THE POWER OF YOGA POST BIRTH - A GUIDE FOR SAFE PRACTICE

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” 

Maya Angelou

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Congratulations mama on the birth of your baby/ babies and your journey as a mother. The post-natal period, after the birth of your baby is an incredible time like no other. A time for nurturing, healing and replenishing yourself, your baby and embracing this new phase of life with your family.

Why do Post Natal Yoga?

As a woman, the post natal period is a highly transformative time. It can be a time of creativity and vision, and also a time of great vulnerability. You have just grown and birthed a baby and thats amazing, inspiring, and astounding. At the same time everything can feel wide open, both in your emotional and physical body, as you get to know yourself, your baby and your body in this new time and space.

Post natal women often talk about feeling highly sensitised to everything. Some describe it as a whirlwind where everything feels in flux. All of this is incredibly normal and so is the cocktail of emotions due to hormmal changes in the body. Your brain is literally growing when you are breast-feeding but women often feel there brain isn’t working properly. So do not fear mamas, it is not only working, it is evolving, just perhaps wired and tuned into a different frequency. Another thing which is not often spoken of, but is very common is a feeling of grief in the post natal period. Grieving for your old life, of what was, of not being totally familiar with who you are in this new context. Grief is part of the process needed to create space for the love, the ‘newness’ that comes with having a baby, as Naomi Stadlen says in What mothers do especially when it looks like nothing’, “in order to make enough space in her life for her baby, she seems to make a momentous inner shift… her whole self is changing..’ And in response to this something else that is heard so much is; ‘I need to get my old body back’. In essence there is no going back, but instead a beautiful opportunity to move forward and evolve. All of this is part of the post natal experience and it doesn’t need to all be peaches and cream’. Motherhood is messy, unpredictable, chaotic, and especially in the beginning, something which doesn’t sit well with rigid schedules, routines or time frames. Reframing what is often coined as mothering sacrifice, instead as a new maturity, no longer a self contained I, but a discovery of our innate power, strength, endurance and a surrendering to the change in order to move forward.

A mama needs support and practical tools to help her navigate this new phase. Embracing a flexible and self compassionate attitude. Letting go of expectations, exploring and experimenting, while prioritising self care and loving kindness. Here is where yoga can be so profoundly helpful, grounding, and supportive to a woman as she transitions and finds her feet. I love the idea that as we begin of our pregnancy journey we start a process of spiralling inward, like walking an inner labyrinth to the centre of our being, connecting and listening to our inner voice, intuition and heart as we breath and move together with the precious life growing inside us. Then as we emerge from the experience of birth, we are presented with a new and unrecognisable landscape and begin a process of unravelling from the centre, trusting and embracing the change as we navigate our way out of the labyrinth. There is great strength and wisdom that comes when we trust ourselves, when we celebrate our efforts and share with others.

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What does early post natal practice look like?

A GENTLE recuperative yoga practice is advised for post-natal mothers, to accommodate and adapt to the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual changes that have occurred, to avoid injury and to promote healing. This is the time to embrace your feminine body, to go gently, and to give yourself time to nurture and restore your yin energy, which is naturally depleted post birth. So think:


SLOW, STEADY MOVEMENT      

BREATH AWARENESS     

LOVING KINDNESS

The awesome Uma Dinsmore demonstrating Sonic Massage techniques to soothe mum and baby, 2018.

The awesome Uma Dinsmore demonstrating Sonic Massage techniques to soothe mum and baby, 2018.

A GUIDE FOR SAFE PRACTICE

So I know yoga is sort of hailed as a saviour for everything. And while I may be inclined to believe this, whats important here is that your yoga practice post birth and in the first year as a mother, needs to be the right yoga for that time and space. While in prenatal yoga there is an emphasis on opening and expanding, in the post natal period after birth the focus is on movement to strengthen the legs, to stabilise, restore and help nourish the core of our body. This is an amazing time to really expand our ideas around what yoga practice is. To listen, adapt and evolve the practice mindfully for the moment you are practising. **Seeking support and guidance from an experienced Post Natal Yoga teacher will help you feel confident and enable you to benefit fully from your home practice.

