When you think of yoga, visions of a skinny guy twisting himself into a pretzel probably come to mind. But if you're expecting or just gave birth, contorting your body probably isn't a priority. (Pregnancy and childbirth provide enough shape-shifting for most of us!) Don't worry -- this 5,000-year-old practice of breathing and moving exercises that strengthens the entire body and soothes the spirit is perfect for everyone -- even pregnant women and new moms!
Here are four reasons why yoga is a great option for you:
- Body knowledge: Yoga is a wonderful tool for becoming better acquainted with your body, says Jyothi Larson, author of Yoga Mom, Buddha Baby (Bantam). A regular practice also trains you to focus on different areas of your body, which is particularly helpful during childbirth.
- Mood moderation: Yoga's emphasis on breathing and moving simultaneously helps you breathe more deeply, says Larson. For some women, it triggers feelings of deep relaxation and well-being. The calmer and more relaxed moms are, the calmer their babies are.
- Posture perfection: Pregnancy can cause even the straightest arrow to slouch. Then you start nursing, pushing a stroller, and lifting a baby and your posture may really suffer, says Larson. Some of the best yoga benefits are increased back and shoulder strength, which improves posture. Yoga also opens up your chest, making it easier to stand up tall.
- Moral support: Joining other women in a pre- or postnatal yoga class is a great way to make new friends, all of whom are facing the same challenges you are. Even if you prefer to practice at home, an occasional class at a studio lets you tap into this network.