I Should Go Do Yoga....For Pregnancy
This post is dedicated to all those wonderful mums-to-be who have been popping up in my classes lately. A lot of women are nervous about practising yoga while pregnant, and it's true that there are certain postures that are best avoided, however in the main, yoga can still be enjoyed right through your pregnancy and can be the perfect way to stay relaxed, ease your aching body and prepare it for labour.
I've compiled some examples of poses which can be enjoyed throughout your pregnancy, and why they're so good for you, below. Read all the way to the bottom and I've also highlighted poses which are best avoided and some tips for getting the most out of your practice.
This posture is amazing for easing back pain and keeping the muscles in your back warm and supple. Start on your hands and knees with your hands underneath your shoulders, knees underneath your hips. Press down through the fingertips to protect the wrists, and engage the arm muscles by pushing away from the floor. Tops of the feet should be flat (or as flat as possible) onto the ground, and feet in line with the knees and hands, like two train tracks.
Inhale through the nose, drop the navel down and open the chest, look forward.
Exhale and press away from the floor with your hands, rounding the back, sucking the navel in and tucking the chin into the chest. Keep moving with the inhale and exhale, for as long as you like, until the spine feels nice and warmed up.
Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle)
This pose, as well as standing postures like Warrior 1, Warrior 2 and Triangle, Chair pose, Lizard etc are all great for working those legs. During pregnancy your legs and feet are put through a lot, so keep them strong and stable with standing postures like these.
From downward-facing dog, inhale and step the left foot forward. Turn the right foot so it's parallel with the back of the mat, and rise up with the arms out at shoulder height to Warrior 2. From here, drop the left elbow to rest gently on the left knee. Try to keep space between your shoulder and your ear; keeping the shoulder relaxed and the neck long and neutral.
Your left knee should be aligned with the left ankle; pointing over the middle toe of the left foot.
Inhale and raise the right hand up and overhead, rotating it inwards slightly, but keeping the chest open.
You should feel a really nice stretch from the hip to the finger-tips. This stretches out the lower and mid back, hips and groin, as well as strengthening the thighs.
Vrksasana (tree pose)
Keeping the theme of leg strengthening, as well as maintaining balance and relaxation, this pose is a winner. I've given a few options here depending on where you are in your pregnancy, how balanced you feel and your hip flexibility.
Whatever you do, don't risk falling, so practice near a wall for support if you don't feel stable.
Grounding down into your left leg, press away from the floor with the foot, engaging the thigh and lifting the kneecap. Engage the pelvic floor muscles and lift your chest upwards. Inhale and lift the right toes off the floor and place the sole of the foot to the ankle, lower leg or upper thigh (not on the knee), or place the toes on a block (or a book will do!).
If your foot is on your leg, then squeeze the foot and the leg in towards each other to create lift. Bring the hands together at heart centre, focus on one point in front of you and breathe.
Try to come out of the pose with as much control as possible. Lifting the knee, and then dropping the foot down to the floor.
Malasana (garland pose or yogic squat)
This pose is great as you start to prepare for labour; opening the hips and groin. From standing, bring your feet as wide as your mat, with the heels on the mat and the toes turned slightly outwards. Inhale and raise your hands overhead, bringing the palms together. On th eexhale, squat down onto a block or book, bringing the outside of the triceps to the inside of the knees, pressing the palms together at the chest and opening up the hips.
Your spine should be nice and straight, gaze forwards and shoulders relaxed away from the ears.
Stay here and connect with the breath for as long as feels comfortable.
Matsyasana (fish pose - modified)
Ah man this pose feels goooooood! Backbending is not recommended in the later stages of pregnancy because you can over-stretch the abdominal muscles, so it can be tricky to be able to stretch out and open up the chest.
This pose is perfect for doing that, and leaves you feeling really relaxed too. Bring a block on it's medium height underneath your mid-back (kinda where the bra-strap goes) and place it across the width of the back. Leaning back onto the block, bring another to underneath the head on it's highest height to support the back of the head.
Bring the hands down by your sides and extend the feet out long in front of you. Breath here and try to focus on relaxing the spine and the back muscles.
Balasana (child's pose)
I mean...it makes sense. In the later stages of pregnancy you'll want to open your knees and feet slightly to make room for the bump. You can also pad underneath the bump with a blanket and rest your forehead on the mat or a block/book/cushion if it doesn't reach.
Really press your weight back into your heels to stretch out the lower back. Bring the arms down by your sides to relax the shoulders if you want to. Close the eyes and turn your attention inward to the body and the breath.
This is a beautiful pose for connecting with your body and the baby growing inside you, as well as calming and relaxing you.
Tips for Practising Pregnant
1. Go to pre-natal classes, or tell your teacher you're pregnant
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's really important that a teacher knows you are pregnant and can advise you of modifications of postures. If you feel sick, or don't feel comfortable in a posture, tell your teacher or come down into child's pose and focus on the breath until you feel better.
2. Avoid extreme breath-work
Mainly avoid holding your breath, or practising fire or belly breathing during pregnancy. However, yogic breathing can really help you prepare for labour, so practise breathing through the nose, evenly and gently.
3. Avoid these poses...
First trimester: hot yoga, closed twists
Second trimester: hot yoga, closed twists, belly-down postures like cobra, bow pose or locust, core work, back bends that overly stretch the abdomen, inversions (unless you are a very established practitioner, and can do so without the risk of falling)
Third trimester: all of the above, and anything laying on the back. Relax in savasana on your side, using a bolster or cushion to make you comfortable. Once the baby is in position, avoid all inversions.
4. Listen to your body
Yoga teaches you to listen and connect with your body, and respond accordingly. Everyone's practice and body is different, and if you had a very strong practice before becoming pregnant you may be able to continue practising pretty-much as normal until much later in your pregnancy. The rule is: listen to your body. If it feels wrong, or uncomfortable, then stop. It is your responsibility to listen and respond. Be gentle.
5. Don't over-do it
Your body is producing a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy, which prepares you for labour. However, be aware that it can also mean you might over-stretch your muscles. Again, just listen to your body and respond.
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