Things to ADOPT in your Post Natal Practice

INTERNAL PRACTICE – cultivate inner strength. connect to your body in this new time and space by really listening to your breath, to feeling rather than thinking or focusing on the external shapes you are making with your body. This is where the deep healing work begins, where postural integrity, pelvic floor restoration and deep stabilisation and strength will be cultivated.

FIND YOUR FEET – How you stand literally affects the position of your pelvic floor. Develop postural awareness by connecting with your feet & the ground to build a functional, responsive relationship. This is where in combination with breath work the deep restoration of the pelvic floor begins.

BREATH IS BOSS – This really is the key to connecting and building awareness of the inner landscape of your body in this new phase. The breath can be both restorative and Energising. The Healing Yogic Breath is one of the most powerful ways to connect with your pelvic floor and begin to restore elasticity. Become familiar with the healing breath by drawing the belly in & pelvic floor up on the exhale. Then begin to use with movement and sound. Remember pelvic floor mobility involves a balance of engaging and releasing the muscles.

GENTLE TWISTS – Help to detoxify, stimulate and stoke digestive fire which is naturally sluggish post birth. They are revitalising when combined with breath work and deeply nourishing helping to restore balance and equilibrium through the spine. Notably they help to engage oblique abdominals & transverse abdominis muscles that rebuild structural stability after distasis recti. *IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have distasis recti DO NOT practice deep twists until the muscles have strengthened and the separation has healed.

GENTLE HEART OPENERS –Chest opening poses with a focus on breath to alleviate upper back and shoulder tension from feeding/carrying/ or weakened abdominals. They help to energise the body, and over time build strength and stamina with the breath. Spinx and low cobra are a

RESTORATIVE POSES – these are the most valuable practices during the early post natal period and during times of exhaustion or low energy.

DEEP RELAXATION – This is so important. The power of even 5 or 10 minutes of deep relaxation can have the same nourishing effects as 4 hours of deep sleep. Use of sound practice (nada yoga) can really help especially if you are finding it hard to switch off. Take your time to get really comfortable, use props, bolster under knees if your lower back is sore. A cushion under your head. Turn off any devices, cover yourself with a blanket.

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Things to AVOID in your Post Natal Practice

WIDE STANCES - wide legged poses are not good in the immediate post natal period and should be avoided. Alignment changes can cause discomfort to destabilised pelvic joints & knees. Especially when breast feeding the ligaments and therefore joints are more vulnerable due to relaxin in the body.

DONT CHASE THE BURN - Chill Winston! Fast, strenuous movement is not good at this time especially in the first 6 months post birth . Try to avoid ‘the ‘bums & tums’ style asana practice – ligaments can take up to 6 months to restore to pre-pregnancy tone.SO GO GENTLY.

BACK /BELLY STRESS - Repeat after me… ‘NO sit ups!’ This action only exasperates postural hunch. Your body has gone through a monumental transformation in the process of growing, birthing and now nurturing a baby. Post Caesarean avoid asana or breathwork that strains abdominals.

INVERSIONS - Especially in the immediate post natal period and until Lochia (bleeding) has ceased. Then time is your friend, build up slowly, starting with Partial or supported inversions to encourage pelvic floor engagement.

When can I start Post Natal Yoga?

Most Women will start between 8 and 12 weeks but the importance here is that you feel ready and comfortable. Try to find a teacher you connect with and speak with them first.

What to expect from YesYoga’s Mum and Baby Classes?

My aim is to create a space where you and your baba feel welcome, exactly AS YOU ARE.

If you come in your pijamas - perfect. If you come in funky zebra leggings, or jogging bottoms on inside out - wonderful. Maybe you feel frantic, teary, tired, hyper, excited, apprehensive, flat…. well the good news is you might feel one or all of these at some point over the course of your block and I welcome you with open arms, to come have a hug, share and do what ever serves you for that hour.

