To me, some form of prenatal yoga should be mandatory for all expecting moms. Creating a mindful connection to the breath and cultivating a calm presence of mind, body and soul is something that you can take with you into your birthing experience. When we practice, we synchronize breath and movement – to bring the awareness that the breath gives to the mind, that it can make it calm and quiet, is an invaluable tool to help manage labor. For my second labor, I was even more conscious of tapping into my Uijayi Breath, the technique used in yoga, a breath that is said to be both relaxing and energizing.
The physical preparation, namely the stretching, lengthening, and strengthening will empower your body to handle this very nataural event. The mental state achieved by a consistent practice along with meditation can help reinforce a positive outlook and mindset to approach your big day. A simple act of stepping onto your mat for 30-90 minutes a day, will give you all the tools at the end of your 40 week journey, to help you kick labor's ass!
NOTE TO MAMA: REMEMBER TO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! IF SOMETHING DOESN'T FEEL GOOD, DON'T DO IT. YOU SHOULD NEVER FORCE ANYTHING, AND YOU SHOULD NOT FEEL ANY PAIN OR DISCOMFORT DURING ANY OF THESE POSES, IF YOU DO, THAT POSE IS NOT FOR YOU AT THIS STAGE. RESPECT YOUR BODY AND PLEASE BE KIND TO IT AND OF COURSE LOVE IT – IT IS HOUSING YOUR BABY AFTER ALL!
1. Cow / Cat Pose
This is a simple pose that should be done daily. The undulating motion gives a gentle massage to the spine and it can release tension in the lower back and hips. By doing this daily, you can increase the mobility of the spine and improve its flexibility which will go a long way in preventing bank pain commonly felt by pregnancy. Cat-cow is a gentle way to maintain abdominal strength. It is also said that this pose can help keep baby in an optimal position for delivery.
Start on all fours with your knees hip width apart and shoulders over your wrists. Take a deep breath in, sway your back, and gently raise your head to look upwards.
As you exhale bring your forehead towards your pelvis, rounding your spine. Hold for a breath keeping chin to chest and pressing the center of your back to ceiling. Undulate between these two poses 20-40 times.
2. Tree Pose
This balancing pose will help you find your center of gravity as it will be constantly shifting with your growing belly. With the increased weight being forward, it is not uncommon to find your balance may be affected. Also, relaxin, which your ovaries release to soften the ligaments in your pelvis to accommodate your growing uterus, is raging through your body and it also affects joints like your hips and knees. This pose will help strengthen the standing leg and assist in establishing pelvic stability.
Standing tall, shift your weight into your left foot. Place the sole of your right foot onto the inside of your leg at the ankle, or calf. If your flexibility allows, reach for your right ankle and place the sole of your foot in the inside of your thigh.
Bring your hands to prayer position. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on opposite side.
3. Reverse Tabletop
This pose is a great aid to counter any postural strains that your growing belly may be causing as it opens up the chest and shoulders and strengthens the back. It also strengthens the pelvic region, which is especially beneficial while pregnant and in preparation for labour and delivery. By opening up the front of the body, we open the heart and this will give you a (much needed) boost of energy.
Sitting tall, place your hands behind your hips with your fingers pointing towards your body. Pull your shoulders back and down, opening up your chest. Bend your knees. Pressing your palms into the ground, lift your hips to a height that is comfortable making sure your neck and spine are in line and your chin is away from your chest.
Hold for a full breath. Lower hips back to starting position with buttocks on the ground. Repeat 5-10 times.
4. Bound Angle Pose
This active (as opposed to passive) pose is a fantastic hip opener and can increase the overall flexibility and circulation of the pelvic region, legs and thighs which is of great benefit in preparation for labour and birth. It is also a nice chest opener, stretches the back and can help lengthen the spine.
Starting from a seated position with your legs extended, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together. Clasp your hands around your feet and gently release your knees towards the floor.
Sitting tall through your spine while grounding your sit bones, then as comfortably as you can, pull your heels toward your pelvis. Gripping your big toes, pull the soles of your feet apart keeping the outer edges together and pressing into the ground. Press shoulders back to open the chest and lengthen your spine reaching the crown of your head toward the ceiling. Hold pose for 1-5 minutes then to release bring your knees together and extend legs.
5. Garland Pose
This pose will help open your pelvic area and hips and can help condition your perineal tissue, which can be beneficial in preventing tearing during birth. Squatting increases the blood flow to the pelvic area and while in this pose, your pelvic floor relaxes – all excellent preparation for labour. The American Pregnancy Association states that squatting during labor may help open your pelvic outlet to help your baby descend.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, pivot slightly on your heels so your toes are pointing out and heels toward each other. Lower down into a squat making sure your knees and feet are pointing in the same direction. If they are not, widen your stance or raise heels by going onto your toes or placing a blanket or bolster underneath them.
Bring your hands into prayer position. Open your hips by gently pressing your elbows against your knees. Keep your chest open and lengthen your spine by reaching the crown of your head toward the ceiling. Hold for 5 breaths.