Following on from Part 1.
Practising Yoga during pregnancy – Part 2 – Simple Postures
Compiled by Jane Fraser (Weideman)
This is the second article in a series about yoga in pregnancy.
This article follows on from the first which introduced the idea of Yoga during pregnancy, discussing the benefits of yoga during pregnancy. In this article we start to examine which poses and postures are safe and beneficial to practise during pregnancy, staring with some very simple relaxation movements.
Foreword: As with any exercise program it is best to consult your doctor before beginning. However, with the exception of not lying directly on your back or stomach after the fourth month, and avoiding what doesn’t feel right to you, there is very little yoga that would be a problem during pregnancy.
The practice of yoga encompasses an holistic approach using physical movements (asanas), breathing (pranayama) and relaxation techniques in order to establish a sense of awareness and integration within yourself. This resonates particularly with pregnancy, birth and the time immediately after birth, which are times of change, adjustment and growth on all levels of being. Many of the classical Yoga postures and relaxation procedures seem to be tailor-made for the experience of pregnancy and many others can be adapted to suit individual need.
The following sequence of basic yoga postures can be practised at home by women of normal health who have healthy low-risk pregnancies (i.e. with no complications related to present or past pregnancies.) If you have never done yoga before it may be a good idea to wait until after the first trimester to start doing postures. If you are a seasoned yoga student, you may practise yoga right throughout your pregnancy.
You’ll need a couple of blankets, a yoga mat or towel, two blocks or thick telephone books, and a sturdy chair. Set aside one half to one and a half hours of quiet, uninterrupted time. (Remember to turn off the phone!) Wait one or two hours after a light meal, at least three hours after a heavy meal, before practice. After practice, wait half an hour before eating again.
8 Simple Yoga Movements
This is a simple and basic, and safe set of yoga movements you can try. These are safe and relaxing for anyone, and is a good relaxtion workout.
Try it out — you’ll feel rejuvenated and refreshed after every session.
Pose #1: Neck Roll
What it does: Warms up and stretches the neck
What to do: Sit up tall in a cross-legged position. Inhale. As you exhale, slowly tilt your head to the right until you feel a stretch in your neck. Take three deep breaths while holding the stretch. Then bring your head back to the starting position and do the same on the opposite side. Repeat three times on each side.
Pose #2: Shoulder Roll
What it does: Opens up the chest and back
What to do: Hold your arms out to your sides and place your fingers on your shoulders. Inhale. Bring your elbows forward, then lift them toward the ceiling. Exhale and return to the starting position. Do the same exercise in the opposite direction. Repeat three times.
Pose #3: Calf, Ankle and Foot Stretch
What it does: Loosens feet, ankles and calf muscles, encourages circulation
What to do: Sit up tall on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you, your legs outstretched, your palms on the floor behind you – or lean back against a wall.
Ankle Bending: Bend your right foot back toward you, creating a right angle to the floor. Exhale as you point your right foot and toes forward and down. Inhaling, bring your foot back in the right angle position. Repeat 10 times. Do the same with your left foot. You can make two rounds of this exercise and after some practice, exercise both foot at the same time.
Ankle Rotation: Breathing freely and slowly, bend your right foot towards you, creating a right angle with the floor. Slowly rotate your foot clockwise for about 10-15 times then reverse it and rotate counterclockwise. Do not allow the knees to move. Repeat twice on the same foot then do the same to your left. After constant practice, you can do this Ankle Rotation Exercise on both feet at the same time.
Pose #4: Cat and Cow Poses
What it does: Increases flexibility and strengthens abs
What to do: Get down on all fours with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Inhale and push your pelvis back and down, gazing up at the ceiling. As you exhale, bring your head between your shoulders, round your back, and tuck in your navel. Repeat three times.
Pose #5: Child’s Pose
What it does: Opens up the pelvic area and chest
What to do: Get down on all fours, keeping your knees slightly wider than your hips. Moving slowly, gently rest your bottom between your heels and your forehead on the floor. Arms can be in front of you or at your sides. Repeat as often as you’d like for as long as you’d like. You may move your legs wider apart if it is more comfortable, and can place a pillow under your forehead. You may also chose whether you prefer your arms to lie forward (Eastern Praying Position).
Pose #6: Pelvic Tilt
What it does: Strengthens the muscles in your lower back, buttocks, and abdomen
What to do: This can be performed on the ground or standing against a wall. When lying on the ground with your feet flat you will feel a small curve in the low of your back (the same is felt when standing against a wall). Push your belly button towards the ground or wall, controlling your pelvis. Hold for a count of three and then relax, repeat for 6-15 repetitions. Heavily pregnant women should do this standing against a wall.
Pose #7: Chest Expansion
What it does: Stretches and strengthens the chest and upper back
What to do: From a standing position with legs together (or hip-width apart if more comfortable), interlock fingers and hands behind the back, straightening the arms, standing erect.Breathe in deeply, raise the arms up and back away from the body, drawing the shoulder blades together.Exhaling slowly, bend forward at the hips, keeping the knees slightly bent and the spine straight.Let the face roll forward, keeping the arms straight. Hold this position, breathing comfortably, then begin to come up slowly, inhaling.As an alternative, you can remain standing without bending forward. This asana lubricates and limbers the shoulder joints, upper back muscles and vertebrae. It also expands and stretches the rib cage and lungs which allows fresh blood and energy into the nerves and tissues of the lungs, chest, heart, etc. Repeat as often as you’d like.
Pose #8: Relaxation – Corpse Pose
What it does: Opens up your hip and groin area and helps relieve backaches
What to do: Take a pillow and lay it down lengthwise behind you. Lower yourself onto it so your head rests at the top. Heavily pregnant women should do this sitting up. Lie comfortably on your back on the floor and separate your legs so that your feet are two to three feet apart. Close your eyes. Separate your arms so that each hand is two to three feet from your body with palms facing up. Roll your head from side to side, releasing tension in your neck. Roll your shoulders down and away from your ears. Relax your entire body. Breathe normally. Rest for at least a minute. The Corpse Pose helps you rest and relax your entire body, including your nervous system. It is a great pose to do when you feel stressed out.
Part 3 in this series can be found here it progresses to more advanced postures.
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