The intention of my Post Natal yoga classes is to nourish mama AND baba in an integrated way. You can join in, rest, feed, change a nappy, sleep or just be in the space with us.

To NURTURE, STABILISE, RESTORE, AND REVITALISE in that order.

In these classes you and baby will explore breath work, yoga poses, movement, song, sound practice, relaxation and massage to help cultivate self awareness and encourage bonding and communication with your baby. Working from the inside out, using integrated movement, breath and sound so you can find stability and over time, build a new found and deeply anchored strength and vitality.

So come join us: laugh, cry, have fun and feel the power and magic that is created from a circle of women sharing together with acceptance and love.

Truly great things happen when women are together!

tx

YesYoga Mum and Baby Class - Enjoying some post class chats with tea, chocolate and some self care treats.

YesYoga Mum and Baby Class - Enjoying some post class chats with tea, chocolate and some self care treats.

BENEFITS OF FAMILY YOGA

 “Movement is a powerful tool. We can transform our bodies, families, communities, and the planet… simply by moving more.”

Katy Bowman

 

As a mother of two gorgeous babas I am understanding the value of Yoga not just for my own self care and wellbeing but the profound impact for my family dynamic. I feel so strongly about the hugely positive benefits of family yoga, that I am starting a family yoga class with a gorgeous friend, mama and fellow yogi Sonja. An opportunity for us to share and explore together with other families, build community, support and promote the value of self care, inquiry and love for ourselves and our families.

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As part of the integrated training in family yoga, mum and baby and post natal yoga, with the wonderful Uma Dinsmore and Janice Wong, I was asked to reseach and explore how yoga could be of assistance to young families. So here are my humble musings and personal experience.

 How Family Yoga has benefitted me

When thinking about this question I was reminded of a really crystal-clear moment I had as a young mother. One which I went on to write about on my blog ‘babies are the best yoga teachers’.

Watching my baby from the day he was born, I was mesmerised by how effortlessly present and adaptable babies are.

As a yoga enthusiast I had always struggled with the things that babies just did organically. It had been a hugely profound experience for me, as I had worried that having a baby would impact negatively on my yoga practice; I wouldn’t have the luxury of practicing when I wished, going to class, travelling for training etc. So I was astounded when the opposite happened. Having my baby opened my eyes, my heart and my being to all the details, all the parts I had been quick to brush over on route to something bigger. I had missed the essence, the simplicity and the subtleties of even the smallest gesture, movement, breath or moment.

I kept coming back to these realisations and how Yoga became part of my day to day as a result of having my baby. I think these also apply to how Yoga can be so beneficial in family life;

Having a baby is a perfect lesson in the art of living in the present moment.

Prioritising Rest – Learning about self-care and self-love

Breathing Patience – Slowing down and noticing the detail.

Finding a Daily Practice of Self care – How yoga helped me navigate my ever-changing emotions, physicality and thought processes as I transitioned into Motherhood.

 In a world where people are increasingly over stretched, stressed and often overwhelmed, in western culture where family and children are not a priority of society and where most modern-day families are not surrounded by extended family or community for support, there is, I feel an ever-increasing need for Yoga. As Deborah Jackson discusses in her book ‘three in a bed’, we are not supposed to raise our children alone. As the well known African proverb says ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Yet there is tremendous pressure on parents to be seen to be coping, to be the balanced, self-sufficient, independent and able to juggle, work, family life, healthy living, social lives etc. Yoga with its diverse array of techniques for calming, strengthening and harmonising mind, body and spirit, can support and help families to be active together, conscious and mindful of their own needs while consciously respecting others and our environment.

So what is the value of Yoga for families?

Family Yoga can encourage a sense of playfulness, fun and creativity in interactions between parents and their children to help enrich communication, support closeness and personal connection and enhance everyone’s development in a nurturing way.

