Why Practice Yoga when you are Pregnant?
Doing Yoga while I was pregnant was the best gift I gave to myself and to my son. Studies have shown that doing exercise while pregnant helps to increase Apgar scores of children. The theory is, the healthier the mom, the healthier the child. Make smarter food choices. What you eat helps “build” your baby and affects your energy levels. Eat organic and whole fruits, grains and vegetables when possible. Avoid over processed foods with preservatives, or meats with hormones. Give yourself permission to rest and take care of yourself. All of these add up to a healthier environment for your baby. Yoga can be an important tool in reducing your physical and emotional stress. Keeping your body healthy, prepares you for the rigors of labor and being a new mom.
Brenda’s Yoga Exercises for Pregnant Women
When we are pregnant our body changes its distribution of weight to support the growing baby, resulting in tension in these areas:
• Shoulders and upper back because you’re carrying extra weight in your breasts.
• Lower back because you’re carrying extra weight in your belly.
• Legs and feet because you’re carrying extra weight overall.
If you don’t have time to get to a Pre Natal Yoga Class here are some Yoga exercises for pregnant women that are excellent for relieving stress in the most common areas:
Relief for tight upper back, neck and shoulders
This is also called Eagle pose because it helps to spread your wingspan and decrease tension between the shoulder blades. Sit or stand tall, then stretch your arms out to the sides as you inhale. As you exhale, wrap your right arm on top of the left, interlacing your forearms until your palms can touch in prayer.
Once there, lift your elbows up, and drop your shoulder blades, spreading them apart as you breathe, gently press your hands farther away from your face to increase the stretch. Close your eyes and breathe deeply into the tension in your upper back, relaxing with each exhale.
After several breaths, soften your jaw and face, release and change sides. This time the left arm will go on top. Try to match the time spent on each side.
One arm up one arm behind clasp
Start with your left arm behind your back, gently wiggle it up as high between the shoulder blades as you comfortably can. Lift your right arm up to the ceiling on an inhale, and as you exhale drop it behind your back and find your left fingertips. Be patient if your hands don’t clasp, you can use a yoga strap, tie or belt from home to bridge the distance between your hands until your shoulders open up. Gently clasp them together and open your collarbones keeping your neck long and the sides of your torso even.
Roll your left shoulder back and down and lift your extended right elbow toward the ceiling and the center of your head. Again, soften your face and jaw while extending your neck. Breathe deeply, relaxing into the sensation. When ready release and change sides, rolling your shoulders in between to loosen them before matching the other side. Notice if one side is tighter than the other.
Clasp hands behind back
As we progress in pregnancy, there is less and less room inside to breathe deeply as our organs begin to crowd the diaphragm and the baby takes up more space inside. This pose helps to counteract that feeling of crowding and allows the chest to expand for the breath.
Bend your elbows and clasp your hands behind your back. Keep the elbows bent and the palms together as you widen your collarbones and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Brace your hands on the floor behind you and use them as a fulcrum to lift your heart and widen your chest. Breathe expansively up into your chest as you inhale, squeeze your shoulder blades as you exhale. Extend the back of your neck reaching through the crown of your head as you gaze gently skyward. When you release, float your arms forward and close your eyes, palms resting upward on your knees. Notice how open your chest and lungs feel.
Release Pressure and Tightness In the Lower Back
Because of the growing baby, our lumbar spine begins to become swayed (Lordosis) and often the vertebrae and surrounding muscles are strained by the added weight in the front of the body causing tightness in the low back.
Childs pose can be a wonderful remedy for a tight low back, often associated with pregnancy. Sit on your shins with your toes touching and your knees apart to accommodate the size of your baby.
Gently fold forward with your hands extended in front of you for support as you guide your chest onto your thighs keeping your sit bones as close to touching the heels as possible. Adjust your legs apart if necessary for comfort. This also helps reduce edema in the legs and helped with my nausea in the first trimester as well. (For an alternative to Child’s Poses, please use the pose in the picture to the left.)
