Exercise aims to make Norwich births go swimmingly

Aqua natal class at Mangreen. Photo: Bill Smith

Aqua natal class at Mangreen. Photo: Bill Smith

Eastern Evening News, January 9 2012

A new fitness craze for mums-to-be, that says it can improve fitness, reduce back pain and make for an easier labour, has come to Norwich. EMMA HARROWING finds out more.

Pregnancy can be taxing on your body. Your growing size can give you bad posture resulting in back and joint pain and you could become stressed about the labour and birth.

There are many gentle exercises that you can do during pregnancy and last year yoga was one of the top fitness classes taken up by mums-to-be.

This year another exercise is gaining popularity amongst mums-to-be in Norwich. Aqua Natal Yoga is a yoga class that takes place in water.

Michelle Busuttil with Louise Mundford at the aqua natal class. Photo: Bill Smith

Michelle Busuttil with Louise Mundford at the aqua natal class. Photo: Bill Smith

The exercise class is accredited by the Royal College of Midwives and has the reputation for reducing stress levels and reducing back and joint pain. It also claims that it can improve labour and birth.

Michelle Busutill has been teaching Birthlight Aqua Natal Yoga for three years and has taught regular yoga for 11 years. Her classes at Mangreen Farm in Swardeston are proving popular with mums-to-be.

Says Michelle: ‘There are two main differences between Aqua Natal Yoga and traditional ‘on land’ yoga. The first is that we are working in water which creates a buoyancy and takes the weight out of the joints.

Secondly it also allows us to practice postures that involve being prone and supine which are contraindicated on dry land.

We are able to use yoga breathing in the water which is very effective at inducing calm and relaxation and we can connect our breath with various glides in the water which enables us to recognise tension in our bodies and then release it – this is a great birth preparation technique!’

After going to classes for 12 weeks I have noticed a remarkable difference in my stress levels as the exercises help me to relax, destress and bond with my bump.
Louise Mundford, 28, from Long Stratton, is 32 weeks pregnant and has been going to Michelle Busuttil’s Aqua Natal Yoga classes since last September.

Each 45 minute Aqua Natal Yoga class combines the benefits of yoga and swimming. Classes include adapted swim strokes and adapted yoga postures.

According to Michelle, 45 minutes of aqua natal yoga is equivalent to one and a half hours of regular yoga and five minutes of relaxation in water equates to 20 minutes of relaxation on dry land. Pelvic floor work is also practiced and according to Michelle this crucial exercise is more efficient in the water.

Says Michelle: ‘With the pelvic floor work the water makes it difficult to overtone these muscles compared to practising on dry land. You can also tone pelvic ligaments in a safe way without the fear of over stretching. Even women with pelvic girdle pain are available to exercise in a safe way and postures can be adapted to suit their needs.’

According to Michelle, other benefits of this form of exercise include maintaining good core strength which can help you feel comfortable throughout your pregnancy, improved flexibility of the spine and joints and lowered heart rate and blood pressure.

‘Even your baby can benefit,’ says Michelle. ‘Aqua Natal Yoga increases the likelihood of optimal foetal positioning at birth, babies become more alert and blood flow to the uterus is maintained during exercise which makes the womb more efficient in washing away toxins and carbon dioxide that can build up with muscle action. Exercising on dry land this blood flow usually drops. And of course, mother and bump bond during the class.’

The success of the classes has encouraged Michelle to think about teaching post-natal aqua yoga this year to help new mums re-tone their body after birth.

Says Michelle: ‘The new classes will enable mums to either take their baby with them so that they can exercise together or enjoy some ‘me time’ and practice in the water without their babies.’

Aqua Natal Yoga classes with Michelle take place on Tuesdays from 5.45pm until 6.30pm at Mangreen Farm in Swardeston.