Each of us as women, go through phases, much like the moon, and all nature, and how we approach these shifts, help us navigate them with grace.
Many of us choose to become mothers, and for our physical body-which is the main focus of this article, we need a practice to help our bodies make this shift. For many years I taught prenatal yoga, and massage, and loved seeing all the mamas glow! Why is this practice important and helpful to so many? How? Read on!
As our sweet little babies are growing, and developing so are we as women. Our skin may change (I highly suggest prenatal massages, and a good quality oil for your entire body), and certainly our posture, our movements and our size! Yoga can help with all of this, and with helping us keep a calm mind, and a connection to our changing body, our breath and our growing baby.
The first three months are when we want to be the most careful, and most studios and massage therapists will tell you to wait until after the first three months is moved through before coming in. Most yoga studios will also ask for a doctor’s note before beginning classes as well, so don’t let this put you off. We all just want to be certain we are caring for you and your baby in the best way possible. Just like anytime you start something new best to have all your bases covered!
If you already have an established yoga practice, just take into account certain things are not appropriate at this time. No closed twists, no deep squats, nothing on the belly, nothing on the back laying flat after 22 weeks, and no full forward folds, go easy and remember to always leave room for the growing baby. When doing a seated fold, instead of coming from dandasana and folding straight, separate your legs a bit, and then fold. When doing a balance have a wall nearby. There is differing ideas about inversions, if you have these in your practice, just check with your doctor, down dog is almost always ok, but again, listen to your body, if it isn’t working for you, table top, cat/cow, or just a simple yummy child pose may be a better option.
Some of us feel a lot of changes in this first trimester, some of us don’t-each pregnancy is so different- honor where you are and how you feel. This is a great time to really tune into your body and what you need as you progress through the pregnancy and also to tune into the connection with your baby. It is an amazing time to be cherished!
For this first trimester you may be feeling a little more tired, sometimes nausea sets it (don’t panic! Some of us never feel an inkling of any of that). Restorative is a nice way to start, breathwork is important too-this is something that will become increasingly helpful to you as you progress through your pregnancy and into labor. The connection to breath is a very supportive part of our yoga practice.
An easy example is Durga Pranayama….fully exhale….then as you inhale fill your belly, then your ribs and then your chest, pause at the top of the breath then deflate and exhale in reverse...empty chest, then ribs, then belly and as you empty the belly draw your navel in and imaging hugging your baby, drawing him/her close.
Some poses that are nice to practice regularly:
Child pose is always a good idea! Let your legs be wide so your increasing belly can rest between your legs. Tune into the childlike happiness you remember!
Cat/cow is nice to keep that breath connection and keep the hips and spine flexible
Standing poses are helpful to keep the body strong:
warrior 1,2, and 3 (be careful of balances-use a wall since our bodies are shifting we may have a different center of gravity). Tree pose and Triangle are also good, as is Tadasana and Uttanasana-a standing forward fold, but again remember to be cognizant of your changing body and leave some room for the baby as you fold, step your feet apart.
Sun salutations are nice too, but adjust them, cat and cow instead of plank to cobra-remember be kind to your belly and baby!
Seated poses are great too, hip openers will become more and more important, baddha konasana/butterfly pose is great, and you can also come to this reclined until 22 weeks into your pregnancy. Again tune into your body, if you ever feel dizzy do NOT lay on your back, there are always ways to support these poses, you can do a reclined butterfly over a bolster and it feels lovely, and helps to open your chest which is also helpful as your body progresses through this process.
As we progress through our pregnancy our posture shifts, our front becomes heavier and we may be experiencing shoulder and low back issues. The goal is to keep these open to a degree. We also want to strengthen our pelvic floor (kegels help-trust me!), our connection to breath, a healthy diet and rest….rest is so important and with a good yoga practice be sure to include a nice long savasana. When pregnant this works best on your side, left side is optimal to allow oxygenated blood to flow freely through the vena cava. Use props, if you are home just grab all the pillows! Set a pillow (or 2) between your legs so the joints of the bent top leg are all on the same plane-knee, hip and ankle-drape your top bent leg over this pillow. Prop a pillow behind you so you stay on your side, a pillow under your head and one to hug and support your arm-again aligning the joints like with the bent leg-shoulder, elbow and wrist all on the same plane to allow full relaxation. Heaven. There are many many meditation apps out there and it is recommended to do this for 20 minutes a day! Either indulge silently, or find a nice meditation.
We also want to make sure that we are not over stretching since the hormone Relaxin is helping to loosen our ligaments in our pelvis and as a byproduct everywhere, and soften our cervix for birth, so be careful-I have said it before be present and respect your bodies cues.
Once your sweet little one is here, you can continue your practice with mommy and me yoga-so fun!
Whatever you decide to do, do it with joy and connection!!!