That day you find out you are pregnant can be one of the most exciting days of your life! You hoped, and wished, and waited and now it’s finally here. We all hear about those special moments of finding out but what we don’t always hear is all the worry that goes into it after knowing. Now it’s so much more important for you to take care of yourself both mind and body. You are about to embark on a brand new journey that will be filled with excitement but also so much change on the body and your ability to do everyday things. Now is an ideal time to start prenatal yoga.
I have spoken to women time and time again who say that as their body starts to change they become more and more uncomfortable in their own skin. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to have these feelings. These are completely normal feelings and I’m almost positive that everyone has them. If you are able to do a good job checking in with yourself and your feelings along the way and taking the time to pamper yourself while going through these transitions, the self critiquing and judgments are a whole lot easier to deal with.
This is where I insert prenatal yoga. Now before doing any sort of activity, especially if it is a new activity to you and your body, always make sure to check in with your doctor first. Once getting the okay you can continue on your pursuit for self care. Starting right away and committing to making it a habit will help it become easier to continue when movement gets harder and harder. There are some things I would recommend that you ask yourself first.
What are my goals with prenatal yoga?
What are my experiences with yoga?
How often am I comfortable with making time for yoga?
If you are currently going through your first trimester or have been pregnant before, then you understand how hard it is to do anything. Getting dressed for the day can even take all the energy you have in you. Trust me, I get it. You are deep in the mist of growing a fetus. You have increased blood volume, hormones are being released, your muscles are starting to relax and your joints are starting to loosen. This is one of the most important times of you pregnancy and also one of the riskiest. You need to know first where you stand but also WHY you are doing it. The WHY is so important because it will get you off the couch once a week to take time for yourself even though you don’t “feel like it.”
There are many benefits to starting prenatal yoga, starting with physical strength. You are about to add an additional 20+ pounds to your body. Your center of gravity is going to get all thrown off. Starting to build strength and stamina right away is going to help you in the long run. Not only to have the ability to carry the baby but the stamina to last through delivery. Through these stretches provided to you, it will allow you to relieve the almost guaranteed aches and pains you are about to experience. As your belly grows your hips and spine need to compensate. Some of the most common complaints from my prenatal mama’s are that they have lower back pain and sciatic pain. Working on gently stretching those muscles, and creating more room for baby is necessary from the start. You can also set yourself up for less swelling that tends to happen later in the pregnancy. The physical postures combined with the deep breathing help increase your circulation. This in result causes swelling to decrease.
Now we’ve talked about how prenatal yoga can physically help you, now let’s talk about how it can also aid you in mental health, but before I talk about that I want to mention that there has been a link between mother being stressed during pregnancy and baby being more prone to developing a range of problems, including emotional problems. Yoga is a simple way of preventing you from becoming overly stressed.
Deep breathing is a common practice in yoga. By doing these breathing exercises you are allowing the nervous system to relax. Not only that but it allows your body to kick into a rest and digest state aiding in better immunity, digestion, and ability to sleep. These same breathing exercises also helps your body prepare for breathing during labor. Connecting to your breath during labor can be one of the most beneficial techniques for getting through. If you are able to practice that weekly your body will be more likely to be able to revert back to it when in active labor.
One of my favorite things that prenatal yoga does, is allowing you to tune into your body and become more aware of what it wants and needs. This self-awareness also allows you to have a deeper connection to baby. It also allows you to have more appreciation for what your body is going through and the many changes you will experience.
Through your questions you already answered, you will find a style that works best for you. Your instructor should always ask if you have any restrictions and if you have had doctor approval. If you attend a class that is not prenatal yoga make sure your instructor is comfortable with providing modifications for you in some moves. A couple moves you should not be asked to do are closed twist, and in some cases poses on your back. My word of advice would be if something feels bad, stop, if something’s feels good, keep doing it.
Another thing I want to make clear is that it is not normal to have to pee when you jump, run, cough, or laugh post baby. Incontinence happens from having a loose pelvic floor. Prenatal yoga poses create an environment that will aid in a strong and healthy pelvic floor post baby. If this is left unmanaged it could result in prolapsed uterus, bladder, or rectum among other issues. Make sure to consult with your doctor if you experience incontinence postpartum.
A couple poses I would encourage you to perform during your pregnancy are:
Goddess squat (Utkata Konasana): This is a standing wide leg squat. This pose means powerful or fierce which is perfect for any pregnant mama. This pose stretches the hips, groins, and pelvic floor as well as aids in stamina. To get in this position take a wide step apart, taking up space on your mat if you have one. Pointing your toes out and heals in. Knees should be directly over ankle. Take a deep breath in and when you exhale bend your knees slightly and bring your sit bones down towards the ground. Keeping your pelvis in a posterior position. When bending at your knees your knee should go right in line with your second toe. Your arms can be up in a star position, palms together at heart’s center, or out in goddess arms.
Triangle Post (Trikonasna): This is a standing pose with an open twist. This pose strengths your knees, thighs, and ankles and stretches your hips, knees, legs, and thorax. To get into this pose take one giant step apart. Turning your back heal off to the side and pointing your front foot directly ahead. Your heals should be in line with each other. Extend your arms out to the side. Try to keep the hips working towards open and tilt your front arm to the outside of the front foot. I like to use a block right next to my ankle to help support my flexibility for that day but make sure there is just light pressure on the block and your body is still doing the work. Your gaze can be up to the top hand, directly out, or down at the floor. Which ever feels good on your neck that day.
Extended puppy pose (Uttana Shishosana): This is one of my prenatal mamas’ favorite pose to perform in all trimesters of pregnancy. It’s a relaxing forward bend that is a cross between downward facing dog and child’s pose. This pose stretches the spine and shoulders, calms the mind and body, and improves flexibility, especially in the spine. It even relieves symptoms of chronic stress, tension, and insomnia as well as just allows the belly to hang allowing pressure to be released from your back. To get into this pose start out on your hands and knees in tabletop position. With shoulders stacked over wrists and hips stacked over knees. Keeping your hips in the air, extend your arms out and bring your forehead and chest down to the mat. You can always add a bolster to go under your hands to add more of a chest opener.