Cat and Dog Stretch
Standing on your hands and knees, place your hands directly under your shoulders, middle fingers straight ahead and fingers spread wide. Knees should be directly under hips, or if needed, just behind hips to allow room for the baby. all ten toes elongating, tops of the ankles pressing down. On an inhale extend the spine in both directions, heart forward, sit bones back, being mindful of lengthening through the lower back. As you exhale draw the navel gently in and up and round the upper back to the ceiling as your tail and chin move toward one another.
Press the shoulder blades apart by pressing firmly into your hands. Repeat, inhale, lengthen in both directions, gaze up and pause and then exhale, rounding and gazing in toward your baby. Keep following the breath like a wave, as it moves through your body opening and stretching your spine. The flexibility and stability of the spine is crucial for your own well-being and health and also that of your unborn child. Be gentle and mindful in your movements and tune in to the rhythm of your breathing. Breathe in and out of the nose only to filter the air, purifying the breath, preferably using breath of victory (you may learn more about this wonderful ujjãyi breath in Brenda’s Gift of Breath audio meditation, provided to you as a free gift in our Free Downloads section).
Wag the Dog
This basic exercise was one of my favorites while I was pregnant as it stretched my intercostals between my ribs and stretched my side waist, which made me feel like I had more space to breathe into.
Stay on hands and knees in a neutral spine position and inhale. As you exhale, swing your tail right and look over your right shoulder. Move your left shoulder away from your left hip to stretch deeper on that side.
Inhale to neutral, and then swing your tail left and look left. Stretching your right shoulder away from your right hip.
Inhale back to neutral and repeat a few more times. Rest in child’s pose to finish. On a side note, being on your hands and knees in either of these last two positions can be helpful if you are experiencing back labor. It can relieve the pressure on the back to move the baby away from the spine.
Reduce Water Retention and discomfort for Legs and Feet
Spread your feet wide apart, toes slightly open to help the knees. Use your elbows on the inside of your legs to gently coax them apart. Anchor your tailbone to lengthen your low back. If your heels are touching the floor, stay and breathe, visualizing that your spine is hanging from a long thread attached to the crown of your head. If your heels do not touch, you can do this pose against the wall for support so that you can find length in the spine and relief. If the knees are cranky, sit on a block or very low stool to support your sit bones and relieve your knee pressure.
Sometimes doing this pose in a garden setting or outdoors with your feet in the grass can be very grounding and renewing. Close your eyes and surround your baby with love with every breath.
Viparita Karani cultivates several health benefits that positively affect women. Because the pelvis and legs are raised higher than the heart and head, (either on a bolster, blanket or using the fertility balls), the effects of gravity on the circulatory system are reversed and a rich supply of arterial blood is brought to the glands of the upper body and the brain.
Inversions also drain venous blood pooled in the legs and abdomen, bringing it back to the heart. As you breathe deeply in the pose, the nervous system is quieted and awareness through the senses is rejuvenated. With regular practice you’ll notice an increase of vitality at the navel center or 2nd and 3rd Chakras as the pose strengthens the diaphragm, massages the internal organs, and stokes the digestive fire. This internal massage to the organs and blood to the glands of the upper body is extremely potent for women trying to conceive, are pregnant, or going through menopause.
This pose is brilliant for women all the way up to the last stages of pregnancy because it opens the hips-which helps prepare for labor and delivery, but it also stabilizes the pubic bone which supports the pelvic floor and can become uncomfortable as you get closer to delivery. (As pregnancy hormones tend to soften connective tissue in the body, always be mindful when doing yoga to not “over stretch”. Baddha Konasana helps to maintain stability in the pelvic floor as pregnancy progresses, but as with all poses, should be done mindfully.)
Sit on a mat or carpet and gently pull your heels toward your pubic bone, soles of the feet touching. The closer the feet the more extreme stretch in the groins, adjust for your own comfort level. If your low back is rounding, sit on a cushion or blanket to lengthen your low back. Press into your feet and allow your groins to soften as your knees open out and down. Sit tall and hinging from the hips ease forward. Breathe and allow the pose to do you.
Brenda’s Strong Yoga®4Pregnancy DVD:
They say being pregnant causes women to glow- practicing yoga before during and after my pregnancy kept the glow going! Plus I had increased energy and a sense of well being throughout my pregnancy. The accompanying DVD helps you through all three trimesters of your pregnancy and helps prepare you for labor.