1.    SELF AWARENESS & MUTUAL RESPECT

Babies and children are already embodying and practicing the principles of yoga in their everyday, both present and awakened to their experiences, their senses and their bodies. As parents we can learn from them. Family yoga can help to cultivate open minded acceptance in a parent child relationship. The impact of a family sharing time together to be exactly as they are and to learn from each other can have a profound effect on relationships, cultivating mutual respect and deepening self awareness both of our own body and breath but equally important, of our relationship with our environment our responsibility to, and impact on it.

IN ACTION: Honouring where our body is, recognising and checking in with our breath and our body as we move through asanas together, and on our own. Sensitising to our environment and its relative impact upon us.

I did pranayama each day when my son was feeding or sleeping, watching him, his breath and the rhythm of his belly was incredibly relaxing and reminded me to explore the fullness of my own breath. Amidst the chaos of extended sleep deprivation and a feeling my parents will relate, that very little is within your control, having a daily routine of even a few minutes to focus on the breath was powerful beyond measure. Calming for me and deeply nourishing for my nervous system. I fully admit that this and savasana kept me from loosing my marbles.

Uma Dinsmore Tuli and Janice Wong  Demonstrating family yoga partnering options for shoulder stand.

Uma Dinsmore Tuli and Janice Wong Demonstrating family yoga partnering options for shoulder stand.

2.    ACCESSIBILITY

Yoga is accessible and can be available to all. Yoga can be done anywhere, it requires little or no equipment and is relatively cheap to attend a class or free if done at home. In a world, where the modern family is often living independently from their extended family or a support network and time and money are often a restriction, this is an attractive option. We can definitely do much more to increase accessibility of yoga for all. In Edinburgh, I am hugely grateful for the amazing work of Laura Wilson and Edinburgh Community Yoga for this.

IN ACTION: For me, yoga was the most powerful support in early motherhood and today juggling life with two. I could do small amounts of yoga with my son in the sling, lying next to me and then as he grew, with him. I started to explore and mimic some of the movements he did in my practice. A sort of free form movement and found it was amazing for loosening and warming up the tighter parts of my body – hips etc. I also tried to start building in time to talk about the breath and using it in times of frustration or confusion or conflict. Deep breathing with the nose. Big exhales and body release and breath with sound. This was definitely integrated into family life off the mat and is something I wish to cultivate more as our family grows.

 

3.    ACCEPTANCE

Exploring postures and movement with the approach of feeling into what works best for your body is an example of how yoga promotes self inquiry and acceptance. As a family, exploring postures and modifications relevant for each person and acknowledging the beauty of difference, of personal attributes and qualities without comparison or judgement, is a wonderful thing.

In a parent child situation there is role modelling, teaching and guidance. In this context each individual can learn from the other and just be themselves in an activity and setting where there isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way, just a ‘present’ way best for you and your body in that moment. This opportunity to recognise the importance of being present, compassionate and aware, in a climate where attainment, competition and comparison, be in through the education system or social media, are surely positive virtues that would be of benefit to young people and their family,

IN ACTION: As my son has gotten older we have enjoyed moving through different asanas and particularly experimenting with partnering together for certain postures. It is lovely to move into a posture together and then we discuss the shapes and how we are different in our posture but how somethings are similar or the same. And through my son’s lead we enjoy exploring our own versions of poses that organically feel good.

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4.    SELF DISCIPLINE & CREATIVITY

It is well documented that imaginative, experiential and creative play are of vital importance for children in early years and beyond, helping to nurture a Childs natural laws of growth and unfoldment. As M Donaldson states in her book ‘Children’s Minds’ yoga can develop two very important aspects in the personality of a child; self-discipline and stimulating creativity. Never more so have we needed to nurture these attributes in our children, in a society where self-adaptability, regulation and divergent thinking are needed to navigate a world of heightened sensory stimulation, where jobs, vocations and careers are now multi-faceted and constantly evolving. Where media and technology are developing faster than our understanding of the relative implications of its use on, the human brain, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing. In essence, our need to recognise the merits and use of technology must be underpinned by a deep respect and active relationship with our environment, with mother nature and a recognition of our responsibility for both the environment and ourselves.

