June 21, 2022
India's ancient heritage has been bestowed on us with the gift of yoga. It represents mental and physical unity of mind as mind and spirit., as well as thought and action, restraint and fulfillment, man-nature balance, and a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is about discovering a sense of oneness with yourself, the world, and nature, not just about exercising. Improving our well-being by altering our lifestyle and gaining awareness is the way forward.
International Yoga Day is observed every year on June 21 to spread awareness about the importance of yoga and its effects on human health. This year’s theme is” Yoga for well-being”.
Astanga Yoga is the technique given to us by Maharshi Patanjali to control the mind. It is holistic by nature and can influence the development of every aspect of our human personality. The focus here is not merely on the physical body or the mind but to enhance the body-mind equilibrium (energy flow) between the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions. The eight techniques of practice in Astanga Yoga ie Yama, Niyama, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi have great insights.
According to research studies, regular yoga practice improves several aspects of stress and anxiety reduction in women and pregnancy-related complications. More and more people are discovering the benefits of practicing yoga from building strength to relieving stress. High levels of cortisol damage the fine balance between the hormones which control the brain, heart, and reproductive system. Performing yoga regularly enhances immunity and bone strength and improves one’s flexibility, strength, and balance. Helps in the release of beta-endorphin hormone from the brain gives a sense of well-being, improves immunity, and prevents infections, which in turn, increases reproductive health.
Role of Yoga during Pregnancy:
A recently randomized controlled study undertaken by me on pregnant women was published in the International Journal “Holistic Nursing Practice.” It dealt with the prospective randomized controlled single-blinded trial with parallel arms; the intervention arm received specific integrated yoga therapy, and the control arm received routine standard care from 18 to 22 weeks of gestation until delivery. The incidence of preeclampsia and preterm delivery was lower in the intervention arm. Women in the intervention arm were delivered at higher gestational age. Apgar scores and birth weights of neonates were significantly higher in the intervention arm. The efficacy of yoga and pregnancy outcomes indicates the effectiveness of Yoga in improving pregnancy outcomes, especially in maintaining normal birth outcomes. The study findings suggest that yoga is safe and effective intervention during pregnancy to reduce or prevent pregnancy-related complications. Breathing and meditation techniques were found to enhance health and relaxation in pregnant women by lending mental focus and support during childbirth. Some postures were chosen specifically to help encourage an optimal foetal position.
Yoga therapies are found to be useful to maintain healthy pregnancy with mental equilibrium. Certain asanas namely, Tadasana, Trikonasana, Ardhakati Chakrasan, Vajrasan, Baddakonasan, Anulomaviloma, Bhramari pranayama, and Shavasana can be performed during pregnancy. They tone the pubococcygeal muscles to facilitate normal pregnancy and delivery and these are proven to be safe during pregnancy. They also reduce the antenatal stress levels and have good maternal and neonatal outcomes.
As found in the studies of antenatal women there was a significant reduction in the stress level of these women who performed the above-mentioned yoga asanas. These yogic techniques also improve physiological function and prevent complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, overweight during the antenatal period, antepartum haemorrhage, and postpartum haemorrhage.
Thus, pregnant women need to recognize the resourcefulness of Yoga and look forward to better ways of well-being. Happy Yoga Day. May the well-being of pregnant women in India benefit from this awareness and influence of Yogic practices.