The changes a woman’s body goes through in pregnancy are so miraculous, but the challenges encountered on the body can be many, especially with modern-day pressures to keep working, the need to look after any older kids, keep the house running, keep in shape, just to name a few. Practising yoga is great for day-to-day living, but even more so in pregnancy. Here are the reasons why.
- It allows for body awareness and knowledge to maintain healthful posture during pregnancy to avoid or treat aches and pains.
- It can help manage stress and anxiety through breath and visualisation.
- It gives you time to connect with your unborn baby.
- It helps you practise ideas for labouring positions.
- I helps you develop strength in your body for post birth.
Here are some poses that are perfect for pregnant women to do at home, but can also be found in prenatal yoga classes.
1. Squat against wall
What it’s good for: This pose (also known as modified Awkward or Chair pose) is great for building strength in the legs. Building lower-body strength is one form of apana-vayu, the downward energetic force that is called upon in pregnancy.
How to do it: Place your back against a wall, leaning into it, and then walk your feet about half a meter in front. Start to bend at the knees while sliding your back down the wall. Lower to where you feel your legs are doing work – you will feel heat in your thighs pretty quickly. Never lower beyond the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor, and your knees should never overshoot the ankle. Hold for a count of 30, breathing in and out steadily. To release, slide back up the wall, walking in as necessary, until standing again. Repeat twice more, holding longer, or lowering further to increase the challenge.
2. Baddha konasana
How to do it: Sit on the floor with knees splayed out to the side and soles of your feet touching in front of you. Draw your heels as close to you as you comfortably can. With your back completely straight, lean forward and hold for 2-3 minutes, deepening the stretch every 30 seconds as your muscles relax. Experiment with your heels further away from your body and feel some of the glutes and lower back muscles experience a stretch, too.
There are also restorative versions you can do that get you to lean back into bolsters and blankets, which can be taught in a prenatal class.
Safety note: Do not do this pose if you have or suspect you suffer from Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction.
3. Shoulder clocks
How to do it: Stand perpendicular to a wall, right hip touching the wall. Raise your right arm, palm facing the wall and touching the wall at 12 o’clock. Hold the stretch for five breaths. Move the arm at an angle 30 degrees behind you (1 o’clock). Maintain this stretch for five breaths. Repeat at 60, 90 and 120 degrees behind you. Turn and stand with left hip touching the wall and repeat the stretch for all angles. If you find your torso partially facing the wall, step further away from the wall if needed to maintain perpendicular alignment to the wall.
4. Legs up the wall
How to do it: Sit with one hip and shoulder against a wall. Steadily swivel your legs up the wall as you slowly lie down on the floor, supported by bent arms. You may need to shimmy closer to the wall till your buttocks touches the wall; or away if it is uncomfortable or the legs cannot be straightened. Lie with eyes closed and focus on your breath. Maintain for up to six minutes. To exit, bend the knees to the chest and roll to one side. Push up until seated, then wait a few minutes for the blood to circulate within your legs before standing up.
Safety note: This may not feel comfortable in advanced pregnancy, so elevate the right hip if needed; or do it with your feet resting on the seat of a chair (ensure back is flat on the floor). Do not perform this pose if you have high blood pressure.
5. Breathing into back and sides
How to do it: When most adults breathe, the chest, and if we are relaxed the belly, rises. The lungs exist in three dimensions, and as they fill up like a balloon, could expand into the side and back of your rib cage. Place both hands on your waist, then shimmy them up till they are on the lower part of your rib cage. As you breathe, push the ribs into your hands. Practise this 10 times. Now sit crosslegged against a wall, back lightly touching. As you breathe, focus your breath so your lungs expand into your back, and your back squashes up against the wall. Repeat 10 times and increase the distance between the wall and your back to 1-2cm as you become strong with this practice.
Safety tips for a great work-out
- Yoga should never hurt, so go to your level of fitness and flexibility, rely on any previous experience with yoga and, most importantly, how you feel on the day. If you feel uncomfortable or puffed at all, stop and take a rest.
- Especially in the third trimester, there is a hormone called relaxin floating around in your system which makes ligaments more relaxed than usual – this is to prepare you for childbirth. You don’t want to overdo it with your newfound flexibility, so practise to 70-80 per cent of the stretchy feel you’d have had pre-pregnancy.
- Wear comfy gym pants and top; no need for shoes
- Drink water, especially after class, to stay hydrated
Like company? Try a prenatal yoga class!
The above poses are not a complete, rounded practice, but rather a sampler of some aspects of yoga that can be experienced in a prenatal class. Do try out a class, especially if you find you are more likely to make the time to exercise if you are accountable to a timetable and any friends in the class.
Remember to seek professional advice before taking part in any exercise while pregnant, and also if you have any concerns about the suitability of any medical conditions/injuries when practising particular yoga movements.
For more information, visit Bend it Like Bansi.
Have you tried doing yoga while pregnant? And did you find it helped with your breathing and fitness? We’d like to hear about your experiences in the comments section below.
More on exercise…
- How to exercise with kids
- Think you don’t have the time to exercise?
- Why you should add Pilates to your post-baby exercise regimen