IN ACTION: After the birth of our first son we begin practicing yoga together as a family, actively seeking opportunities both at home and in nature to move, breath, explore and play. The impact for me personally and on my now 4-year-old son has both astounded and inspired me. After the recent birth of my second son, family yoga has been an active part of our day to day lives. I continue to be mesmerised by the scope and opportunity yoga offers me as a mother and a woman. Often, we do yoga outdoors, naturally becoming more sensitised to our breath, drawing a deeper breath and never more so did I recognise the impact of this on the nervous system than in my son. He is calmer, happier and more acutely responsive in nature. The beauty, as I mentioned above is you can do yoga ANYWHERE! Yoga is so much more than making shapes with our bodies and the more subtle practices of pranayama, sonic massage, mudras, meditation and story telling can be done in all manner of contexts… Aka I have used it when; camping, in the car, in the bath, waiting for the bus, stuck in a que… (I feel a future blog post sharing these gems may be in store :).

 

5.    RELAXATION

Celebrating and prioritising relaxation and cultivating a deeper sense of inner connection. The importance of practicing Shavasana at the end of each yoga session to promote relaxation, to calm the mind, is what some believe to be one of the most important aspects of the practice. As it provides an opportunity for our body to really integrate what its learned, to observe the breath and how we feel. the use of sound vibration, breathwork, body scanning and other relaxation techniques have been proven to have a profound and deep impact on the nervous system, helping to promote more restful sleep, vitality in the body, reduce stress and calm the mind. Again its a no brainer in my mind. Every human needs this and for sure parents, babies, children and young adults. Recognising the importance of, and practical ways to ensure self care, is a valuable skill set for life’s technicolored experiences, highs, lows, set backs, achievements and all thats in-between.

IN ACTION: This is something I have done with my son since he was little, I used to lie with him next to me in shavasana, or on my chest. I have always loved this moment, feeling each other’s breath, breathing together, there is a deep connection and it also reminds me of when he was in my womb. When we attended the family yoga he chose to lie on his own mat and I was astounded that he got under his own blanket and lay still, peaceful for the whole time. He also said that was his favourite part. I think creating space and time to relax together in this mindful way is really powerful. I notice the energy shift in my son after these sessions and his ability to find stillness. I am keen to explore more ways to support this through aspects of movement and pranayama.

Uma dinsmore tuli demonstrating the use of sonic massage and bija mantra to promote relaxation.

Uma dinsmore tuli demonstrating the use of sonic massage and bija mantra to promote relaxation.

Want to try Family yoga in Edinburgh?

Inspired? Intrigued? Curious?... Come try it for yourself. Join me, Sonja and our families for some Family yoga. Sessions are scheduled for March, May, July and September. Full listings of dates can be found on my timetable and booking options are available in the class description.

So don’t take my word for it! Give it a go!

And I will leave you with these words to ponder on from Cheryl Sanders book ‘Children play’;

 ‘If we see movement as learned at a deep level through the environment, we can begin to understand it as the subtle language of the soul, and distinctly different in different cultures… Movement is not just the movement of my voluntary muscles in response to my wishes. It is also my response to the world…the disruption of the sense of movement wholly disrupts our ability to live in the world with a sense of purpose.’

 

Tess x

 

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5 YOGA POSES TO DO DURING PREGNANCY

Here are 5 key yoga poses to include in your practice to support you during pregnancy. With regular practice they can help to support the changes occurring in your body as your baby grows, to nurture your own needs in pregnancy and can help you to prepare physically, emotionally and mentally for a calm and connected birth experience.    

You can also check out my previous post all about why yoga is so beneficial during pregnancy and how it can impact positively on your birthing experience.

 

SOLE TO SOUL – The importance of finding your feet.

