Years ago, my former boss gave me a genius idea: “I never make New Year’s Resolutions until February.” I get her logic. By that time, you’ve cleared out the Christmas fudge and the majority of the other “temptations”; likewise with February being the shortest of the year, you can vow to do anything for a month. So why not something that relieves stress, promotes overall wellness and balance, and is a great workout at any level (and in some cases is said to lead to enlightenment)? I don’t remember Jane Fonda promising that in the 80s, even with her fancy yellow uni-tard and leg warmers.
Yoga has saved me through my pregnancy. For five weeks of my first trimester, I was finishing up my certification at FlowYoga SLC to be a registered yoga teacher. With two – four hours a day of “practice” in asana alone (fancy Sanskrit word for postures) there was really no time for morning sickness! It also gave me a chance to meditate on the blessing in my womb and connect with this baby like I never would’ve imagined (he’s apparently coming any day now).
For those of you not on the chakra-aligning-bandwagon, I’ll admit a little skepticism and apprehension when I first came into yoga a couple of years ago. (You can even read my antics about it at my blog) And my husband cursing the heavens on his neighboring yoga mat did not help! We were newlyweds who had each put on a little (ok, a lot!) of “happy-fat.” He said his face was looking like a football; I was ready to trade up my “fat jeans.” It was time to expand our horizons, not our belt loops.
But toning up is not the only benefit of yoga. The act of staying focused, meditation and calming the mind (if even for a moment or two) can do wonders for overall health. The web’s choc full of stories and studies about the health effects of stress on an individual – and when you take into account the added hormones a woman is constantly dealing with (thank you lunar cycle and mother nature), it’s obvious we could all benefit from a little less craziness in our lives – or at least some tools to balance and counteract the madness).
As for pregnant goddesses (what the yoga community deems those great with child), stress is something you absolutely want to keep in check:
- “A few studies have found an association between high levels of stress and preterm birth. The theory is that severe stress can lead to the release of hormones that can trigger uterine contractions and preterm labor.” – From baby.com
- “What to Expect” what I deem the encyclopedia for new (and returning) mommies says that “Yoga encourages relaxation, focus, and paying attention to your breathing — so it’s just about perfect for pregnancy (and great preparation for childbirth).”
- In “Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care,” Alan Greene, M.D. explains that “with its emphasis on harmony and balance, it is a beautiful metaphor for raising baby green.” He then goes on to cite two studies about pre-natal yoga showcasing benefits like decreased chances of developing hypertension and low birth weights (and the studies compared moms who walked an hour vs. pre-natal yoga!)
- But it’s not just about the mommy-and-me sector, Yoga is practice for life.
So where to start?
Just like Make and Takes projects, yoga options come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more physically challenging, others are geared specifically to relaxation. Instructional possibilities (whether your preggers or not) run the media gamut from private lessons and studios to DVDs, podcasts and books. Information can be found all over the internet (Yoga Journal is a great place to start!). In the states, if you’re taking the studio/private lesson route, I suggest “receiving” from a teacher who’s registered with Yoga Alliance. It’s not a certification program, but you your guaranteed the teacher has been through some time of teacher training program that complies with minimum educational standards established by the organization.
If that all sounds overwhelming, you can start with some basic stretches for stress relief –as described in the recent news story featured on Utah’s KSL Channel 5. (I’ve got a cameo in the front left corner of the room!) Even the simplest act of practicing “presence” will bring a little more balance, and that’s something to “OM” about.