Although recent PORDATA data points to a decrease in birth rates in Portugal, the Algarve is the exception, showing an increase in the number of babies of 3.8% between 2001 and 2020. Perhaps for this reason, Becca Spooner, a yoga teacher in the Algarve, believes that we are experiencing a new “baby boom” in these pandemic times, with many women getting pregnant after several months of lockdown.
Three physical benefits of Pregnancy Yoga
Contrary to what many people might think, physical activity during pregnancy can have a lot of benefits. In the specific case of yoga it can help during the pregnancy, at birth and post-birth mainly for three reasons.
Primarily, “it helps with calming the mind - the breath practice is a really big part of yoga - and giving birth, as far as I know, it’s all about the breathing. So yoga teaches you how to breathe and it teaches you to keep your mind focused, so if you start to feel stress or panic then you come back to focus on the breath”, said the pregnancy yoga teacher.
Secondly, “it provides you a lot of strength, so it gives the pelvic floor muscles and it also teaches you how to relax, which is really important”, said Becca Spooner.
Additionally, yoga “also helps with flexibility which could be useful in birth”.
“Yoga is excellent for balancing your body and a great tool for building strength in the body. During pregnancy, it is very important to move your body easily. Also after giving birth it’s important to stay strong in order to recover more easily from your birth and also be able to hold your baby without feeling tired”, she told The Portugal News.
Becca speaks from experience. She has been teaching yoga classes to pregnant women for over a year and a half, but a few months ago this practice began to take on even more meaning when she became pregnant. “I’ve been teaching pregnancy yoga for a while but it’s only now that I really understand pregnancy yoga because I’m in it.”
In addition to the physical benefits, there are mental aspects that we should not overvalue. All in all, “I think that the most important thing is the focus. Actually, that was the surprising part of pregnancy for me: how difficult it is mentally! Now I feel great, but in the beginning I was emotionally unstable and we don’t even know why, that’s a lot of hormonal shift going on. So it’s really nice to have a practice to just come back to your body”.
Creating a Community
Becca, who is also an acupressure massage therapist, runs a studio named Soluna in Lagos, where she wants to bring people together and create connections.
“People have just been struggling with loneliness all over the world, so I really want to try to bring people together, especially pregnant women who are really vulnerable and going through something totally new. Even if you have two babies your third pregnancy could be totally different”, she said.
In addition to the lockdown that has isolated thousands of people around the world, Becca, as an expat in the Algarve, believes that “there are many foreign women who have moved here and feel quite isolated, partly perhaps because their Portuguese is not very good and partly because many expats live spread out”, she highlighted.
Everyone can do it!
Even those who don’t have a yoga routine or have never tried yoga before can start practicing during pregnancy. However, they should go to a specific pregnancy yoga class rather than a regular class.
“Pregnant ladies who haven’t done yoga before are still welcome, but it’s better to come for a pregnancy yoga class instead of a normal class”, said Becca, explaining that pregnant ladies should adapt some of the movements.
For example: “If you are pregnant, you don’t want to do massive twists in your belly. You can twist but in an appropriated way that a pregnancy yoga teacher knows”.
In her point of view there are a lot of messages of fear around pregnancy like: “don’t lift this or don’t pick that up”.
“You can anything during the whole of your pregnancy but you’ll have to adapt the way you’re doing it. When I’m nine months pregnant I’ll just be doing a gentler version of yoga, but I’ll still be practicing. Actually, I’ll be running a yoga retreat at 9 months, two weeks before I am due”, she stated.
“In my pregnancy session I teach women how to modify their practice to suit their bodies, which is also about allowing them to feel empowered so they can continue with their movement practice without fear, because many women stop doing any movement because they don’t know if it will harm the baby”.
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Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252