Pregnancy yoga

November 5, 2017

 

Whether you are a seasoned yogi or have never practised yoga before, these simple yoga poses and breathing techniques can help to bring a sense of tranquility, ease and comfort throughout the various ebbs and flows of your pregnancy.  

 

Yoga is so much more than just a physical practise; it helps to strengthen and stabilise your body, breath and mind. Pregnancy yoga can help you to relax into the changes occurring in your body and to yield and melt into the process the way mother nature intended.

 

Each trimester brings new exciting and challenging changes. Below are simple poses which can be adapted to each stage of your pregnancy. The most important point to make is... be kind to yourself, become in tune with your body and remember....yoga is never a competition, but instead an inward observation to self discovery. This is time for you to be truly at one with baby.

 

NOTE

 

Be careful to avoid over stretching or hyperextending joints beyond their normal range of motion. In pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is produced to relax and loosen muscles, joints and connective tissue around the pelvis in preparation for childbirth. It may be tempting to take advantage of this, but try to keep within your normal range of motion to prevent injury or long-term joint instability. You know your body better than anyone and if something does not feel right, please leave it out!

 

Margo Shapiro Bachman who has written the wonderful book, Yoga Mama Yoga Baby rightly says:

 

"Yoga is not an attempt to get into complex postures. Moving beyond this limited idea of yoga can help you see that the function of postures and practises- how they affect your body, breath and mind-is more important than their appearance."  

 

 

OPENING POSE

 

Start by finding a comfortable seat, for me this is half lotus/ Ardha Padmasana (as shown in the photo above). It can equally be seated cross-legged, sitting on a cushion/ bolster/ block/ blanket....the main thing is to be comfortable with a tall spine to create space for baby. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and simply be for a couple of minutes. Notice your breath flowing in and out and slow everything down, without any force. Be the witness!

Stay here for 3-5 mins to allow yourself time to truly settle into the practise.

 

This simple opening pose will help to calm the mind, bring your body into the parasympathetic state/ rest and digest state....a happy and safe place for baby to thrive. 

 

 

SEATED SEQUENCE

 

1. Side bend in a comfortable seat

My chosen seat is half lotus/ Ardha Padmasana. It can equally be seated cross-legged, sitting on a cushion/ bolster/ block/ blanket....the main thing is to be comfortable.

Once in your comfortable seat.....Take a deep breath in and place your left hand to the ground then extend your right hand up to the sky. Exhale as you gently bend to the left, right palm facing downwards as you lift the bottom of your waist toward the sky to prevent compression of your lower back and to create space for baby.

Take 3 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Benefits of this pose include:
-Eases lower back pain
-Opens the chest and lung area (which can collapse in pregnancy due to the extra weight)
-Opens the heart energetically. "The intimacy between a mother and her baby begins with an open heart"-Yoga Mama Yoga Baby, Margo Shapiro Bachman

 

 

2. Open spinal twist in a comfortable seat.

 

Once again my chosen seat is half lotus/ Ardha Padmasana. 

 

Once in your comfortable seat.....Take a deep breath in, lengthen through the spine, place the back of your right hand to your right knee, then as you exhale place your left hand behind you and gently twist to your left. In pregnancy yoga, leave your belly facing forward and start your twist at your upper spine turning your gaze last. It's important to avoid any compression around your abdominal area to create a safe and open space for baby.

 

Take 3 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.

 

Benefits of this pose include:

-Eases back pain

-Lengthens and re-aligns the spine

-Opens the chest and lung area (which can collapse in pregnancy due to the extra weight)

 

 

 3. Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

 

Bring the souls of your feet together and wrap your hands around your ankles or toes. With your feet together, allow your knees to fall to the earth, creating space in the groin. Press down through your sit bones to bring your pelvis upright. Lengthen your spine by drawing up through the crown of your head and pulling your shoulders down your back.

 

Take 5 deep breaths here.

 

NOTE: if you feel any discomfort in the groin, you can put blocks or cushions underneath your knees for added support. You can also sit on a blanket to elevate your hips slightly and ensure you have a neutral pelvis.

 

Benefits of this pose include:

-Increases flexibility around the groin which is needed for delivery, BUT you must rememeber not to overdo it. Remember that the hormone relaxin is softening all the joints and they are easily dislocated if stretched too far.

-Strengthens your back as you actively lift your spine up.

 

 

 4. Open chest stretch in Sukhasana (easy seated pose) or toe sit

 

Come to your chosen seat. Reach your arms back behind you and interlace your hands. Draw your shoulder blades together as you open your chest and shoulders. Be mindful not to let your belly collapse forward as you already have the extra weight of baby here. Draw your lower belly gently towards your spine to help support your lower back.

 

Benefits of this pose include:

-Opens the chest and lung area; As you continue through your pregnancy and indeed after your baby is born, mothers can easily develop rounded shoulders from the extra weight in your breasts and the constant lifting, cradling and carrying of your precious baby.

