By CHARLOTTE TUCKER and KARA EBERLE for Smart
Those familiar with yoga know what it means to get into child’s pose.
It’s the relaxing, back-muscle-stretching move where the knees are drawn into the chest and the forehead rests comfortably on the floor.
Some moms-to-be are using a series of with-child poses to steady their nerves and prepare their bodies for childbirth.
Prenatal yoga shows pregnant women how to focus on their bodies and the bodies of their unborn babies.
Deborah Brown, a certified nurse-midwife working at Women’s Healthcare Group in York Township, said prenatal yoga has the potential to help women before, during and after childbirth.
Physically, the stretching motions of yoga help limber up the body for the work of giving birth, she said. And the fitter they are before they have their babies, the faster new moms bounce back.
“Pregnancy is a time when you have to adapt and shift with the changes your body goes through,” she said.
Mentally, yoga can help moms-to-be stay centered and focused on their bodies, Brown said. Being in touch with their bodies means that they’re less afraid to give birth.
“Fear causes stress, and stress causes pain,” she said. “Yoga can get the mind focused and better centered.”
Prenatal yoga teachers modify traditional yoga poses, or asanas, to make them appropriate for women with growing bellies and some physical limitations.
And there are some moves they avoid.
“We always caution against staying in a position that causes dizziness or lack of breath, and we encourage people to move away from those asanas,” said Carrie Hall, a registered yoga teacher who teaches prenatal yoga at Eight Stones Yoga Studio in Springettsbury Township. She said they also avoid twisting motions and putting the feet above the head after a certain point in the pregnancy.
Prenatal yoga is safe for most women, but Brown said women pregnant with more than two babies, women with high blood pressure or those who have had preterm labor should not participate. Some yoga studios require a doctor’s note before a woman can participate, and most recommend that women tell their doctors if they’re taking a class.
Milly Merkert, 34, who teaches yoga at the Dover Township municipal building, said she talks to pregnant women to determine their limitations and reminds them of movements they shouldn’t do.
Hall, who has five children, said she wishes she had known about prenatal yoga when she was pregnant. She said yoga has the ability to focus the mind in a calming way that helps return control to moms who sometimes feel that their bodies are alien to them.
“Pregnancy doesn’t need to be something that happens to you,” she said. “It’s something that you participate in.”
Yoga is good for all ages
Merkert of Jackson Township has been doing yoga for about nine years. She started when her doctor suggested it as a way to control symptoms of Crohn’s Disease.
It’s worked for her, and she said yoga also helps people with other illnesses, including cancer.
Children can benefit from yoga, too, she said. “It’s a focus thing, having them be able to be still and quiet.”
For people in their 30s and 40s, juggling children and jobs, yoga can be a way to escape and find an hour for themselves.
Menopausal women say they find that yoga helps them sleep, Merkert said.
For anyone who might be nervous about doing yoga, Merkert said they should know it is not a religion. There is guided meditation at the end of classes, but no one is obligated to do it.
Merkert also wants women to know that yoga classes aren’t filled with “20-year-olds who can stand on their heads and bend themselves into a pretzel.”
“You and your imperfections are welcome,” she said. “You do not need to be flexible, thin or have good balance to begin.”
Where to go:
Not every yoga studio offers prenatal yoga. Here are two nearby that do.
Eight Stones Yoga Studio, 2805 Eastern Blvd., Springettsbury Township, firstname.lastname@example.org or leave message at 840-4183
The Movement Center, 2134 N. Second St., Harrisburg, email@example.com, 238-0357
Tips for class:
Fancy spandex outfits are not necessary. Wear comfortable clothes you can move in.
Talk to your doctor about your plans.
Don’t attempt or hold any pose that doesn’t feel right.
Take your time, breathe and listen to your body.
Milly Merkert holds yoga classes on Tuesday and Thursday at the Dover Township building, 2489 W. Canal Road. For details, call 792-0341 or visit dovertownship.org.