The first time I taught prenatal yoga, I imagined pregnancy to be a beautiful time filled with glowing moms-to-be and sweet baby kicks. To open my first class, I told my students, “you are so full of divine feminine goddess beauty right now!”
Well…they looked at me like I was nuts.
They weren’t sleeping, they had to pee constantly and they felt like their body had been possessed by an alien. Who knew?
Pregnancy is full of change, and change brings stress. Our bodies offer up new discomforts every day, even ever moment. Our mind is racing with different possible outcomes and all we need to do. And our emotions – fueled by hormones – bump into each other: excitement and fear. Gratitude and misery. Hope and doubt.
Anxiety during pregnancy is becoming increasingly common – some say that it has now beat out depression as the most common pregnancy-related condition.
Because of all the unknowns, there’s so much to worry about. You worry about yourself. You worry about your baby. And then you worry about whether the worry is bad for baby.
Thankfully, there are several ways to help calm this worry and the first one is this – know that you are not alone, that almost every mom-to-be has the exact same worries as you.
The first step towards easing your anxiety is finding support from friends, family and healthcare professionals. If you’re worried about a strange new feeling or symptom, of course check with your healthcare provider. Often their assurance that what you’re experiencing is perfectly normal will calm your mind. Then, if what you need is a comforting voice or listening ear, reach out to your loved ones.
For some, reaching out can be difficult. We think of ourselves as independent individuals, and want to be able to handle whatever comes our way. However, when we are pregnant, we have an opportunity to step into the Divine Feminine part of us, that part that knows we’re better together. All of the support we need and deserves come through connection. If this is hard for you, let baby motivate you to be able to access this more interdependent, receptive, feeling-your-way-forward part of you. And try thinking of it as practice for later. Once baby arrives, being able to ask for help will be a skill you’ll be glad you cultivated.
Take Time for YOU (and baby)
As hard as it may be, take the time to slow down. Exhaustion can make anxiety worse. Think of resting as a productive – and necessary – part of pregnancy. Lying down for even 15 minutes gives your body a chance to recover. Consider learning to meditate and to fully use your breath.
Reset your parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for “rest-and-digest” or feed-and-breed” activities) by learning how to exhale fully. This reset will relax your blood pressure, slow down your heart rate and reduce the firing of neurons in your brain. Try breathing in through your nose and whisper “ha” as you slowly exhale for twice as long. Think of drawing your baby toward the back of your body as your pelvis becomes heavy. Notice that when you relax your lower body into the embrace of the earth, there’s more space for baby and breath.
Move Out of Your Head and Into Your Body
Remember – we are not in charge of this one. Think of elements in nature. How easy is it to move a waterfall? A towering tree? The clouds in the sky? The power of nature is the same power that is behind your baby right now. Practicing yoga always starts with following the breath, a reminder of this creative power that’s always flowing through us. There’s something bigger happening within us that wants baby – and you! – to thrive, and all we need to do is make space for it, and give it a strong container to flow through.
Movement in general helps us move the breath and thus awareness out of our headspace and into our body, where we can hear our inner wisdom. Walking for even 15 minutes has been shown to release anxiety and has lots of other benefits, including cancer prevention and increasing metabolism.
So mama, take a hike around the block, do an online prenatal yoga class or dance until you’re breathing harder every day. Take your mind off your worries and come back to breath, body and baby, just as they are right now: exactly where they should be.
Jessica Jennings is a mom of a tween, as well as a yoga therapist, lifestyle educator and Certified Feminine Power Transformational Facilitator. She created Ma Yoga® for Pregnancy, Motherhood & Beyond in 2009 to help mamas meet both the challenges and opportunities of this exciting time of life. Now, her Ma Journey membership helps busy moms love their bodies with nourishing and nurturing routines. Get free weekly guidance and inspiration for wherever you are on your journey at MaYogaLiving.com/care-package!