HealthLifestyle

Pregnancy yoga – a definite ‘do’

0d1ef47374d3bed429df69d81baf9576Yoga is really good for babies. Okay, not actually doing it themselves, but lying on mats and watching their mamas bend, breathe and stretch. One of the most chilled out little chaps I know spent his formative months on a yoga mat with his mum.

Moreover, the benefits being waayyy before the babe is born. Just ask our favourite experts – Grace of The Pregnant Beauty Guide, Tara Lee at The Life Centre, Nadia Narain at Triyoga and Sarah Oakley and Elinor Evans of Yummy Yoga. Both Alex and I practised yoga when we were pregnant and it made a world of difference to our mental state, well-being and bodies (possibly because I generally fell asleep at the end of every class…). So we were thrilled when Sarah and Elinor sent us their guide to why – for the love of om, girls – you need to get yourself on that mat.

(DISCLAIMER: the following includes exercises which are brilliant for any busy woman, preggers or not. I can attest that Sarah knows the BEST ways to chill out – last time I had a raging stress headache, I sent her an SOS and she talked me through the best practice via text.)

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Sarah (left) and Elinor of Yummy Yoga – They have years of experience as yogis and mothers. We suspect the former really helps withe the latter…

What is pregnancy yoga?

Pregnancy yoga (also known as antenatal yoga or prenatal yoga) classes are antenatal exercise classes that use gentle and safe yoga to support mums-to-be as they go through the physical and mental demands of pregnancy and giving birth.

Can’t I just go to my local general yoga class?

By all means, just check with your teacher that they are qualified in pregnancy yoga so that it is safe for you to be in class.  However, the advantage of going to a class specifically for pregnancy is that the focus will be entirely on issues, ailments and asana [postures] specifically for pregnancy.  Also, you can find understanding and wonderful new friendships with the other attendees; and – from a teacher’s perspective – a class geared towards pregnancy means we can to devote our time entirely to mums-to-be

Can you start Pregnancy Yoga as soon as you find out you are pregnant? 

Teachers differ on their opinions on this.  However, as the first 12 weeks are a precious time for the growth of the baby as the foetus is implanting into the uterus  teachers often recommend that you wait until the 2nd trimester before joining a class.

What happens in a pregnancy yoga class?

Lots of mention of the words pelvis, OFP (optimal foetal positioning), birth canal, sacrum and pelvic floors. Hip wiggles and booty shakes (in a yogic way of course). Ladies sneaking in a quick nap in relaxation. Thinking of cakes in meditation. New-found strength and relaxation in preparation for giving birth. Friends you’ll keep for life

What are the benefits of pregnancy yoga?

Pregnancy yoga will provide you with natural tools to support your mind and body.  For a vaginal birth the yoga postures included in class help to keep you mobile and active up to the birth, and help to position the baby optimally for a quicker, easier labour with less need for pain relief. Ladies worry that yoga is not for them if their baby is to be born by c-section, however their preparation won’t have been wasted: the meditation and breathing technique used in classes help you to release tension, manage pain and improve sleep during pregnancy and your postnatal period.  Also, yoga will help you feel more in control and calm in preparing for your C-section or if you have one unexpectedly.  Moreover, yoga can help to alleviate many common pregnancy symptoms such as insomnia, blocked sinuses and aching back and legs.

Plus by attending a local pregnancy yoga class, you get to meet other local mums whose support can be vital in reducing the possibility and severity of postnatal depression.

What should I wear to class?

Comfortable, loose fitting clothing that allows you to move freely; dress in layers that you can put on or strip off during those pregnancy hot flushes.

Do I need to have practiced yoga before?

No. Just be pregnant!  So whether you can headstand in lotus whilst chanting om or haven’t properly exercised in years we hope you find strength and comfort in your classes.

I’m all inspired – I want to try it right here right now. (And I’m not even pregnant – just very stressed!) Give me some positions to try.

Viparita Karani aka ‘Legs up the wall’ pose

Inversions should generally be steered clear of during pregnancy but Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall Posture) is a passive and restorative inversion that can be highly beneficial.

When you have your legs above your head you give your heart and lungs a rest (beneficial for mummy and baby), pelvic circulation is improved, you help prevent fluid build up in the legs, (swollen ankles and feet are a common pregnancy ailment), pressure is relieved from varicose veins and haemorrhoids, and by having your legs up the wall tendons, ligaments and muscles in your legs are relaxed.

This modified inversion is great for pregnancy and to practise in general. It is very relaxing and a great way to unwind after a busy day, especially if you have been on your feet all day.

Technique

To get into the pose, sit next to the wall, hips and shoulder flush against the wall. Then gently lie down onto your side, roll onto your back and bring one then two legs up the wall. Once in position do adjust yourself to make yourself comfy. For example you can take your hips a little away from the wall to avoid pressure on blood vessels in the groin. Extra bolsters, cushions or blankets can be used to raise the upper body to increase comfort. Padding can also be used to lift the hips up to reduce pressure.

As with all postures, it should feel good and if it doesn’t then stop. Another signal to stop is if your legs feel at all numb. Arms can be however you like. Options include being by your side with your palms open to the sky and above your head to ease open the shoulders (elbows bent is fine), or hands on your tummy to encourage abdominal breathing.

To come out of the posture drop your legs down to the side and allow yourself time to sit up gently.

Contra-indications and precautions

In general, asanas that put the body in an inverted position (when your legs are higher than your heart and the heart higher than the head) should be avoided by people with cardiovascular disease. Viparita Karani should also be avoided if you have serious eye problems, neck or back problems.

After week 20 it is not advisable to stay in the position for too long in order to keep pressure off the vena cava, though five minutes should not be a problem. Cushions and support under the top of the back so as to elevate also reduces this pressure. After week 36 this pose should be avoided so as to not interfere with the natural movement of your baby’s preparation for birth.

2 Variations on Legs Up the Wall Pose

Wall Wide-Angled Pose

1. Find yourself into Legs up the Wall Pose as directed above.

2. Allow your legs to separate, keeping your heals touch the wall, gently towards the floor.

3. The thighs can be supported by the arms and hands or gently pressed apart, depending on personal comfort.

4. Hold the posture for as long as is comfortable, relaxing and focussing on the breath.

5. Exit as previously described.

Legs up the Wall with Cobblers Pose

1. Find yourself into Legs up the Wall Pose as directed above.

2. Bend your knees and touch the soles of your feet together as you would in cobblers pose. Encourage the hips to open as you gentle push the knees towards the wall.

3. You can encourage the hips to open further by gently pressing into the thighs to encourage them to rotate outwards, or soften the pose by supporting the thighs, depending on personal comfort.

4. Hold the posture for as long as is comfortable, relaxing and focussing on the breath.

5. Exit as previously described.

And ta-da, you are Gisele Bundchen. Almost.

Feeling inspired? Then get ye to one of the Yummy Yoga girls’ classes and weekend workshops – see them and book here. You can also follow them on Facebook and @YummyYogaSarah.

Thanks so much Sarah and Elinor – so very inspiring.

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Images: Pinterest and Instagram

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