So firstly I have to just talk about feet! The feet are like the gateway to your whole body. Working upward from your foundation, connecting with your feet is like establishing your root system and helps you to feel grounded and stabilised.  Anatomically the soles of the feet map out the whole of your body. Your feet communicate and act like a mirror to the wings of your pelvis. Awakening and activating the feet is vital to ensuring the support and integrity of the pelvis during pregnancy, birth and beyond. Connecting to the ball joints of the big and little toe and the outer edges of the heel will automatically create a drawing up of the pelvis and switch on the muscles around the hips and up to the abdomen. Take time to get to know your feet, nurture them, massage them (better still get someone else to do it!). Take some time every day to stand and explore your centre of gravity, as your body is constantly changing and evolving. This is so significant if you are experiencing any pelvic girdle pain.

For all the poses featured here let the quality of your breath be your key focus and establish a strong connection with your feet. Think about expanding the breath, creating more space and a deeper connection with your body, your baby and how things feel from the inside out, working up from your feet. Let your breath guide you through your yoga practice and if something doesn’t feel right just DON’T DO IT. Through your yoga practice you are helping to cultivate your inner knowing and learning to listen to and trust your instincts, this is one of the most invaluable parts of practising yoga during pregnancy.

Keep these words in mind when you practice;

SOFT

SLOW

NOURISHING

 

5 beneficial yoga poses for pregnancy and birth.

 

HIGH (CRESCENT) LUNGE

WHY BOTHER?

Lunges require major activation of the gluteus (butt) muscles to achieve stability and balance. The gluteus medius is the muscle responsible for stabilising the pelvis, therefore it’s important to support the mobility of this muscle during pregnancy.

This yoga pose actively helps to stretch the psoas muscle. The psoas attaches to the spine, connects the upper and lower half of the body and plays an integral role in the quality and depth of the breath, as it connects to the diaphragm. This muscle is embedded in the structure either side of the spine and runs from the spinal column (T12) to the top of the femur (thigh) bone. As a result, it can influence the position of the baby as it enters the pelvic brim.

 

Hands can remain on your waist to stabilise.

Hands can remain on your waist to stabilise.

LOW LUNGE Option - Rest the back knee down if you are tired.

LOW LUNGE Option - Rest the back knee down if you are tired.

BENEFITS

  • Helps to lengthen hamstring and front quadricep.

  • Helps open and lengthen the psoas muscle, as the origin and focus of the movement comes from the groin.

  • Supports balance of the pelvis for optimal foetal engagement (aka easier engagement of baby into the pelvis).

  • Improves balance and stability by strengthening the gluteus muscles.

  • Great preparation for birthing a larger baby.

HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?

Stand at the top of your mat, with hands on hips step your right leg back.

Keep the back heel lifted, both feet are facing toward the front of the mat.

Step your feet wider for more stability and balance.

Inhale deeply into your chest.

Exhale bend into both knees and repeat slowly with the breath a few times to warm the knees and hip flexors (posas).

Then take a few breaths lengthening out through your back heel. Back leg can be straight or with a soft bend.

Direct your exhales down to your pelvis, the focus of the stretch is in the hips and groin.

Soften your jaw and find a comfortable position for your neck gazing forward.

Option to lengthen arms overhead shoulder width and energise through to the finger tips 

Inhale press from back foot and step forward.

Do a few hips circles with feet parallel at the top of your mat.

Repeat stepping back the left foot.

REPEAT: 5-10 breaths on each leg

MODIFICATIONS

Take a short stance if you have any pelvic girdle pain.

If you are tired do the same poses with the back knee lowered to the mat (Low Lunge) and take padding under the knee.

If you have high blood pressure practice with your hands on your waist.

 

 WINDMILLS (PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA)

WHY BOTHER?

This wide angled forward bend with an open twist is an excellent yoga pose for strengthening the spinal muscles, helping to relieve lower back discomfort, stretch the inner and back leg muscles and lengthens the hamstrings. This is a great pose to do in pregnancy to help relieve sciatic pain.

The open rotational twist in this pose is so important especially during pregnancy. But is it safe to do twists during pregnancy? Open twists where the abdominal area is not compressed are really beneficial during pregnancy. Twists help to squeeze and service the spinal column helping to improve mobility and restore vitality to your whole body. However closed twists, where the abdominal area is constricted or squeezed are not advisable to practice during pregnancy. 

