Yes, yoga is back in vogue. Unless you’ve been spending most of your twin pregnancy convalescing on a deserted island, you’ve seen the countless new varieties of yoga widely available. But let’s be clear: This is not the yoga of the 1960s where we witnessed a bone-thin Indian contort his body into fodder for a three-ring sideshow. While traditional yoga remains popular, we are now offered everything from bikram (yoga in a 100 degree room—doesn’t that sound cool?) to power flow yoga (sweaty, active). Everyone can find a method to fit her lifestyle and individual needs. And best of all, yoga makes a great prenatal workout for most women expecting twins. (As with any new exercise program, however, check with your physician first.)
The basic yoga principles of stretching, breathing, and meditation address many needs of the laboring mother-to-be (although the benefits are easier to reach than mimicking our pretzel-twisting gentleman from the above example). Regular, focused stretching, for example, aids the body’s flexibility, which in turn, assists in labor and delivery. A supple body is far better able to accept the rigors of birthing. In addition, a pregnant woman practicing yoga becomes in tune with her body’s strengths and weaknesses, and can address them prior to delivery by keeping the healthy parts toned and working toward enhancing the areas that are not. Because all of yoga is adaptable to individual situations, a mom-to-be expecting twins or even triplets can safely benefit from this Hindu practice. Even women with some pregnancy risk factors can join in with a doctor’s approval.
Next comes breathing. It’s important, right? There’s nary a birthing class where you can escape without mention of how focused breathing helps women control their emotions and anxiety to manage the pain of labor, and other concerns related to pregnancy. By managing your breathing during labor through yoga’s shallow, middle and deep breathing, you’re more likely to stay calm and in control. Rose St. John Bergen, a yoga instructor from Newton, Conn. agrees. “When the breath flows without restriction it has a calming effect on the whole nervous system,” she says. “The breath is the link between the mind and the body. It helps one to sense that pressure is not pain. It can help interpret feelings more accurately.”
The third aspect to yoga involves the postures, or asanas, the physical stretching and exercise component. Based on the concept of a healthy spine and strong, flexible muscles, the postures may seem difficult at first, but are actually easily adapted to the pregnant body based on your growing belly, comfort level, and your physical needs. Don’t be intimidated; you can practice even if you’re not in fit condition. And when done correctly, they actually help to avoid backaches and stretch marks! In the book The Sivananda Companion to Yoga: A Complete Guide to the Physical Postures, Breathing Exercises, Diet, Relaxation, and Meditation Techniques of Yoga, author Swami Vishnu-Devananda adapts many yoga positions for pregnancy as well as offers special exercises just for the nine-month pregnancy. For example, when practiced regularly the perineal exercises of contracting and releasing vaginal and anal muscles can increase a pregnant mom’s ability to tense and relax these muscles, an important concept to master for delivery!
And finally comes the meditation aspect of the practice. Although this part of yoga often sends many people packing, it can be adapted in a way that best suits your needs. Before you roll your eyes and say, “That’s not me,” consider that mediation, the concept of a quiet inner focus without distraction of other thoughts or outside stimuli, is pure relaxation for the mind. (And who doesn’t need that during the arduous process of delivery?) But even if you’re resistant to meditation don’t avoid exploring yoga. Most instructors want students to do what feels most comfortable. St. John Bergen, for instance, encourages women to meditate but does not want to instruct them. “They should meditate if they are comfortable but I support them at whatever level they are interested in,” she’s quick to note. Yoga always includes a form of relaxation after each yoga exercise, meditative or simply lying still. (Remember when resting during yoga after the first trimester, it’s safest to lie on your left side to support the proper flow of blood.)So what do you think? Sound intriguing? You can explore the possibilities of yoga for your twin pregnancy in a number of ways.
Classes. You can join into a current regular yoga class but if you are new to the practice you should look for a group that is designed for women in your shoes (however big they may be these days). Check for yoga classes specifically for pregnant women, and perhaps an instructor who also offers postnatal instruction as well so you and the twins can get out of the house in the weeks following delivery, and you can reacquaint yourself with some parts of your body you haven’t seen in a while! Don’t be afraid to shop around for the class that makes you feel most comfortable. Some instructors, for instance, use the traditional Sanskrit terms instead of English. To find a class in your area, log onto Yoga Finder.
Books. And finally, reading up on the subject and studying the postures through photographs is a great way to acquaint yourself with yoga. The Sivananda Companion to Yoga: A Complete guide to the Physical Postures, Breathing Exercises, Diet, Relaxation, and Meditation Techniques of Yoga is a comprehensive guide with a special section for pregnancy. The poses are beautifully photographed but prepare yourself for some eye-popping contortions from the practitioners in the photos. (Please do not try these at home!) Yoga for Pregnancy: Ninety-Two Safe, Gentle Stretches Appropriate for Pregnant Women & New Mothers is an easy-to-read guide highlighting yoga for each stage of pregnancy. This book focuses on the exercise, stretching aspect of yoga. The photographs are of “everyday” pregnant women (like you!) and are quite helpful in explaining each position.
As you embark on your journey toward wellness, strength and a memorable delivery, remember that yoga is a gentle way to approach body-mind fitness in preparation for the birth of your twins. Good luck!