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Pregnant and Depressed? Try Yoga

Hannah Chow |15, April 2015


For expectant mothers suffering from depression and anxiety, exercise is probably the last thing you want to worry about. However, movement is actually proven to improve your mood during pregnancy. Studies have shown that exercising through all nine months of pregnancy is not only healthy for babies in utero but also mentally and physically vital for the health of expectant mothers.

A recent study was conducted on over 30 expectant mothers suffering from depression who attended a minimum of ten weeks of yoga class. The study showed that after ten weeks of yoga class, their moods were improved by over fourteen percent. Robert Preidt wrote about the results of this study in an article for HealthDay Reporter. "The women's levels of depression fell during the study, and the more yoga they did, the better their mental health, the researchers reported," he says.

How does the yoga cure work? It works by improving breathing, increasing blood flow and circulation, and releasing happy chemicals in the brain. Yoga teaches breathing techniques to help calm nerves and settle feelings of anxiety. Movement increases circulation and blood flow to vital organs. At the end of a thirty-minute class, if your heart rate is elevated, dopamine chemicals are instantly released to the brain, triggering a neurological need for positive thinking.

Yoga Improves Breathing

According to Julie Phillips-Turner, a Baltimore yoga examiner, yoga opens up the chest in a way to improve breathing, circulation, and digestion. "While yoga stretches our muscles it also teaches us to breathe well, stand well and sit well, which all help to optimize our body's functions," she says.

There are five breathing techniques essential for beginning yoga. The abdominal breath is where the diaphragm moves up and down as you inhale and exhale. The mid-chest breath is where the ribcage expands out to the sides, front and back, focusing on middle part of your torso. The rhythmic breath is repeated cycles of timed inhales and exhales, two seconds breathing in and two seconds breathing out. The nostril breath is where you alternate which nostril you inhale with and which nostril you exhale with. Lastly, the kapalabhati is a breathing technique where you only inhale and exhale through your nose in short intervals as you focus on your abdomen moving toward and away from your spine.

According to a recent study conducted by Belisa Vranich Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, breathing techniques not only help improve your mood, they keep you focused and attentive to your surroundings. "When you give your system a huge bucketful of oxygen, that's the purest energy you can get," Vranich says, "The brain is clear and focused, you're even-keeled and optimistic, you stop yawning and sighing."

Yoga Increases Blood Flow

Yoga increases the blood flow through your body. Dr. Timothy McCall from the Yoga Journal believes that yoga boosts levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells carrying more oxygen to the tissues. It also thins the blood by making platelets less sticky and cutting the level of clot-promoting proteins in the blood. Because of this, Dr. McCall claims that yoga could decrease the number of heart attacks and strokes since blood clots are often the cause of those killers.

There are four beginning prenatal yoga poses proven to improve blood flow in the body. Downward dog helps reverse effects of gravity. Being upside down in downward dog promotes blood flow and movement of vital nutrients to your brain. Forward bend from standing or sitting positions compresses upper abdomen and creates space between each vertebrae improving circulation around the spine. If you are further along in your pregnancy, take a wider stance with your feet to provide room for your growing belly as you forward bend.

Garland pose is a great exercise to widen the hips and promote circulation through the lower body. Lastly, warrior pose helps open the chest to promote effective breathing and improve circulation. These four poses can be successfully executed throughout every stage of pregnancy.

Yoga Releases Happy Chemicals in the Brain

For years people have been studying neurological triggers for happiness. Studies have shown that exercise can trigger heightened levels of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins, all natural 'happiness' chemicals in the brain. Have you ever heard, "You will never be happy just staying in the house, you have to get out?" Well, it's true. Movement is the fastest way to increase those happy chemicals in your brain, even if it's as simple as a weekly prenatal yoga class.

Escaping reality, even for one hour a week at yoga class, can potentially be life changing for some women suffering from pregnancy depression or anxiety. Imagine positive and healthy after work activities for newly expectant mothers. Imagine second or third time mothers practicing their breathing techniques in preparation for the demands of labor and delivery. Imagine a healthier you.

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Melisaadams Sep 22, 2017 06:25:02 AM ET

Hey, Did anyone face infertility? Yoga is the best way to face the situation. It makes me mentally tough to face the infertility situation. Just work and put everything in it.

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