Prenatal Yoga

IMG_7830 Amy-Averi

I was lying in my hospital bed in the delivery room waiting for my first baby to be born, finally able to breath and relax a bit. The epidural had taken full affect and the pain of the contractions had subsided. I had a moment to ponder what had just happened to me. The pop of the water partially breaking, the contractions slowly building until they were so intense and so frequent that I didn’t even have a moment to breath and I was only dilated to one centimeter. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for the pain I had experienced. I hadn’t practiced my breathing techniques thinking I would just be able to figure it out. But I wasn’t able to. As I sat there thinking of the ways I wish I had done things differently before getting to that point I promised myself that next time would be different.

I got through that delivery with the final push before they would have called code blue (emergency C-section). I made it through though. I was so proud of myself and so relieved I had delivered a healthy baby boy but I just knew that if I would have prepared more that the experience could have been so much better. So when I got pregnant for the second time I looked into ways to prepare myself more. Yes, this time I knew what to expect so at least I had that going for me, but I also knew I wanted a completely different experience so I started researching. I went down the Pinterest hole and Googled away, looking for everything that I could do to have a healthy pregnancy and ways I could better prepare myself for delivery. Blog after blog, article after article, and one thing just kept jumping out to me. Something I knew would not only help me physically but emotionally as well. Prenatal yoga.

Now I’ve always been physically active person and yoga had always been a part of that. I even attended yoga classes while pregnant with my first child but I didn’t really take them for all they were worth. I would pop in here and there for a mental break but never practiced outside of the studio and defiantly didn’t take full advantage of the classes while I was there. As I sat there doing my research, I just knew that if I invested more into prenatal yoga that this time would be different. So I started going regularly. I would travel 35 minutes each week to attend a prenatal class. I meditated more, I practiced the breathing techniques taught in class, and I immediately noticed a difference in my pregnancy. I was more patient, I was sleeping better at night, and my body didn’t ache as bad as the first pregnancy, and I just overall felt healthier. I carried my second baby until I was induced at 41 weeks by having my water broke in the hospital, and after a 2 hour labor pushed for 10 minutes and had my baby girl.

I was blown away. This entire pregnancy and delivery was exactly what I was hoping for. It was the different delivery I wanted. Granted it was my second pregnancy and my body knew more of what to do when it was in labor but I personally believe that prenatal yoga had a lot to do with it. So much so that it is now my passion to offer this gift to other expecting mothers. A gift that provides pregnant moms a way to maintain healthy mind and body while going through one of the biggest most challenging transformations of their lives. A way to help them increase their much need strength and flexibility as weight is added to the body and put on bones and muscles that can cause pain. As well as providing them with breathing and relaxation techniques that they will be able to revert back by instinct, and in return providing an easier more comfortable labor.

So what might a prenatal yoga class look like and how would it benefit you?

I always start my class with meditation. Allowing time for mom to relax, taking a moment to settle into the space that they took for themselves and baby as well as deepen the connection to baby. Once settled, we focus on our connection to our bodies, mind, self, and emotions identifying exactly what is going on within us at that present moment. Seeing what each thing needs and possibly what we could do to comfort it. We practice this calming technique during meditation to give you the tools to calm in high stress situations like labor.

Asana (Physical Practice)
We then shift our minds and bodies to physical movement starting with a gentle stretching of our head, neck, shoulders, and torso (warming things up in a sense). Then shift to more intricate moves. Ones that stretch and strengthen our entire bodies and that are intended for pregnancy to ease labor and shorten recovery after delivery.

I like to use all sorts of props while practicing asana. Bolsters help elevate the hips, give support to the back, and assist in other ways. Blocks allow mom to not have to reach down as far, safely allow stretching in lunges, and even assist in kegels, and blankets also give support when needed. While pregnant your body releases a hormone called relaxin. This allows for the ligaments and bones to relax and stretch. It is possible to over stretch while pregnant so before starting any type of fitness routine make sure to speak with your health care provider. You may not be able to do certain activates due to risk of premature labor or certain medical conditions.

Some of the things I like to focus on during a prenatal yoga class are:

Pelvic Floor: I always make sure to focus on the pelvic floor during prenatal yoga, doing poses that stretch and lift it. The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles and ligaments that stretch from your pubic bone at the front of your body, to the base of your spine at the back. As baby grows it puts pressure on the pelvic floor in some cases causing it to become weak. If your pelvic floor becomes weak due to pregnancy it can result in incontinence while jumping, sneezing, or coughing.  By strengthening it, you are helping support baby, protect from incontinence, and prevent prolapse in future pregnancies. Some moves I do are yogi squat or Malasana and Utkata Konasana or Goddess squat.

Abdominals: Now I know what you’re thinking. “What? How do I work my abdominals while pregnant?” While it may not be in a way you are typically use to like doing crunches but there are balancing moves that can activate your core enough to help during pregnancy. Strengthening your abs while pregnant can help alleviate pressure on your back and support proper posture (or at least as much as possible while being thrown off center by a big belly) helping with lower back pain. Having a strong core could also help you push harder during labor. Some moves I like to do to activate the core while pregnant are; Bird Dog or parsva balasana and plank pose (typically on your knees) or kumbhakasana. Any form of standing balancing pose will also help you activate your core.

Hips: I feel like this is pretty obvious as to why we would stretch our hips. Those muscles and bones are going through a lot during pregnancy. Bearing weight, opening up preparing for birth, and getting kicked from the inside. Stretching your hips can help relive back pain, sciatic pain, and feel good overall. I always like to warm the hips up first by doing some hip rolls or gentle squats. A couple of my go-to’s are: Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) and pigeon pose (Kapotasana). I tend to always use blocks and sometimes bolsters for both of these poses.

A couple other stretches are side stretches and chest openers. When doing side stretches or gentle twists make sure to twist at your chest, leaving your abdomen in a more neutral position. And when doing chest openers make sure not to do any deep back bends or lift your pelvis. You should always keep your pelvis as neutral as possible.

Cool down
After getting our heart rates elevated and our entire body stretched, it is time to cool down. This is where I will throw in some restorative poses that we tend to hold anywhere from 2-5 minutes. Allowing the heart rate to slowly come down and the body to fully relax. I like to take this time to have my students listen to their own breath, bring their awareness to any sensations in the body, and have them notice if any emotions came up.

We made it. We have come to the ultimate relaxation. It’s time to shut everything off and just be. I tend to set my prenatal moms up with a ramp style way to lie where you lie out your blocks and stack your bolster on top. Allowing for mom to lie on their backs but at an incline. Otherwise I set them up belly down with lots of bolster, blankets and rolled towels. I go around and give each student a facial massage because they deserve it! Then allow them to fully relax for 5-10 minutes.

I also want to note that you should avoid doing any type of hot yoga. This type of yoga is typically done in a room that is 150 F (40C). Being in a room like this while being active and challenged can cause your body to become too hot. Like this class and for any other poses, if something doesn’t feel right or hurts, back off immediately. The most important thing is that you and baby are happy and comfortable.

If you are looking for somewhere to start your prenatal yoga journey follow me on Youtube for free videos or visit me in person. Check on my website for my regular schedule or any pop up classes that could be coming near you.

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