Pregnancy is a time of transition. The transition is felt through the family line. The woman is becoming a mother, her partner a father, together a family. The parents of the newly pregnant couple are witnessing another generation come into the world through their children.
Some believe that a pregnant woman will experience emotions from her experience in utero as she grows the next generation inside her womb. Having a practice that encourages connection, realization, relaxation and increasing intuition is very beneficial during a time of transition. Transition guarantees change and that can be overwhelming and scary. The unknown is out of our control, there is nothing to hold on to.
Giving birth and being a parent has the same feel. No matter how prepared we think we are for the new stage in our life, it is unknown. Pregnancy is a magical phenomenon that runs by its self; no one has to think about growing a baby. Giving birth is also run by the wisdom of the body, not the logical mind. Yoga is one of the practices during a woman’s prenatal time that can help her un-prepare (yes un-prepare) her for the unknown journey that is unfolding.
Yoga is a practice of consciously moving the body while simultaneously moving the breath. Becoming conscious of our breath alone is a beneficial practice. When we sync the breath with movement it integrates the body and mind. The body stores thoughts, feelings and emotions in the organ and muscular system. Stretching the body and breathing into the space that is being stretched provides a pathway for stagnant energy like emotions to move out of the body. There are multiple layers being addressed at the same time with the practice of yoga. Moving stuck energy allows us to connect with thoughts and beliefs we are holding on to that are not serving us. Relieving stiff muscles and increasing flexibility in the body increases flexibility in the mind. Increasing the overall strength of the body increases strength in the mind. As we become more coordinated and balanced practicing the poses, the balance will transfer into our life. The more we practice yoga, the more connected we are with our bodies. Being connected with our body allows us to understand our strengths and weaknesses. After understanding our strengths and weaknesses we have the opportunity to accept where we are today. Every time we do a yoga practice we have to listen to our bodies and let it tell us what its limits are for today, every day is different. This allows us to tune into the subtle differences our body shows us every day, perhaps every moment.
Prenatal yoga takes into consideration the changing woman’s body. As the baby grows there will be certain poses that will be uncomfortable, like lying on her belly. Having a class that is customized for the pregnancy will also focus on strengthening the muscle groups that will be needed during birth. Opening up and strengthening the hips and learning how to relax in an uncomfortable pose can all be beneficial for birthing.
In our society there is a huge need for connecting with others and having a sense of community. The benefits of being around other pregnant ladies to share time and stories is immeasurable. A group yoga class also provides this sense of community and connection.
There are thousands of studies on how meditation positively impacts the hormonal and nervous system of the body. It is a proven and well accepted fact that meditation changes the chemical responses. There is no study that shows meditation to be detrimental or controversial.
Our society is known for being drenched in anxiety. We can see an increase in the hormones cortisol and adrenaline when we are stressed. During meditation the body becomes more relaxed. The mind is asked to slow down. The hormones melatonin and DHEA increase and have a positive impact on the immune system, cardiovascular, digestive system etc.
Meditation is equivalent to putting time aside for the body and mind to communicate. Like any relationship if there is a lack of communication there is going to be some imbalances. Most experience a state of clarity and balance after the dedicated time to let the body and mind communicate and connect. Starting our day with clarity allows us to walk through our day with our head high, our shoulders back (heart out) and our feet firmly planted on the ground.
Pregnancy is a time of transition for a woman. Hormones are drastically changing in her body. Thoughts about the pregnancy, birth, being a parent, the change it may bring in her relationship with her partner and body can consume her mind. Although her mind is consumed with racing thoughts she has to go about her day. When the body and mind are not synced up the racing thoughts running in the background can transfer over to the physical body as symptoms of nausea, headaches, tiredness, aches and pains.
Below are some of the other reported benefits of mediation during pregnancy:
- · Anxiety pushes pain tolerance levels down. Meditation restores normal tolerance of pain while increasing endorphins
- · Meditation elevates DHEA which supports a healthy immune system, bones, muscles and blood pressure.
- · Stress causes detrimental hormonal imbalances. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland. The pineal gland has been revered for thousands of years as the location of self-awareness. Meditation is shown to increase melatonin. Melatonin is calming, induces contentment, helps establish normal sleep and rest, and helps the immune system.
- · Meditation is known to produce endorphins that have a strong pain-relieving and pleasure inducing effect.
- · Meditation lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
- · Connecting with the baby in utero through guided meditation.
- · Increasing relaxing hormones in your body will transfer to the baby and the effects of a calmer baby are likely.
- Meditation has a thousand pathways into the body and mind. Therefor there are many different techniques to achieving meditation. You can seek out a class or teacher and learn some advanced practices of meditation. Or meditation can be kept simple and with all the instructions and things to do in our society already, I think it’s important to keep the practice of slowing down simple.
A Simple Breathing Meditation
The first stage of meditation is to stop distractions and make our mind clearer. This can be accomplished by practicing a simple breathing meditation. Choose a quiet place to meditate and sit in a comfortable position. We can sit in the traditional cross-legged posture or in any other position that is comfortable. If we wish, we can sit in a chair. The most important thing is to keep our back straight to prevent our mind from becoming sluggish or sleepy.
Sit with our eyes partially closed and turn our attention to our breathing. We breathe naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control our breath, and we try to become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. This sensation is our object of meditation. We should try to concentrate on it to the exclusion of everything else.
At first, our mind will be very busy, and we might even feel that the meditation is making our mind busier; but in reality we are just becoming more aware of how busy our mind actually is. There will be a great temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, but we should resist this and remain focused single-pointedly on the sensation of the breath. If we discover that our mind has wandered and is following our thoughts, we should immediately return it to the breath. We should repeat this as many times as necessary until the mind settles on the breath.
It may feel like the mind never settles on the breath. The mind has a job and its job is to be active. That is why meditation is a practice. Don’t feel discouraged if you had to remind yourself 50 times that you are supposed to be focusing on the sensation of your breath and not on how you are going to pay your bills, or what you are going to do at work today. That is the normal function of the mind. The practice is bringing it back to the sensation of the breath. Back and forth, back and forth, from the sensation of breath, to the thoughts of the day…wait sensation of breath….did I get my oil changed? Wait! Sensation of breath…sensation of breath, did I turn off the coffee pot, sensation of breath, sensation of breath, sensation of breath…until the mind calms down.
There are so many practices of meditation. Doing the one mentioned above is just an example of how easy it can be to meditate. We don’t need to find a guru, drive to a class, spend money or wear fancy meditation clothes to make it happen! Keep it simple, until you are ready to understand the deeper teachings of meditation. Give your body the opportunity to balance the hormones, increase the endorphins and generally feel more awesome!