June 21, 2021
Pregnancy related experience is unique to every woman. It is a period when biochemical and physiological changes occur rapidly as the body adjusts to the growing foetus within. As the world celebrates International Yoga Day it is worth reflecting on its impact on less thought situation of pregnant women.
Stress is a common feeling during pregnancy. Physical discomforts like fatigue, discomforts, back ache, morning sickness, constipation, leg cramps and other changes in your daily life can cause stress during pregnancy. Stress may be multifactorial; these are divorce, serious illness or death in the family or losing job, many long-lasting stresses like financial crises or being homeless. Some types of stress may cause serious health problems, like preeclampsia (increased blood pressure), gestational diabetes, and lead to problems like premature birth.
Many pregnant women can lower their risk of pregnancy related complications by evading stress through normal sleep, consumption of nutritious food and escaping the triggers. Therefore, the current study targets to evaluate the efficiency of integrated yoga (asanas and pranayama) on pregnancy to reduce the risk of complications.
Important aspects of Yoga & Its relevance to pregnancy
One of the major beliefs of yoga is “Health is wealth and peace of mind is happiness.” Yoga is also the key to good health and happiness in today’s world. Yoga gives us the means to complement medical technology with a holistic system of healthcare that addresses the problem of the mind and spirit, as well as those of the body
The ‘Eight limbs of Yoga'
Maharshi Patanjali describes a technique called Astanga Yoga to control the mind. Astanga Yoga is holistic by nature, it develops every aspect of human personality. The focus is not just the physical body or just the mind. The idea is to enhance one’s body-mind coordination so as to improve both physical and mental strength.
The eight techniques of practice in Astanga Yoga are - Yama, Niyama, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Yama: Ethical standards and sense of integrity. The five yamas are: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (continence) and aparigraha (non-covetousness)
Niyama: Discipline collectively called as Niyamas. They are spiritual observances, meditation practices, contemplative walks. The five niyamas are: saucha (cleanliness), santhosa (contentment), tapas (gain control over body and mind and senses), svadhyaya (study of sacred scriptures and of one's self) and isvarapranidhana (surrender to God)
Asana: Integration of mind and body through physical activity
Pranayama: Regulation of breath leading to integration of mind and body.
Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses of perception, the external world and outside stimuli
Dharana: Concentration, one-pointedness of mind.
Dhyana: Meditation or contemplation - an uninterrupted flow of concentration
Samadhi: The quiet state of blissful awareness.
How to practice Yoga
Pre-conditions: Find a quiet place for yoga session, either outdoors or in a tidy, well-ventilated room (indoor). Wear loose, comfortable clothing and place a mat or blanket on the floor to make yourself more comfortable. Avoid bright lights and distractions or interruptions.
Method: Yoga practice consists of loosening exercises, breathing exercises, sitting postures, prone postures and pranayama. More emphasis is given on relaxation techniques like IRT (Instant Relaxation Technique), QRT (Quick Relaxation Technique); and asanas and Mudras to strengthen the pelvic floor, which is the most important organ for a pregnant woman. Caution and contra-indication at different trimesters during the practice must be followed.
Major Aspects: First concentrate on the movement of hands, legs, abdominal or thoracic muscles as needed in each exercise. Later correct the movements if necessary. Use ‘in’ and ‘out’ instructions of the mind for inhalation and exhalation. Emphasize on full breathing each time. Synchronize breathing with the corresponding movements.
Yoga during Pregnancy
Yoga is used for a variety of immunological, neuromuscular, psychological, and pain conditions. Recent studies indicate that it may be effective in improving pregnancy, labor, and birth outcomes. The breathing and meditation techniques can help enhance health and relaxation for those who are pregnant, and support mental focus to help childbirth. Some postures are chosen specifically to help encourage an optimal foetal position.
The following yoga therapies are used to maintain healthy pregnancy with mental equilibrium. These yogic techniques also improve the physiological function and prevent complications like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, overweight during antenatal period, antepartum haemorrhage and postpartum haemorrhage. Certain asanas tone the pubococcygeal muscles to facilitate normal pregnancy and delivery ie, Tadasana, Trikonasana, Ardhakati Chakrasan, Vajrasan, Baddakonasan, Anulomaviloma, Bhramari Pranayama and Shavasana can be performed during pregnancy and these are proven to be safe during pregnancy. They also reduce the ante-natal stress levels and have good maternal and neonatal outcome. As shown in a study of pregnant women there was significant reduction in stress level of these women who performed above mentioned yoga asanas.
These selected yogasanas are safe during pregnancy. They possibly have a positive influence on the duration of pregnancy and decrease the incidence of preterm delivery as well as caesarean section; and also contribute to good maternal and neonatal outcome.
At this juncture with fear of risky delivery and neonatal deaths it is yoga and meditation which is the need of the hour to build immunity in pregnant women and also to maintain relaxed mind. Only then pregnant ladies can be assured of healthy and normal childbirth.
May this year’s theme of International Yoga day celebration namely, “Yoga at home and Yoga with Family”, create healthy and happy society with conducive environment for birth and upbringing of children in every family. May pregnant women gain the most from Yoga to face their stressful yet nurturing moments of motherhood.