Striking a warrior pose could help moms-to-be ward off the blues, according to a new study from the University of Michigan that suggests "mindfulness" yoga may be just as effective as antidepressants in reducing symptoms of depression during pregnancy.
A group of 18 pregnant women at high risk for depression took part in a mindfulness yoga class—for 90 minutes each week, the women learned basic yoga poses with a focus on mind-body awareness. After 10 weeks, women said their mood and outlook had improved and they expressed feeling a closer bond with their babies. Researchers compared thier progress to taking an antidepressant.
Approximately one in five moms become depressed during pregnancy. So why is yoga such a help? According to some yoga instructors we asked, the answer is easy: it's exercise!
"Exercise, including yoga, plays an important role in decreasing anxiety, depression, and stress," Ginger Garner, a prenatal/postpartum physical therapist who specializes in yoga for use with mothers, tells BabyZone.
More specifically, says Sarah Longacre, founder and yoga instructor at Blooma prenatal yoga center in Minnesota, "Prenatal yoga can release endorphins or 'feel good hormones' in pregnant women that can help to stabilize moods and counteract stress hormones. Also the practice of deep meditation and relaxation that often accompany a prenatal yoga class can contribute to a woman's ability to cope with stressful life changes and issues that often arise during this time."
Prenatal yoga can benefit future moms beyond their mental health, too. According to Garner, yoga may also be a help for such issues as back pain, muscle strength, sleep, and breath control during labor. Other research shows that moms who practice yoga may spend less time in childbirth.
Child's Pose (Balasana): Use this pose as a resting and pelvic opening pose. Knees wide apart, sit down on heels, and stretch arms out in front with forehead on the ground. (Late in the third trimester a pillow can be placed under the head and/or between the knees.) The center of the forehead has a pressure point that induces relaxation, this can have a calming effect during pregnancy and childbirth and can reconnect a woman to her body.
Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana): Hands and knees position. Make sure the hands are directly under the shoulders and rock the pelvis back and forth. On the inhalation spine straightens out, head is lifted and gaze is between the eyebrows. On the exhalation press hands into the mat and round the back tucking the tailbone under. Feel the ground underneath the hands and the knees allowing the baby to move with gravity and the feeling the connection to the earth. This is a pose that can be done every day. If your baby is in an uncomfortable position, the rocking of the pelvis and use of gravity can help to move your baby into a position which is more comfortable for you and counter bad postural habits many women have.
Lunge (Anjaneyasana): Lunges help keep the hips and heart open as well as making more space for the breath and helping flexibility, they build strength and stretch the hips, thighs, arms, shoulders, and abdomen. Keep the front foot flat on the floor at all times and the knee over the ankle, lift the arms up and keep that upward lift lunging forward as you exhale and gently pull the lower belly toward the spine. Be careful not to lunge too deeply and overstretch the hips, hold for one to three breaths.
Before trying any of these, Wolfe More reminds pregnant moms to always talk to their doctors or healthcare providers before starting any prenatal exercise and to listen to their bodies and avoid poses that don't feel good.