-Sukhasana (easy seated pose) opens the hips and lengthens the spine 

-Toe sit opens your toes and feet (something which is often compromised by women-I should know spending 16 years in the fashion industry and wearing high heeled shoes almost every day)

-Strengthens your ankles

 

 

 5. Modified Marjaryasana (cat/cow pose)

 

Begin in a four-point kneeling position with fingers spread and hands placed on the ground directly underneath your shoulders. Place your knees hips width distance apart and gaze down at the earth with a flat back to create a neutral spine. Take a breath in and as you exhale gently tuck your tailbone, round through your spine, tucking your chin and pull your shoulders away from your ears.

Inhale and come back to neutral spine-avoid coming into cow pose where you drop your belly and lift your gaze as you would in a traditional yoga practise. In pregnancy yoga we want to avoid back bending to ensure there is sufficient space for baby.

 

Benefits of this pose include:

-Stretches the shoulders and spine

-Eases back pain

 

6. Balasana (wide legged childs pose)

 

From a 4 point kneeling position, separate you knees as wide as is comfortable and sink your hips backwards, lower your chest down and rest your forehead on the ground. Keep your arms stretched out in front of you. Keep relaxing your sit bones back onto your heels and totally surrender into the pose.

 

NOTE: If you suffer from high blood pressure, you can rest your upper body and head on a bolster to ensure your head remains level with you heart. 

 

Benefits of this pose include:

-Eases lower back pain

-Normalises circulation and respiration

-Improves blood flow to the brain and pelvic area

 

STANDING SEQUENCE

1. Salute the sun from Tadasana (mountain pose)

 

Slowly and mindfully come to standing. Place your feet together (or they can be slightly apart the further along you are in your pregnancy for comfort and ease). Spread your toes and equally distribute your weight between all four corners of your feet. Imagine there is a golden thread lifting you from your crown and gently pulling your spine to straighten. Relax you shoulders away from your ears, then as you inhale circle your arms from beside you to reach up to the sun, lifting your gaze. Exhale as you gently bring your hands together in prayer position above your head, down in front of your face and to your hearts centre.

 

Release your hands by your side and repeat 5 times.

 

Benefits of this gently flow:

-Lengthens the spine

-Strengthens legs and feet

-Improves your posture

-By focusing your awareness on your breath and subtle movement of your arms keeps you truly present

 

2. Vriksasana (tree pose)

 

Starting in Tadasana/ mountain pose, start to shift your weight to your left leg. You have 3 options with your right leg:

-place your right foot on the floor next to your left

-place your right foot on your left calf

-place your right foot on your inner thigh

NEVER place your foot on your knee joint as this could cause injuries to the knee

 

Keep your hips facing forwards and lengthen your tailbone towards the floor. Bring your hands to prayer position at your heart's centre and gaze forwards.

 

Hold the pose for 5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

 

NOTE: Balance becomes more challenging throughout pregnancy so I would strongly recommend practising this balance pose by a wall or chair for support.

 

Benefits of this pose include:

-Strengthens the lower body, particularly the legs which is highly beneficial for labour

-Improves balance, focus and memory

 

3. Utthita Trikonasana (Extended triangle pose)

 

From Tadasana/ mountain pose, step your right foot back roughly a metre, or at leg's length and turn your toes to be 60 degrees. Inhale and bring your arms to shoulder height. As you exhale reach your arms forward (in the direction of your left foot) as far as is possible, then bend from the hip joint, turn your arms so that your left hand rests on your ankle, shin or thigh, then extend your right hand towards the sky. Keep both arms straight and inline and lift your gaze up (if that is ok for your neck, if not gaze forwards to keep a stacked and neutral spine). Imagine your back is against a wall and avoid collapsing forward. This is important to create space for baby.

 

Hold the pose for 3 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

 

Benefits of this pose include:

-Stretches and strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles, all of which are hugely beneficial for labour!
-Stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings and calves.
-Opens the chest and shoulders.
-Relieves backache, especially through second trimester

 

COMPLETING THE PRACTISE SEATED

Come back to your chosen seat, place your hands at your heart's centre and take 5 easy breaths.

 

PRANAYAMA (Breathing)

Nada Shodhana Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing)

 

Come to your chosen comfortable seat and rest your left hand on your left thigh or knee. Bring your right hand towards your face and place your right index and middle finger on your eyebrow centre. Place your right thumb over your right nostril and your right ring finger over your left nostril.

 

Relax your whole body ensuring your shoulders are relaxed away from your ears.

 

Take a normal breath in and out through both nostrils.

Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril.

Close your left nostril with your ring finger, release your right thumb and exhale through your right nostril.

Inhale through your right nostril, then close right, open left and exhale through your left nostril.

This is one round.

Complete 10 rounds without any force and keeping your awareness on your breath gently flowing in and out of each nostril.

 

The left nostril is linked to the para sympathetic nervous system/ rest and digest.  This is why we begin and end with the left side; to help create a calm state.

 

To complete the practise, release your hands to rest on your belly, feel the connection with baby and simply be with your eyes closed for as long as is comfortable (a few breaths or a few minutes).  Use this time to acknowledge this wonderful being you are creating and enjoy feeling the connection you have.

 

When you are ready, you can gently release your hands and open your eyes. Take your time to step back into your day with this calm and relaxed state of being. 

 

 

Enjoy this sacred journey together, namaste x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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