In Setswana culture, a pregnant woman is seen as glass, literally. If she falls, she inevitably breaks. This carries a whole lot of truth.
However, the same culture has, perhaps, caused most women to be at their laziest during pregnancy. Society more than condones it.
The sight of a woman with a bump running, or even just brisk walking by the side of the road raises most eyebrows.
Fortunately, people who have more insight into the matter backed by years of practice and research tend to believe the opposite to be true. The expectant mothers must get off their comfortable sofas and put their bodies through exercise because on that day when labour pains kick in, the benefits will be at their most visible.
Prenatal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing.
“My mum was a hippy woman of the 70s and she told me she did yoga when she was pregnant with me. Naturally, being raised by her I caught on and I have been practicing yoga too since I was 15 years old. I am now pregnant and know for sure that nothing will prepare me for labour better than yoga,” said qualified yoga teacher Jennifer Fuller of Masarati Spar in Maru-A-Pula.
She said women who are pregnant and looking for ways to relax or stay fit must consider prenatal yoga.
Fuller said it may also help prepare them for labour and also promote both the baby’s and mummy’s health and psychological wellbeing beyond the womb.
“If you think about it, successful labour is centred on breathing through the contractions and that alone is the biggest part of what yoga is. In this class we teach expectant mothers to consciously engage in breathing exercises among other things,” Fuller said.
She said women need to understand that before they start prenatal yoga, they need to understand the range of possible benefits, as well as what a typical class entails, with all the important safety tips explained thoroughly to them.
She said the benefits of prenatal yoga are that it improves sleep, reduces stress and anxiety, increases the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth, decreases lower back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath.
Further, it lowers the risk of preterm labour, decreasing the chances of pregnancy- induced hypertension and intrauterine growth restriction ÔÇô a condition that slows the baby’s growth.
During a typical class, the women are encouraged to focus on breathing in and out slowly and deeply, through both the nose and mouth. They are then guided to gently move different areas of their bodies such as neck, arms and waist through their full range of motion.
Fuller said moving the waist is done in such a way that it helps the unborn baby into the birth canal especially during late pregnancy.
While standing, sitting or lying on the ground, they are taught to gently move their bodies into different positions aimed at developing strength, flexibility and balance. Props such as blankets, cushions and belts are mostly used to provide support and comfort.
At the end of each prenatal yoga class, they relax their muscles and restore their resting heart rate and breathing rhythm.
A lot of emphasis is put on listening to their own breathing, paying close attention to sensations, thoughts and emotions. They may even repeat a mantra or word to bring about a state of self-awareness and inner calm.
“I strongly recommend prenatal yoga because babies absorb a lot of emotions from their mums while in the womb. Yoga increases the chances of giving birth to a calm and relaxed baby which I know is every expectant woman’s dream,” Fuller said.