WORKING IT OUT: SOME MAMA MOVES
GENTLE YOGA CAN ALLEVIATE some of the minor discomforts of pregnancy, reduce overall fatigue, and encourage good circulation. And because yoga helps you develop concentration and confidence and relaxes tense muscles, it will help not only throughout pregnancy, but also during labor and after your baby is born.
Consult your doctor before beginning a yoga practice. Stop immediately if you feel pain or dizziness. Never hold your breath and never overstretch. Your connective tissues are more flexible than usual during pregnancy, but stretching too far can damage those tissues.
Try postures like squats, which help open the pelvis for birth, and the cat, which alleviates tension in the back--a big issue for pregnant women. (M.D.'s advise that after your twentieth week you avoid exercises in which you lie on your back.) Simple toe stretches can improve circulation in the feet. And the breathing exercises that are crucial to yoga help you relax.
The benefits of pregnancy yoga can be felt right through delivery. "You can start to make that mind-body connection that allows your body to relieve stress," says Downes. This is essential during delivery--and after.
1. Modified Cobra: Start with your feet a comfortable distance apart while holding your hands behind your back. Inhale and let your head drop back. Stay in this position for a moment while breathing. Inhale again and push your chest out while arching your back and pulling your arms back. Hold. Continue to inhale while pushing your hips forward and pulling your arms back. Return to the starting position.
2. The Cat' Start on all fours with shoulders over your wrists and feet hip's width apart. Straighten one leg and lift it from the floor while you raise your head. Hold and breathe normally. Exhale and bring leg down slowly to the starting position. Now raise the same leg again, but this time bend it. Take a few breaths. On the exhale, return to all fours and repeat with other leg.
1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. If your back rounds, sit on the edge of a pillow. Good posture is key to increasing your comfort, confidence, and energy, so sit tall. Roll your shoulders forward, up, back, and then down. Repeat several times. Imagine that you're sending your heart up toward the ceiling. Bring your chin in slightly to prevent your head from jutting forward.
2. Bend your knees and then use your hands to guide your feet together so that the soles of your feet touch. Allow your knees to gently drop apart. For added comfort, place a pillow under each knee. Hold your ankles and take 2 to 10 deep breaths, allowing your knees to drop farther apart each time you exhale.
3. If you can hold that position comfortably, add these extra steps: Interlace your palms and stretch them overhead for 2 or 3 breaths, as pictured. Lower your hands, separate them, and place your palms flat on the floor a few inches behind you. Expand your chest with 2 or 3 more deep breaths.
4. To release, use your hands to slowly extend your legs in front of you.
1. Begin on all fours in Table pose with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under or slightly behind your hips. Throughout this series, remember to draw your belly (and with it, your baby) up toward your spine to avoid straining your lower back.
2. Inhale through your nose. As you exhale, round your spine in Halloween Cat pose: Tuck in your tailbone as if you had a tail and were drawing it down between your legs, and drop your chin to your chest. Inhale as you return to Table pose. Do not allow your lower back to arch. Repeat this movement for 3 to 10 breaths, exhaling into Halloween Cat pose and inhaling back to Table pose.
3. Once you are back in Table pose, extend your left leg behind you to hip height, as pictured. Make sure your left hipbone faces the floor. Hold here for 2 to 5 breaths. Slowly lower your leg to Table pose.
4. Repeat step 3 with your right leg.
5. Inhale and gently lower your hips to one side to enter a seated position.
Cradle Your Baby Breathing
1. Gather up some of your favorite pillows and blankets. Put on a sweater or cover yourself with a blanket because your body temperature will drop slightly in this pose. From a seated position, lower yourself down onto your side. Place a pillow under your head, one between your bent knees, and one in front and behind you. Make yourself as comfortable as you imagine your baby is, nestled in your womb. Cuddle the pillow in front of you and rest your upper arm on top of it, as pictured. Close your eyes. Imagine that you are settling into warm sand.
2. Think about the miracle of life inside you. (You may want to place your upper hand on your belly.) Take 3 to 10 deep breaths. Each time you inhale, your belly will move forward. Each time you exhale, hug your belly--and your baby--closer to you. Rock your baby back and forth using this gentle breathing. Slow your breathing so that your inhalation and exhalation are the same length or your exhalation is slightly longer.
3. Allow your breathing to return to normal and rest quietly for 5 to 25 minutes. Sit up slowly to avoid lightheadedness.
The materials in this web site are in no way intended to replace the professional medical care, advice, diagnosis or treatment of a doctor. The web site does not have solutions to all problems. Solutions to specific problems may not apply to everyone. If you notice medical symptoms or feel ill, you should consult your doctor.