I've personally experienced the benefits of yoga throughout my pregnancy.
In addition to walking, light weights and swimming etc recommended by obstetricians during a pregnancy, I find yoga brings many added benefits.
Unfortunately, many stereotypes about yoga are common and the multitude of different types of classes can be confusing and overwhelming.
In an attempt to simplify this form of exercise/wellness training, I will try to point out several key components:
1) Breathing. Yoga helps you focus on your breathing rather than your over all "fitness level". People can become discouraged during exercise routines because they end up comparing themselves to others.
Yoga is not meant to be a competitive sport. It is NOT about crazy contortions. Yoga is about shifting your focus to yourself so you become more aware of your own general well-being. You begin this process by paying attention to your breathing.
2) Mental endurance. Once you understand that you are not comparing your fitness level to others, you can move on to focus on your own mental control while you are engaging in different forms of exercise including being various classic yoga poses for long periods of time.
3) Combining your physical well-being with your mental well-being. The nice thing about yoga is once you learn to pay attention to yourself, you can exercise in a more "mindful" way. Mindful meaning you can control your own negative thoughts such as "oh, this is too difficult. I can't last any longer" or "Oh, I am tired and lazy" "Oh forget this workout. It sucks" and turn those thoughts into thoughts about observing & controlling your breathing. You will be surprised how much stronger you can become.
During the 2nd part of a pregnancy, your body begins to change in more dramatic ways. The drastic increase in your blood volume, the compression of the baby & the shifting hormonal levels will naturally cause swelling in your body. This change calls for more regular physical activities to encourage healthy circulation throughout the body.
It is so easy for a person to simply become sedentary and give up exercise because it is "difficult". This is the time when pre-natal yoga can help you maintain that motivation, endurance and mental/physical drive.
During the delivery of your child, if you have built up your mental and physical endurance, , you will be prepared to embrace the experience especially if it is a long and difficult labor (and an epidural helps, too).
In short, yoga is a wonderful way to help maintain one's fitness level through sustaining a positive and controlled attitude during the most difficult of times such as during a pregnancy.
It takes time to accept and understand the practice of yoga, but once you do, you will find so many rewards.
Photo Credit: Barry Silver