We’re half way through the week already and better yet it’s a bank holiday weekend that stretches ahead in front of us so we’re all in a very positive state of mind here at Rock My Family. Which is just as well given that today’s post is all about pregnancy yoga and preparing the mind and body for motherhood.
We have the lovely Madeleine with us sharing her thoughts and advice on yoga for all you pregnant mamas. Madeleine is a hatha yoga teacher, based in Birmingham and is impatiently awaiting the arrival of baby number two who is due any day now. She’s here to explain what pregnancy yoga is all about and has included a short sequence for you to follow at home if you’re so inclined. Over to you then Madeleine…
When you first discover that you’re expecting, perhaps the last thing on your mind is exercising…more like parking that bottom on the sofa and munching your way through all. the. carbohydrates. to ease that morning sickness.
But as the weeks pass and your energy levels return, you may feel the desire to introduce some gentle movement and as a yoga teacher, I certainly wanted to keep moving throughout my pregnancies. Not only to keep fit and healthy in pregnancy and beyond, but also to maintain strength for the marathon that we affectionately call labour.
Yoga can be the perfect option – as gentle or strenuous as you wish it to be, great for strength and toning, and who doesn’t like an exercise that involves lying down at the end to relax and take some deep breaths?!
As well as the physical benefits and the burst of endorphins that exercise releases, a short yoga sequence can help to create space for your baby to grow; space for your mind to relax; and space for you to connect with your baby.
I’ve put together a short series of asana (yoga postures) that can be practiced on their own or together; they are super-simple, focusing on breath work and posture and best of all, they can be practiced anywhere and you don’t even need any kit.
Pregnancy Yoga Home Sequence
Tadasana – Mountain posture
Rooting your feet into the mat (or grass if the sun is shining and you’re inclined to take your yoga alfresco), spread the toes and connect with the ground. With your awareness gradually moving up the body, lift the knees a little, tuck the tailbone in, engage the core, draw the shoulders back and hold the head proud. Imagine a thread running from the very base of the spine to the crown of the head.
If this just sounds like standing up, you’d be right! But just being more aware of your posture and lengthening the spine to create more space for your growing belly can feel pretty good. Even better, take some deep breaths, close the eyes and perhaps even bring the hands together in prayer pose (namaste) or placing your hands on your belly, drawing your awareness to the heartspace and focussing on your baby.
Chandrasana – Standing crescent moon
A lovely side stretch that can be practiced as easily in the kitchen while making a cup of tea as part of a wider sequence. This asana creates length in the spine and space in the upper body. So start either in tadasana or with the feet hip distance apart and rooting through the soles; bring the hands together at the chest in namaste and gradually, breathing in, take the arms up above the head into a lovely big stretch. A gentle side stretch to the right, holding for several breaths; back to centre; and a corresponding stretch to the left. Releasing when you are ready.
Utkatasana – Chair or “fierce” posture
One for strengthening the legs, particularly the thighs, and preparing the lower body for labour. Standing in tadasana (mountain posture), take the arms above the head and then sit into an invisible chair behind you. You’re working to take the thighs parallel to the floor with the tailbone pointing down…remember to only go as far as feels good. Take several deep breaths here, before standing tall and stretching up to the sky.
Marjaryasana/ Bitilasana – Cat/ Cow posture
This one is all about releasing aches and pains in the lower back, is good for the core and the “all fours” position can be great one for your actual labour. On your hands and knees, with hands beneath shoulders and knees beneath hips, hollow the back looking up to the sky and then breathing out, arch the back, drawing the belly up to the spine. Repeat this movement for five or 10 breaths, perhaps adding some hip rotations into the mix to really loosen up the spine and pelvic area.
Gomukhasana variation – Cowface posture
This posture is excellent for relieving aches and pains in the shoulders and upper back; and is as good in pregnancy (especially if you have a desk based job and you find your shoulders creeping up to your ears) as for the early days of motherhood when you’re all scrunched up from holding baby for hours.
Kneel on the floor or mat and inhaling bring the left arm up to the left ear (fingers to the ceiling). Bend the left elbow and bring the hand to the back of your neck; lift the right arm out to the right side and bending the elbow, take the right arm up the centre of the back. Clasp the hands (or hold onto the t-shirt for a looser stretch), draw the elbows into the centre and keep your head from tilting forward. Repeat on both sides, with a good roll of the shoulders in between and afterwards.
Setu-Bhandasana – Bridge and pelvic tilts
This posture calls for you to lie on your back which is generally best avoided, especially in late pregnancy, so if it is uncomfortable, please avoid. However, if you are comfortable on your back for a short time, the Bridge can help to strengthen the pelvic area and manage any pain in the area and upper thighs.
Lying on the floor, bend your knees and place the feet on the mat, arms by the sides of the body. For pelvic tilts, gently arch the back, as if rolling the pelvis/ bottom away from your head; then slowly roll back the other way, tilting the hips back towards you. This may be as far as you want to take it, but if it feels good, move into the bridge by slowly lifting the bottom up off the floor, while keeping the thighs parallel to each other. A few deep breaths and gently lower back to the floor.
Finish your yoga with savasana, the main meditation. In pregnancy, the best way to lie, rather than flat on your back, is on your side (preferably, the left side to avoid squishing the vena cava artery which is on the right side of the body).
Use as many cushions, bolsters and props as you need to make yourself comfortable as taking a few moments (or as long as you’ve got) to focus on the breath, observe how the body feels and connect with your baby can be deeply restorative and relaxing.
This is a lovely supported savasana suggestion from Insta-Yogi Yoga Girl, for some meditation inspiration.
Please Note: Yoga should be practiced from 15 weeks onwards and though these postures are suitable if you are suffering from pelvic girdle pain, listen to and be kind to your body; discuss any concerns with your midwife.
Thank you so much Madeleine for popping along to share your tips with us and wishing you all the very best for your impending arrival too! Are there any questions you have for Madeleine? Do you do pregnancy yoga? Have you found it to be beneficial? A total gamechanger? If so why not share your queries and thoughts in the comments box below…we’d love to hear from you.
Image of Madeleine credited to Madeleine Mott.
Image of Young Girl by Amy Morris Photography
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