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I was introduced to yoga almost a decade ago at the Sri Sri Yoga course by the Art of Living Foundation. The 15 day intensive yoga training helped me realize that this ancient old practice has the power to make the body agile and strong,  the mind relaxed and free and the spirit connected to the source. I also noticed subtle changes in my life like my intuition got stronger and I was happy most of the times for no reason at all. It was one of my most life altering moments.

However, the biggest challenge I faced over the years with my yoga practice has been consistency. I tried taking some classes once I moved to the US with the hope of being more consistent, but didn’t enjoy the classes much as I always compared them to my Sri Sri Yoga course and nothing came close to that experience. I wasn’t disciplined enough to practice at home, so for the last decade or so, my yoga practice has been very “on and off”

I recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I was very keen to get my yoga practice restarted during the pregnancy, but had too much going on in my life so only got serious about two months before my due date.

By regularly practicing yoga 3 to 5 times a week, the last few weeks of my pregnancy felt effortless. Some of the benefits included:

More Energy – For the first two weeks of starting yoga in my last trimester, I was always exhausted. On the days I practiced, I didn’t want to do much, just wanted to sit and relax at every opportunity. But then, after the first two weeks, something shifted. On the days I practiced yoga, I was far more energetic and alive. Usually, for most pregnant women, the last few weeks are the more tiring part of the pregnancy, but I was less tired and achieved more every day than I did compared to the earlier stages of my pregnancy.

More centered, calm and happy – There were days especially in the beginning of my pregnancy where I was overwhelmed and anxious thinking how I would handle things once the baby arrives. It was probably just hormonal, but I was second guessing myself and questioning my abilities. Things were just beginning to settle and get easy with my first daughter, and I was worried to go back to the “baby phase” and handling two kids. With my regular practice of yoga, I felt those fears and self-doubts disappearing and I found myself surrendering and trusting to the divine force. I found myself calm and joyful from within.

Created a special bond with my daughter – There are many ways to bond with a child, but for me, chanting OM, taking a few deep breaths and introducing my toddler to yoga has indeed been a very special part of my pregnancy. Seeing her imitate my practice just brings a special warmth to my heart. My 2.5 year old daughter got creative and came up with her range of frog yoga, butterfly yoga, elephant yoga etc

The practice mostly helped me during the labor and delivery. Some of the benefits included –

Removed the fear of going through labor and delivery – The first thought that I had when I got to know I am pregnant was, how am I going to go through labor again. Even though women on this planet has gone through labor for thousands of years, it really terrified me. With every practice, I kept the intention of letting go of the fear one step at a time. On the D-day while I was at the hospital, I felt strong, confident and believe it or not, I felt no fear.

Short and quick labor – I was blessed to have a short labor compared to many .I reached the hospital at 11:30 am and had my baby in my hands at 3.04pm. I definitely do believe that all the regular cat/cow stretches, butterfly etc had a big role to play to ensure a smooth and quick labor.

Ease through contractions – During the early stages, every time I had a contraction, I distracted myself by doing some body rotations or other yoga stretches. Towards the latter part of my labor, during contractions, I was focusing on my breath. My daily practice allowed me to practice these asanas (stretches) and breathing techniques to ease the pain of contractions during labor.

 Epidural-free delivery – Yoga not only makes the body strong, but the mind as well. I always thought that my capacity to handle physical pain is limited. However, I didn’t want to take any epidural, but wasn’t sure if I had it in me to go through labor without any pain management. With my yoga practice, I was able to become strong mentally which helped me avoid the pain medication. During my practice during the pregnancy, I also held the intention to go epidural free and that helped attract support that helped me through the process. I was blessed to not only have a my husband who was a huge support but also to have a nurse who held my hand, helped me chant my Sanskrit mantras, kept encouraging me and reminding me to breathe through my contractions.

If there was one thing I could change in my pregnancy or do differently, it would be to have started my practice in the beginning of the pregnancy. I believe I would have ended up having a more easier and joyful 40 weeks as opposed to just the last few weeks.