When I first found out I was pregnant (past the awful time being constantly nauseous and exhausted) I remember living my yoga practice being scared..
Scared I would too much. Scared I would hurt the baby. Scared I would do something I shouldn’t have done.
I remember constantly texting friends and teachers asking “can I do that? And that? What is it that I shouldn’t do etc…”.
The answers were always basically based on the fact that my body was gonna know, so to do everything that felt right… and that definitely wasn’t a clear enough answer for me!!
Thinking about it now, it all came down to the fact that I did not trust my mind to know what my limits were and what my body was doing in the inside.
(Yap, not being in control on how nature was “making” my baby drove me CRAZY… I actually almost passed out when I had the 19 weeks Ultrasound check - great yoga teacher in control of her emotions right??).
It didn’t take too long before I gained sanity again and realized that THE trick was to USE my Yoga rather than being afraid of it.
So, based on my experience, here a few points on how practicing Yoga can benefit during pregnancy, some basic rules on what NOT to do and a few of my very favourite Asana that can be done daily and safely practiced while expecting.
Benefits of prenatal yoga:
-Prenatal Yoga can help support moms-to-be emotionally and physically
-It can teach you and remind you how to breathe properly and consciously relax in preparation for labour
-It can create a deeper connection with your baby and your emotions
-It balances energy levels
-It helps you stay in shape, it stimulates the cardiovascular and lymphatic system, improves balance, stretches and strengthens the body.
-It is also proved that problems such as tiredness, back pain, nausea, anxiety, headaches and many other common complaints of pregnancy may be eased by practicing yoga and often may disappear altogether.
What NOT to do (or suggested to avoid)
· Avoid lying on your back, especially after the first trimester. Lying on your back can put pressure on your inferior vena cava (the vein that returns blood from the legs to the heart) and reduce blood flow to your uterus. It can also make you feel dizzy and cause shortness of breath and nausea.
· Skip headstands and shoulder stands. "Pregnancy is not the time to START an inversion practice," The risk of falling or feeling faint from having your head below your heart makes these poses unsafe for most pregnant women. If you do have a strong inversion practice keep the position safe and not holding it for too long.
· Skip positions that require extreme stretching of the abdominal muscles. Deep forward and back bends as well as deep twists can lead to injury. Avoid stretching moves that feel uncomfortable or cause muscle soreness.
· Avoid doing yoga in hot, humid conditions. Don't take Bikram or hot yoga classes (in which the room is heated to 30 degrees or higher) because this could cause dangerous overheating
· Do not hold your breath (kumbhaka/breath retention pranayama). Remember you are now breathing for two!!
· Do not exhaust yourself! Already from the first months of pregnancy there is between 40 to 50% extra blood in our bodies, which is already a huge extra amount of work for our system on top of “building” a baby!! Avoid activities that push your body and breath too much, rather replace them with nice walks, good swimming and gentle yoga classes!!
Take a few minutes every day to connect with the breath, deep inhalations and exhalations – My favourite Pranayama these days is the GOLDEN BREATH: inhale through the nose, exhale opening the mouth slightly as if a threat was coming out from the lips (great for labour!)
Also take time to connect with your baby…place the left hand on the heart and the right into the babies heart. Connect and send the breath between the two hearts.
My FAVORITE ASANAS
· Sufi circles or Sufi Grind
HOW TO: starts in sukhasana, or easy seated pose with legs crossed. The torso then moves in circles around the mid-line, inhaling as the body moves forward and exhaling backward. Generally, they are practiced in a clockwise direction first then counterclockwise, for up to three minutes each side.
BENEFITS: In addition to improving mobility in the hips and spine, Sufi grinds can be used to re-energize the body and mind. They can also have a meditative effect for the yogi practicing them. This can help to bring focus and awareness into the body, cultivating a sense of stillness.
Traditionally, Sufi grinds are said to be beneficial in activating and balancing the lower chakras of the body. As such, they are associated with improving digestion (and constipation) and treating conditions that affect the reproductive organs, such as endometriosis. They are also said to positively influence the adrenal glands, which help with managing the yogi’s stress response.
‘ SUFI CIRCLE
· Cat cow
HOW TO: From a hands-and-knees tabletop position (place the hands slightly wider than the shoulders and the knees slightly wider than the hips to make enough space for the belly), begin cow pose with an inhale. The belly sinks toward the ground, creating a slight arch in back and a good opening in the chest, and the head lifts as the gaze is directed upward. On an exhale, ease into cat pose. Hug the baby in toward the spine as the back rounds and the head releases gently toward the ground.
In addition to easing spinal tension, this pose sequence calms the mind and relieves stress. It is also believed to:
Strengthen the arms, wrists and shoulders
Stimulate the abdominal organs, kidneys and adrenal glands
Open the chest
Tone and strengthen the core muscles
Stretch the neck and spine
Align the spine and prevent back pain
CAT COW VARIATION
Continuing from all four, start to draw circles with the hips trying to maintain a stable position with the back. Make the circles bigger and bigger if comfortable. Let the breath flow freely with the movements.
