Pregnancy Yoga Sets
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YOGA DURING YOUR PREGNANCY AND BEYOND
by Christy Marsden
Pregnancy is such an exciting and miraculous time. With all the changes that are constantly occurring and the anticipation for what the future holds, it is so important to take the time to honor the life growing inside by slowing down, paying attention to the breath and moving the body. Yoga is an excellent way to do all three. As women, we tend to do for others first and put our own needs and self-care on the back burner. The practice of yoga teaches that we must take care of ourselves first in order to have something to give to others. When we take the time to fill our own cup, we share of our time and energy graciously. This is such a valuable lesson for moms to learn, especially as they prepare to bring a new life into the world.
Yoga during pregnancy is important for many reasons. It keeps the body strong and supple, it helps to focus the mind and it creates a conscious awareness of the breath, which according to yogic thought, is believed to link us to our true self or spirit as it is often called. By cultivating a deeper relationship with our self, we create better relationships in all areas of our lives, including the one with our baby. Below are some very simple yet effective yoga techniques and poses, however, you should always check with your health care professional before beginning any exercise routine.
One of the most important elements of a good yoga practice is a conscious awareness of the breath. By becoming aware of and deepening the breath, you participate in the mystery of what it is that breathes you. It is an opportunity to get in touch with your own essence and the essence of the life growing inside of you. The breath also enhances the body’s ability to create space, which is so needed as a woman’s body grows. Simply moving the body and linking the breath to the movement is a great way to enjoy a yoga practice even if you have no experience or cannot take a regular class. The focus of yoga should always be about paying attention and allowing the breath to inform the movement. There is a beautiful saying in Sanskit, ‘calle vattam, calle cittam’ which translates to: as the breath goes, so the mind goes. Essentially this means that if we change the breathing, we can change the mind. What a powerful lesson to carry throughout your pregnancy, the birth and into motherhood. So, above all else, pay attention to your breath!
Kegels, or Mula Bandha as it is called in Yoga, help a woman to develop the strength necessary to pull in and up on the pelvic floor. This can greatly assist a woman in the birthing process as well as after the birth to regain strength in the vaginal muscles. One way to practice this is to squeeze the muscles of the perineum which is located between the anus and genitals. Imagine you are trying to pick something up off the floor and pull it up between the legs. You can also try to stop the flow of urine several times when you go to the bathroom which is a great way to access this particular set of muscles.
There are some ligaments that tend to become much more supple and flexible in pregnancy, so standing poses can help find the strength and integrity in the groins and legs so that the stretches are more stabilizing. Simply taking a stance that is a little wider than hip distance and imagining you are trying to pull the feet in towards each other without actually moving them is a great way to connect to muscles in the legs and groins. You can also continue this movement up into the pelvis to activate Mula Bandha as described above.
Another important area of the body to keep stretched and open is the shoulders. As you and your baby grow, the additional weight can start to round the upper back, so doing gentle backbends and shoulder openers can be a huge help. A simple yet effective stretch is to sit or stand nice and tall, then interlace your hands behind your back with your elbows slightly bent so as not to hyperextend. Following the flow of your breath, gently pull the hands away from the low back until you feel a nice stretch. If you cannot interlace the fingers, just simply hold opposite forearms or elbows behind the back and draw the shoulders back while lifting the chest. Stay several breaths, while consciously lengthening your exhale.
Another great set of poses is called cat/cow. This can help with any discomfort you may feel in the round ligaments across the lower belly and front of the pelvic region. Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. On an inhale, let the belly drop towards the floor as you lift your head and your heart being mindful not to strain the neck. The tailbone goes up toward the ceiling. You should feel a nice stretch across the upper chest and shoulders. On an exhale, round the back like a Halloween cat, and look down and back towards the knees. The tailbone goes down towards the floor. You should feel a nice stretch across the upper and lower back. Does this for several breaths nice and slow and then just sit back and pause, noticing the effects.
Just a few minutes a day of slow deep breaths linked to gentle movement, can make a huge difference for you and your baby. It is important to remember that you will have many years to deepen and strengthen your yoga practice, but only a few opportunities (or maybe just one, like me) to grow a new life inside of you. So above all else, take the time to honor this journey, slow down, tune in and celebrate the wonder of creation.
For Further Browsing:
Mother as First Guru: A Guide to Natural Womanhood and Spiritual Mothering
by Gurupremanende Saraswati
Free pregnancy & postpartum videos for home yoga practice
Benefits of Pregnancy Yoga