How to adapt your yoga practice when pregnant..
There are some elements in prenatal yoga that come back in every class… and that’s for a reason.. overall a yoga class should bring you your well deserved self-care, but we also make sure that you, your body and your baby get prepared the best you can for pregnancy, labor and the time afterwards..
Below some explanation on why we do what we do in prenatal classes, not only to make you aware of how much goodness you are bringing to yourself by attending a class, but more to give you some inspiration on how to adapt your own practice at home..
We start in a sitting posture with a short meditation.. Why?
To make sure that you ‘land’ on the mat physically and mentally, but also – it gives us a moment to give you cues on a way to sit without taking too much effort to keep your spine straight and relaxed shoulders, what we call a neutral position (read everything about it in the article here, #1 on the list).
Keeping your spine straight when you sit helps you to avoid lower back pain during pregnancy, which is one of the most common pregnancy pains, but not only. It also helps with bringing your baby into the most optimal position for birth, and the more work your baby does when in your belly, the less work he/or she needs to do on the way out ;-)
If you tend to sit differently during the day, it's a good reminder for yourself to bring that habit into the rest of your day as well..
We spend lots of time on all fours, hands and knees. Why?
There are couple of reasons here:
In this position you help to bring your baby into the most optimal position for birth, not only during labor itself but already in the third trimester..
During labor the position with one leg towards the front, close to your hands (a lounge pose), is one that may help reposition your baby if needed, so he/she hopefully finds their way to the birth path without additional interventions..
When pregnant, we often share with you a sequence that helps strengthening your lower back to avoid lower back issues – at least one of the three variations in the sequence below is accessible for most of us when pregnant:
From all fours you can come down to polar bear pose which is a resting pose not only for a yoga class but also for labor. Use it when things become a bit intense and you feel you need to regain some strength..
When you add circling your pelvis in all fours, it’s an amazing way for during labor to release any sensations you may feel in your body with coming surges (contractions).
And in that same position with circling your pelvis but during pregnancy, you learn how to explore what your body feels. You often hear from your teacher ‘stretch where you need to stretch’ . Not just to play around, but also to learn to recognize what you need at which moment of time, so when you find yourself in labor, you follow what your body tells you.
Few tips here:
Make sure to put a blanket under your knees for some cushioning – our knees are sensitive and you don’t want to feel any discomfort here..
If you ever experience pain in your wrists when on all fours, you can do couple of things:
Make a short break, sit on your heels (add a pillow in between your heels and buttocks for more comfort on your knees) and make circles with your writes both directions
Roll your mat or a blanket and place the tops of your hands on the rolled part. This way the angle on your wrist is bigger so brings less pressure
Bring your wrists in fists or come down to your elbows
During labor you can use a sitting ball to lean against it when on all fours while you circle your pelvis, or lean against a birthing bath if you can use one..
We work on strengthening your legs.. Why?
To make it possible for you to have your baby in any position that feels comfortable for you, also in more squatty positions which allow to shorten the birth path, but do require from us lots of strength in our legs..
And to build your endurance.. Labor takes time, so it also takes energy out of us.. As much as relaxation and openness is important, it is also important that we are physically prepared for labor as well if it happens to take a bit longer than we would wish..
We work on stretching the muscles around pelvis.. Why?
When the muscles around your pelvis are more toned and elastic, they also open easier when everything needs to open during labor.. Below some ideas of posies that you could work with here..
We add pelvic floor exercises to the flow.. Why?
Where should I start..? ;-)
In short, you prepare the birthing muscles for birth, and a faster recovery afterwards.. It’s like with running a marathon – you wouldn’t just step in your shoes and go 40 km without some preparation upfront..
To read the full list of benefits, see an article here (#2 on the list). And to watch a short tutorial, see a movie below..
We add breathing practice, often at the start or towards the end of the practice.. Why?
Not only to calm yourself down before final relaxation or to help you check in at the start of the class..
It’s also a beautiful tool for labor, and one that you can take with you despite where you have your baby. Especially all the breathing practices where we focus on long exhalation like the calm breathing from HypnoBirthing or Golden thread breath from Birthlight yoga are extremely supportive.. Long exhalation is our natural pain killer, hence important to get it into your system already before labor..
But there is more benefits to it.. breathing practices like nadi shodhana also help us with headaches and sleep issues. And calm breathing would not only serve you during pregnancy and labor but it will stay with you during your parenting life as well.. not once, not a hundred of times you will find yourself doubting anything and everything, or simply feel restless when having a newborn at home, or later a toddler.. that’s when you find out about the biggest benefits of this breathing practice. And once you do, you will never give it up anymore ;-)
We relax.. Why?
Relaxation is what we need the most during pregnancy and labor. Why?
Our baby feels everything we feel, so we want to give them as peaceful environment as we can when pregnant.
And during labor we want to keep everything open for our little one to come smoothly without unnecessary fatigue for both mom and baby.
The way we do add relaxation to our yoga practice, we either incorporate it during the practice itself, making sure that you enjoy a gentle flow. Or we finish with a well deserved savasana..
What I also do during my classes:
I encourage you to use ujjayi breath, the loud victorious breath that we also use in ashtanga, vinyasa and hatha classes, only without using your bandhas (so no squeezing your belly, and being gentle to your pelvic floor muscles). It's a beautiful breath on its own, but also super helpful during labor. Check an article here (#3 on the list), and learn all about it..
And I build the sequence around connecting breath and movement, sometimes in a repetitive way, because that’s when it’s easiest to feel that connection. Once you make it your habit, you may find yourself doing exactly the same thing during labor. And at that moment you will realize that you just spent an hour focusing on your breath rather than whatever you felt in your body instead. Distraction is a blessing in labor as well ;-)
So what next after reading all of the above?
Step into your next class with full awareness why you do what you do. It may give you additional boost to take the most out of that particular class, and give some inspiration to bring your practice at home as well.
If you already have your practice, use the tips above as guidance to add certain elements or adapt existing ones. This way you don't need to create another moment in a day or a week when you practice prenatal yoga, but you combine both, so it all feels more like 'home'.
And have fun! Pregnancy is not a walk in a park. Sometimes it feels like it's not only you and your body changing its shapes, but like everything changes around you too. I don't want to scare you, but that's just a beginning. So it's even more important to have that one thing which doesn't change after you already have your little cuddle with you. When you feel YOU again. When things feel familiar, and at the end of your practice you have this happy feeling that you did something for yourself as well.
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