postnatal yoga classes, in which you can meet up with mums from your pregnancy class. Many of them include baby massage, which may help to relieve colic and fretfulness and encourage your baby to sleep better. The Active Birth Centre also offers a water birth pool hire service.