Many who swear by yoga believe it strengthens their core, their mind, their body and soul. What initially started out as a spiritual practice is a healthy one as well. It's is a way of life and teaches you to be more compassionate, open minded and reflective. Yoga is also known to be popular and beneficial for mothers-to-be, and we now have studies to prove it. Recent research suggests that practicing yoga during pregnancy can help with stress reduction and the fear of childbirth. femalefirst.co.uk reports that researchers at Manchester University have found yoga to ease stress and reduce women's fear of childbirth by almost one third. Other health benefits for pregnant mothers' include reduced cortisol levels, a less difficult delivery, healthy new born babies, increase in the level of body strength and relaxation.A wonderful example would be of yoga teacher, Natasha Harding, who has two children that she delivered naturally using her skills in the art. "Yoga is a wonderful exercise to try during pregnancy, when you naturally want to take it a bit easier. It's ideal to ease many of the ailments that women suffer from when they're pregnant such as backache, sciatica and general aches and pains," she said. "By maintaining a regular yoga practice during pregnancy the positions will become second nature with the aim being that the woman can have a more active labour with less intervention. "My second baby was born in 51 minutes. It was because of the fact I did yoga every single day and felt so strong during the birth," she added. Harding's five favourite daily yoga poses she recommends for our mothers-to-be: 1. Butterfly (Badha Konasana): This position allows the baby to move down into the pelvis and uses all the muscles that a woman draws upon in labour. The yoga guru BKS Iyengar claims if a woman practises this pose every day it will make child-birth less painful. 2. Wide Legged Seated (Upavistha Konasana): Stretching your legs in this position will encourage your hips to be more flexible which is clearly vital during labour. It's a great position to do every day if possible and leaning forward will gently stretch the back too and towards the end encourage the baby into a good birth pose.
3. Staff (Dandasana): Staff pose is wonderful to sit in and circle your ankles and legs each day which will help with any puffiness you may be experiencing. When combined with controlled breathing it helps release your shoulders and creates the much needed space in your abdomen and chest.
It's a good one to try, especially if you're experiencing heart burn. 4. Cat (Marjariasana) with arm and leg lifts: Being on your hands and knees is wonderful for any pregnant women as it relieves symptoms of backache and encourages the baby into a good birth position. By lifting the arm and leg you stabilise the pelvis which is vital during pregnancy.
5. Down Dog - adapted for pregnancy (Adho Mukha Svanasana): For those experiencing back aches, this one is a must try. The full pose is not recommended during pregnancy, so using a wall as support is ideal.