Use Props to enable the spine to remain long.

Use Props to enable the spine to remain long.

Keep a Micro Bend in the Knee if straightening the legs

Keep a Micro Bend in the Knee if straightening the legs

BENEFITS

  • Loosens the muscles around the lower back, hamstrings and gluteus muscles, helping to relieve any pressure on the sciatic nerve, reduce or prevent sciatica.

  • Daily practice can help to release the sacral area and align the lower uterus with a more balanced pelvis.

  • Lengthens the oblique muscles in the mid back and helps to increase pelvic flexibility to support the opening around your baby during birth.

HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?

Step one foot out so you have a wide stance, facing the long edge of your yoga mat with your feet parallel.

Take your props and place them where you can reach them once you have folded forward.

Take an inhale from standing and forward fold as you exhale placing your hands on the props or to the floor if that is appropriate.

Inhale reach your right arm up and feel the energy spread all the way to your fingertips.

Exhale lower your arm and connect with the feeling of stability and support through your feet and pelvis.

Inhale raise your left arm and continue with the breath twisting side to side.

Ensure the spine remains long and adjust props so you can avoid any rounding in the back. 

You may look up toward your raised arm if it feels comfortable, otherwise look to the side or down.

REPEAT: Up to 8-10 times Daily.

MODIFICATIONS

If the spine is rounding, use blocks or cushions under your hand. 

You can equally do this pose resting one hand on a sofa or the end of a bed, so you have more height and can lengthen the spine. If you have pelvic girdle pain take a shorter stance and use props as above.

 

SUPPORTED SQUAT (MALASANA)

WHY BOTHER?

Squats help to open the pelvis and releases the birthing muscles from the tightening effects of sitting. Squats have a really grounding quality, helping you to connect with your feet, the earth beneath you and to the downward flow of energy in the body (apana). This can be so beneficial during pregnancy as it helps you to feel connected to the earth, to mother nature and to a deeper universal support and wisdom you can call on during birth.

BENEFITS

  • Improves Joint and perineal flexibility

  • Tones the entire lower body; quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back

  • Stretches groin, inner thighs and hips

  • Strengthens the thighs

  • Stimulates digestion

  • Activates and improves your birthing stamina

  • Brings strength and vitality into your pelvis and back muscles.

  • Opens the pelvis up to 30% more

HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?

Take your feet at least hips distance and turn your toes out.

Have your props ready in position to lower down onto  (a bolster, cushions, a low stool).

Slowly with your exhale bend your knees and lower down to your props. 

Knees should be roughly in line with the direction of your toes.

Use the props to offer some support but don’t collapse all your weight onto them.

Focus on lengthening and straightening your back from the crown to the tail bone.

Take a few breaths, focus on lengthening with the inhale and exhale down into your pelvis, really visualise the opening and space you have to birth your baby as you do this.

Slowly press into the feet and on an inhale, use your hands on your thighs to come up or slowly sit back

REPEAT: 30 secs to start – if comfortable you can work up to 1 min and repeat several times a day.

MODIFICATIONS

Do not squat if your baby is breech.

Take sufficient support and height under your seat – If the lower back is rounding, or you feel you are collapsing in the ankles, knees or chest, sit up higher.

If you have knee injuries or pelvic girdle pain, avoid this pose if there is any discomfort.

It is advised not to practice deep, unsupported squats in the last few weeks of pregnancy or if your baby is breech.

If your heels don’t touch the floor roll up the end of your mat or use a folded blanket or block.

 

CAT COW (PELVIC TILTS)

WHY BOTHER?

This pose helps to strengthen and stretch your spine and relieve common lower back ache, pain and pelvic girdle discomfort. This is a pose many women naturally adopt during labour to alleviate pressure and discomfort in their back.

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BENEFITS

  • Soothes lower back ache

  • Lubricates the spine to avoid discomfort

  • Can help encourage baby to engage into the pelvis

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HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?

