Susmita Shrestha takes a deep breath as she settles down on a slightly elevated mat on the floor and slowly bends sideways to ease into a yoga pose. After a couple of seconds, she gets back into her meditative posture and focuses on her breathing exercises. A second time expectant mother in her last trimester, Susmita adopted yoga in her second trimester and is one of the many women in the city who are eager to practice the modified version of this ancient exercise technique for prenatal mothers. “It isn’t easy to be self-motivated during pregnancy, a phase which tends to make one easily tired and sloppy. Yoga gives you a kick when you are practising in a group,” says Susmita. She trains with Yatra Sharma, a certified prenatal yoga instructor in the capital.
The awareness of prenatal yoga is growing in the city with many pregnant women seeking out yoga teachers for expert guidance. For a long time, however, there were no dedicated classes or workshops for prenatal yoga in the city. To address this issue, Yatra, the founder of Yoga Life started prenatal yoga classes.
Toting colourful yoga mats and wearing snappy outfits that show off beautiful baby bumps and healthy pregnant bodies, a group of women takes yoga classes virtually every five days a week. “Virtual yoga classes is a challenge but we are adapting and many of my clients find it more comfortable as they don’t have to travel,” she says.
With several celebrity figures endorsing yoga during pre and post pregnancy phase, it has helped to spread the word on the benefits of prenatal yoga that include better sleep, improved blood circulation, lower stress, and easier labour and delivery.
Women who are regular with yoga require minor modifications to their routine during pregnancy months. Positions and exercises practiced across the three trimesters of pregnancy differ with every phase. The prenatal yoga postures are carefully adapted for expectant mothers to make it smoother and relaxing for them. “It is tailored to help women in all stages of pregnancy, and also helps those who want to get back in shape after giving birth. Yoga and breathing exercises help expectant mothers to cope with the whole intense experience of birthing,” explains Yatra.
The first trimester being the toughest phase of pregnancy, experts focus more on breathing exercises to relax the mind. “From the second trimester onwards, the focus is more on building strength and stamina to tide over challenges of pregnancy changes. Pelvic floor exercises and hip opening exercises go a long way when you are facing labour,” she says. According to Yatra, breathing exercises are particularly helpful in pregnancy.
“Women have shallow breathing during pregnancy and especially during labour pain, they tend to take short breaths which makes the process more difficult. Yoga and breathing exercises help in increasing the lung capacity which is not only helpful during labour but is also good for the baby. This apart, squatting postures in yoga asanas help in increasing pelvic joint flexibility and also aids in opening of the pelvic joint,” she states.
A majority of pregnant women endure back-aches throughout the nine months. Asanas like the bharat vajrasan (spinal twist) and marjari asana (cat stretch) are known to help strengthen the back. “Pregnancy brings about a curvature in the spinal cord, which is why back strengthening exercises are of immense help in tackling this,” says Yatra, a mother of two.
It isn’t just about yoga; it is also about doing it under expert supervision and favourable environment. “This is one of the reasons we insist on taking just seven women per batch for our classes so that it easier to focus on every individual. But a clearance from the doctor is important to start,” says Yatra. One of the tips she gives is to maintain a gap of 45 minutes between the last meal and the yoga session.
• Think for two but don’t eat for two – make sure snacks are nutrient-dense and lower in calories, for example, sprouts chaat, millet based crackers
• To reduce heart burn, eat less and more often
• Avoid trigger foods such as greasy fries or samosas and spicy curries
• Take fruit smoothies with yogurt, warm soups and barley or ragi buttermilk between your meals
• Eat a spoon of peanut butter before bed to ward off the feeling of nausea the next morning