If you’ve recently given birth or are in your third trimester, you may resist engaging in many kinds of beneficial exercise. However, as long as your doctor approves, there are some huge benefits that you can derive from gentle forms of yoga. So grab your mat and some comfortable, supportive clothing and discover (or rediscover) the amazing changes that a regular yoga practice can bring. Here are three:
1. Your physical self
Our bodies change continuously over time, but few natural processes affect our physical selves more than pregnancy and birthing a child. You should honor yourself and your body during and after your pregnancy and understand that these changes are perfectly normal, and that further change is not only possible, but inevitable. By slow and careful stretching, yoga strengthens and lengthens the muscles, improving tone and increasingly flexibility. Almost everyone can benefit physically from a regular yoga practice—especially women preparing for or recovering from the awesome act of giving birth.
2. Your mental state
Pregnancy and motherhood flood your brain and body with hormones that can often make you feel… different. The mindfulness inherent in yoga can calm the mind, allowing you to center yourself as a being separate from your baby. This is an extremely important everyday practice. Postpartum depression is a tragic reality for far too many women, and every tool at hand should be used to combat it. Taking time to be mindful and reconnect with the complex and multifaceted woman you are, who is so much more than “just” a mom or mom-to-be, is one of the best things you can do to protect your mental health. Yoga is a great way to achieve that.
2. Your emotional response
Many people conflate one’s thoughts with their feelings, but they are two very different things. In a sense, one’s mental state can be considered as an internal action, while one’s emotional response often manifests as an external reaction. However you wish to characterize it, one’s emotions can shift quickly during or after pregnancy, from joy to anger to sadness to worry back to joy, and everything in between. Yoga helps smooth out these changes, providing a calm emotional grounding to help you get through the inevitable ebbs and flows of pregnancy and then parenthood.
Yoga is not a silver bullet, but for millions of people (including many pregnant women and new moms) it is an important routine that helps strengthen the body, improve the mind, and calm the emotions. Having a baby affects every single part of a women’s life, not to mention the life of her partner, and yoga (especially couple’s yoga) is a great way to get back to center.
So if you’re nearing your due date or recently gave birth—again, with your doctor’s permission—investigate some yoga options in your area. In all likelihood there are especially gentle sessions for pregnant women or new moms, focusing on easy stretches and deep, mindful breathing. There may even be couple’s sessions to help with reconnection and intimacy, all of which are crucially important parts of this process.
Always remember that you are more than a mom or a mom-to-be. You are you, and you always will be regardless of your child, your partner, your job, or your family. Yoga can help bring that back into clear, sharp focus. It’s one of the best ways to invest in yourself so that you can better invest in the act of parenting.