During a pre- and postnatal yoga module of my yoga teacher training, I was enchanted by instructor Desi Bartlett's reference to "pregnant goddesses" – our future students – as we learned how yoga could help them prepare for delivery day. (Think deep squats.) Methods to empower goddesses throughout and beyond pregnancy included modifications to traditional poses to stay fit while providing a safe "house" for the fetus, breathing and meditation to steady a busy mind, group activities to build community with other new parents and restorative poses to find calm during a period of change.
Now, a study (subscription required) has investigated how yoga can help relieve pregnancy-specific anxiety in mothers-to-be. Researchers at the University of Manchester and Newcastle University in the U.K. followed 59 women, each pregnant with her first child and receiving normal prenatal treatment during the late second to third trimester, and asked them to self-report their emotional states. A randomized group attended eight weekly prenatal Hatha yoga sessions, and researchers measured those participants' saliva cortisol levels before and after the first and last classes of the intervention.
From a release:
A single session of yoga was found to reduce self-reported anxiety by one third and stress hormone levels by 14%. Encouragingly, similar findings were made at both the first and final session of the 8 week intervention.
“The results confirm what many who take part in yoga have suspected for a long time," John Aplin, PhD, one of the senior investigators in Manchester and a yoga teacher, said in the release. "There is also evidence yoga can reduce the need for pain relief during birth and the likelihood for delivery by emergency caesarean section."
The study was published in the Journal of Depression and Anxiety.
Previously: Toilets of the future, and the art of squatting, A reminder that prenatal care is key to a healthy pregnancy, Pregnant and on the move: The importance of exercise for moms-to-be and Ask Stanford Med: Pain expert responds to questions on integrative medicine
Photo of Desi Bartlett by Natiya Guin