I’m going to try and do something in this blog that does not come naturally to me… speak succinctly about the role that yoga can play in pregnancy and specifically late pregnancy. I can get pretty passionate about this topic and go on and on, but I’ll give it a go.
As I write I am awaiting the arrival of my second child (I have a 3 year old daughter). I have practiced yoga through both pregnancies and my experience has been different for both. I think this highlights an important point; yoga is always a very personal experience and this is even more the case when pregnant. So while I can offer insight into my own experiences, anyone who is pregnant and practicing should work closely with a trusted teacher and listen carefully to their own body. Of course there are general “rules” that should be followed by all pregnant yogis: no jumping, no internal twists, no heals pressing into the lower abdomen, avoid overstretching, and no overheating.
I practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga when not pregnant and I stay as close to the series as possible as the baby bump grows. However, I don’t really enjoy inversions when pregnant so I tend to drop these early on but I do love backbends when pregnant (mostly for the shoulder and chest opening aspect) so keep these in various forms throughout pregnancy. Some people feel the complete opposite. I drop seated forward bends from the primary series early on as they make me a bit nauseous and keep postures from intermediate series longer (with the help of bolsters and blocks).
As a side note, I’d also say that pregnancy is a great time to practice non-attachment. You can play with your practice, as it will change day-to-day, and explore new ways to move your ever changing body. During my first pregnancy I was more nervous about “losing” postures. I had the benefit of hindsight during this pregnancy so was able to be more relaxed, playful and know that my non-pregnant practice will return. I was not so attached to the asana and was able to enjoy the process more.
In late pregnancy my practice is slow, meditative, and exhale focused. The asanas that remain are mostly the standing postures from the Ashtanga system and a selection of seated hip/pelvic floor openers. The standing sequence builds strength and stamina, two things you will need when giving birth. Labour is like being asked to run a marathon at any moment. You need to feel prepared and capable and yoga can help with this.
Here are some of my favourite asanas for late pregnancy. The pictures were taken by Karen Kirkness (@avidyogi) while I was 40weeks + 3days pregnant.
BALASANA – Childs pose is a lovely place to take a rest, reconnect to the breath, and open the hips. In late pregnancy your knees will be very wide apart to allow the baby bump to fall between them. From the all four position gently press back into the posture on a long exhale, only go as far back as feels comfortable. Some days you may like to keep your arms straight and go all the way back with your chest on the ground, while other days you may wish to bend your arms and put your forearms on the floor while gently exhaling back into the hips.
TRIKONASANA – Any posture that creates space in the body is a welcome relief in pregnancy. Enter the posture on a long exhale as you reach as far forward (to the front of your mat) as possible. Your supporting hand should be above or below your knee. Keep space for the baby bump and do not go as far down as possible. You can reach your top arm to the sky or keep it on your hip. The twist should be gentle and focus on opening the chest and thoracic spine, not twisting the lowest belly.
PARSVAKONASANA – Similar to Trikonasana, Parvakonasana provides a lovely stretch to the side of the body which counteracts the downward force your ever growing belly is placing on your ribs and spine. It also acts as a hip and chest opener while keeping you strong. You can choose to do it with a block behind your supporting foot or by placing your forearm on your bent leg. Again, the twisting aspect of the posture should not put pressure on your lowest belly when pregnant but focus on the chest and thoracic spine.
UPAVISTA KONASANA – This variation of Upavista konasana opens the hips and relieves tension in the lower back. Adding a gentle twist opens the sides of the body and allows you to breathe deeply. You can sit on a block to provide more space for the baby bump if necessary. You do not want to feel that your belly is squished in anyway.
BADDHA KONASANA – A beautiful posture when pregnant and very important. Spend time in this posture to breathe and allow your thoughts to go inward. A strong hip and pelvic floor opener which can also be used during labour. Again, sit on a block to provide space for your belly if necessary.
USTRASANA – An accessible backbend during late pregnancy. While I do backbends throughout pregnancy I find that lying on my back to lift up into Dhanurasana is not enjoyable in late pregnancy so I don’t do it. Instead I stay with Ustrasana and move the emphasis to the chest and do not push too hard or far forward into the hips.
Ok, so I didn’t really manage the succinct bit but overall I’d say that yoga is immensely helpful in preparing physically and mentally for child birth and motherhood. So to all mamas to be, just step on your mat, move and breathe. You and your baby will be happier for it. [/fusion_text][fusion_text]If you are pregnant and hoping to maintain a regular yoga practice please seek the advice of your doctor & current yoga teacher. Meadowlark offers Pregnancy Yoga classes for women in the 12+ weeks of pregnancy. Please see below for more details or contact Reception 0131 2287581.