Both massage therapy and yoga are considered types of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), or holistic therapies that, when practiced regularly, provide preventive and ongoing health benefits.
Yoga and massage have also both been studied by various research entities, and each therapy has been found to increase flexibility, effect relaxation and provide pain relief. When combined together, massage and yoga provide a powerful means of staying limber and top physical condition. Now imagine how a pregnancy could be benefited by engaging in these two potent forms of self-care.
“Yoga and massage complement each other wonderfully,” says Kari Marble, pre- and post-natal yoga instructor and massage therapist who teaches at The Mindful Body in San Francisco. She has promoted massage and yoga for the last 16 years, and points out that practicing yoga and receiving massage is a combination that creates an opportunity for women to take responsibility for health during pregnancy in all dimensions. “She can feel loved, nurtured, relaxed and more connected to her baby,” she says.
Marble says that yoga “offers community and support,” while massage provides deep relaxation that boosts the immune and nervous systems. “Women feel more resilient physically and emotionally,” she says. “She can hold more presence for her child rather than being fragmented.”
With massage, the woman relaxes on the table and also feels a connection with her body. “There is a surge of good hormones—oxytocin—that is good for mom and baby,” Marble says.
Growing Popularity of Yoga
In recent years, yoga has grown steadily in popularity. The Static Brain Research Center reports that more than 15 million Americans practice yoga, and more than 70 percent are female. Many women who practice yoga stick with the practice when they become pregnant, according to a 2015 Australian study.
These women could be on to something: A 2012 meta-analyses indicates that yoga might provide benefits for pregnant women, both before and after delivery. Those benefits include improved quality of life and self-efficacy, less discomfort and pain during labor, and greater birth weight and fewer preterm births. When you add massage therapy to the mix, the results can be magnified.
For women who have been practicing yoga before their pregnancy, Marble gives the go-ahead but suggests a more relaxed pace. They should avoid poses that are held for long periods of time as well as quick breathing. She also recommends they start with a prenatal class. A pregnant woman needs modifications to some poses taught in a regular class, she points out.
Taking a yoga class and having massage on the same day is perfectly acceptable, as long as the massage follows the yoga practice, according to Marble. “You can do both in one day, but you might overdue [yoga] if you have massage first,” she says. As the pregnancy advances, both yoga and massage should be adapted accordingly.
Both massage and yoga come are contraindicated in similar situations. For example, if the women is feeling nauseous, fatigued or has a headache, she should postpone either modality. But if she feels well, the one-two approach to prenatal self-care via massage and yoga could create an easier pregnancy and delivery.
As a woman awaits the birth of her baby, taking advantage of CAM therapies including yoga and massage, can prepare her mentally and physically for the challenges ahead. As Marble says, “Massage is synergistic with yoga for empowerment and to enhance the connection to baby and self,” Marble says.
About the Author
Phyllis Hanlon has written nonfiction articles and book reviews as well as human-interest stories, profiles and award-winning essays. Her specialty areas include health and medicine, religion, education and business. She regularly delights in the joys of massage. She also wrote “Reiki: A Complementary Therapy Gains in Acceptance” for MASSAGE Magazine.