*BENEFITS: To relax, loose tension, stretch and lull the baby into the tummy.
-Standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), place the feet a little wider than hip distance apart and bring the hands to the chest in Namaste.
-Slowly bend the knees and squat down, being careful not to let the knees extend forward beyond the alignment of the feet.
-Squatting down, wiggle the shoulders in between the knees, using the elbows to push back against the inner knees, keeping the hands at the chest in Namaste with the back straight and feet flat to the floor
Even though it may not seem like it, the yoga squat has a truck load of benefits.
Doing Malasana: -
Stretches the ankles, groins, back, torso and sacrum.
Tones the entire lower body (quads, hamstrings, gluts, and calf muscles).
Tones the core.
Stimulates the metabolism and the digestive organs (helps the body eliminate waste).
Strengthens the lower back and abs.
Is a good preparation for childbirth.
Helps relieve period pain.
OBS: *If you know that the baby is not turn in the correct way you are advised not to keep the position for longer that 1 breath after week 34!!!
The position can be done sitting or lying on the back (happy baby pose).
MALASANA TWIST: place the hands down into the mat in front of you, inhale lift the right arm up looking up at the hand, exhale sink the arm down. Other side. Modification to bind behind the back.
• Bali Seal
from a balasana (child’s pose) position, inhale use the legs to lift together with arms and body up into the knees, exhale back into Balasana, inhale come forward to the hands and knees into a mini Upper dog position (keeping the back long and opening the chest), exhale back into Balasana.
*BENEFITS: To warm up, increase circulation and stamina, build strength and open the body
· Toe balance
starts from Tadasana (feet hip distance apart) -inhale lift the heels off the floor and the arms above the head -exhale sink down into Tadasana.
Next step -inhale lift the heels off the floor and the arms above the head -exhale drop the hips into a deep squat position keeping the heels off the ground -inhale lift yourself up to the previous position -exhale sink down, Tadasana.
Pay attention to lift up on the toes keeping the ankles straight and strong.
*BENEFITS: Strengthens and improves flexibility in the ankles, toes, knees and thighs, Stretches the upper back, Strengthens the core abdominal muscles, Improves concentration and focus, Proves relief for flat feet
· Goddess pose
begin standing in a wide stance with the toes turned out and the knees bent, bringing the lower body into a wide-legged squat. (If you feel for it.. for a stronger variation, the heels may be lifted off the ground):
A variety of hand and arm positions may be used for this pose, including raising the arms overhead shoulder-distance apart or with the palms touching. The hands can also be placed in prayer position at the heart center or may rest on the hips or thighs. In another common arm position, the arms extend out at shoulder height and are bent at the elbows so the forearms are vertical, with the palms facing forward and the fingers pointing up.
Goddess pose is considered highly beneficial for the body because it strengthens the muscles of the legs, glutes, calves and ankles. It simultaneously stretches and opens the hips and chest and lengthens the spine. It is a powerful, warming and energizing posture, stimulating the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Due to the effect of this posture on the pelvis, and particularly the muscles of the pelvic floor, this posture is especially beneficial for pregnant women. It is said to help create more space in the pelvis, easing pregnancy and labor. It may be helpful for pregnant women to use a wall or a chair to support their balance in this posture.
Various modifications are possible for this pose such as placing the hands on a chair or practicing with the back against a wall for support.
· Viparita Karani
kneel next to the wall, facing AWAY from the wall. Sit the right side of your butt on the floor, and slide your right hand out in front of you as far away from the wall as you can get it. From this position, you should be able to easily roll so your back is on the floor and swing your legs up the wall with no wiggle worming. Roll keeping both legs together, place a bolster under the hips and under your head, use a strap around the legs if you want to relax completely and keep the position longer.
Legs-up-the-wall pose provides a number of benefits for the body and mind. Ancient yoga texts state that this pose will destroy old age and offer anti-aging effects. Modern teachers agree that the pose has many benefits, including relief from:
Swollen feet and legs
Eye and ear problems
PMS and menstrual cramps
High and low blood pressure
This pose also stretches the back of the legs to relieve cramping and swelling in the ankles, calves and feet.
So, I hope this little “mini guide” helped a few of you that are in my same situation…
Having said that I think it is very important to remember and be aware that everyone is different and react to pregnancy in very different ways.
Learn to listen to the body and his needs, eat good food and be happy.
Pregnancy can be a very tough time both physically and emotionally but it is also one of the most special and important time in a womans life…make the best of it, for you and your baby!!
My favourite poem
Nothing could have prepared your heart to open like this.
From beyond the skies and the stars
This echo arrived inside of you and started to pulse with life
Each beat a tiny act of growth,
Traversing all our ancient shapes,
On its way home to itself.
You know your life has changed forever,
For in all the days and years to come,
Distance will never be able to cut you off
From the one you now carry
For nine months under your heart.