Meghan, Duchess of Sussex departs The National Theatre on January 30, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

by Nadeem Badshah

YOGA is set to become more popular this year after getting the royal seal of approval by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, according to health experts.

The pregnant Duchess, 37, is a big fan of the ancient Indian practice and is reported to have had a “floating” studio installed at their new home in Windsor, according to some media reports.

Frogmore Cottage, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s home, is undergoing £3 million worth of renovations and she is believed to have asked for a mother-and-baby yoga room with a “floating” floor ahead of her due date in the spring.

Her mother Doria Ragland is a trained instructor and the duchess has introduced the practice to Harry, having taken it up when she was an actress in Los Angeles.

Experts believe the activity can help with flexibility and fitness during pregnancy, improving the chances of a smoother birth and also reducing stress.

Dinesh Bhugra, professor of mental health and cultural diversity at King’s College London, told Eastern Eye: “The introduction of the annual International Yoga Day [since June 2015] has introduced millions around the world to the ancient practice of yoga.

“Yoga does contribute in several positive ways to physical and psychological well-being.

“First, by increasing physical flexibility which may enable women to give birth more easily and second, by using yoga as a psychological mechanism of mindfulness – thereby helping manage pain.

“However, the practice of yoga should be started gradually preferably early in pregnancy when it is safe to do so under supervision and by paying careful attention to physical ability.”

In January, Harry, 34, told Buddhist monk Kelsang Sonam during a visit to Merseyside that he meditated daily. He has previously spoken about seeking counselling and taking up boxing to improve his mental health to come to terms with the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.

Meanwhile, his father Prince Charles’s charity is funding yoga, meditation and “breath focused stretches” for young prisoners; and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, is also a devotee. The Prince’s Foundation, which distributes funds to charities he favours, has given a grant to a project that is designed to bring harmony to young offenders through the activity.

Pippa Middleton, the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, last year revealed she attended a meditation class which “involved learning to meditate twice daily, ideally for 20 minutes, chanting a mantra, while sitting upright, eyes closed and focused.”

Professor Mahendra Patel, a senior member of the South Asian Health Foundation, said the celebrity endorsements and the convenience of doing the physical and breathing exercises is making it more popular.

He told Eastern Eye: “I’ve tried it and it gives you a sense of peace. It’s a way to de-stress and feed your health inwardly, which can be good for the baby.

“It is a holistic trend which appeals to younger, middle-aged and older people in the comfort of their own home. They do not have to brave the cold weather.

“Bollywood and Hollywood actors are growing into yoga and now with the royal stamp of approval, particularly for pregnant women, it will push it forward and add to the publicity and attention.”

He added: “I came back from India recently and more people are practising it than before. Prime minister Narendra Modi has advocated yoga actively for wellbeing and health.”

Other high-profile names who have praised yoga include Ryan Giggs, the former Manchester United player who retired aged 40; and singer Katy Perry, who does two daily sessions of transcendental meditation, known as TM, brought to the US in 1959 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Dr Kailash Chand, a GP, said prenatal yoga can improve sleep, reduce stress and anxiety and increase the “strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth”.

He added: “Also it decreases lower back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath. According to a recent review of 10 research studies, prenatal yoga also lowers the chance of having pregnancy complications, pain and stress levels, and possibly even the risk of having a baby that is small for their gestational age.

“For the public, yoga is a great way to work on your flexibility and strength. Just about everyone can do it, too – it’s not just for people who can touch their toes or want to meditate.

“As it happens, Western science is starting to provide concrete clues as to how yoga works
to improve health, heal aches and pains, and keep sickness at bay.”