Come to a table top position with a flat back.

Hands are under shoulders with your middle finger pointing to the front of your mat.

Knees hip distance or slightly wider if more comfortable.

Inhale deeply here feeling breath expand and lengthen the front body and open the chest.

Exhale round your back, tuck your chin and letting your abdominals hug baby in, feeling everything move toward your spine or back body.

Inhale return to a flat back then exhale repeat as above, rounding your back.

Rhythmically move your body at your own pace through this sequence up to 5 times with your breath.

REPEAT: 5 times synchronising with your breath.

MODIFICATIONS

You can take padding under your knees or wrists. 

If your wrists are very tight or aching take them slightly forward of the shoulders or rest your fore arms on a block/bolster/cushions.

 

SUPPORTED WIDE LEGGED FORWARD FOLD (UPAVISTA KONASANA)

WHY BOTHER?

This supported wide legged forward fold helps to increase pelvic mobility and is really beneficial during pregnancy as it helps to relax the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvis is stabilised and anchored in this pose helping you to feel grounded and supported.

Regular practice can help you to connect and feel confident about your body’s ability to open, widen and soften, trusting the space you have in your pelvis to birth your baby

 

You can use props here, to rest forward onto.

You can use props here, to rest forward onto.

BENEFITS

lengthens the spine and helps to relieve tension in the lower back

Stretches inner thighs, hips and groin.

Can help to alleviate pelvic girdle pain

Enhances the release of tension through the spine, shoulders and neck.

Widens the diameter of the pelvic canal – helping to establish a feeling of openness.

Lengthens and releases backs of legs and inner thighs

 

HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?

Sit comfortably taking something under your seat so you can lengthen through the spine.

Have your props in reaching distance (cushions, bolster, blocks or a rolled blanket).

Draw the legs out to s comfortable distance, lifting the toes up and connecting heels toward the ground.

Inhale to sit up tall and slowly as you exhale settle forward.

Gently rest your head onto your prop so you can relax and release with your breath.

Each inhale find length in the spine and roll the thigs up and back gently.

Draw the chin in slightly to lengthen the back of the neck and actively relax throat, neck and jaw with the exhale.

If repeating you may have space to take the legs wider – but go gently, respect your body, let go of competition or a need to do more and feel into what is right in the moment, knowing it will change every time.

REPEAT: 5-10 Breaths (option to repeat 2ndround).

 

MODIFICATIONS

A folded blanket, or cushion under your seat can help to create length and space in the lower back if you feel you are rounding.

Keep the legs closer together if there is any discomfort in the backs of the knees or if I pelvic girdle pain.

You can also take some soft support (a folded blanket), under the knees if you feel discomfort there.

If you are feeling tired you can do this pose upright leaning against a wall to support the spine and leave out the forward fold.

 

TO FINISH THE MOST IMPORTANT POSE OF ALL TO FINISH YOUR PRACTICE...


 RELAXATION - SHAVASANA

WHY BOTHER?

Relaxation involves letting go, surrendering and allowing both your body and mind to release. This is the time when you can seal in all the benefits of your practice and allow your body to absorb and integrate all that you have learned. I could write a whole post about this and will do at some point but for now lets just say....DONT LEAVE THIS ONE OUT!!!

Use Props to get as comfy as possible!

Use Props to get as comfy as possible!

BENEFITS

  • Helps soothe the nervous system

  • Focuses and calms the mind

  • Relaxes the physical body

  • Balances Emotions

HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?

At the end of each practice make time for relaxation.

Ideally give yourself 10 minutes, 5 minutes as a minimum if possible. 

Lie on your left side with support under your left knee and ankle, your right leg can be straight or bent.

Draw your right shoulder blade forward so you are resting on the shoulder blade NOT the edge of your shoulder.

Place a cushion under your head and make sure your spine and neck feel supported (you can place a bolster or cushion behind the spine).

Take your time to get settled and really comfortable, then focus on the natural rhythm of your breath, in and out. 

Don't worry if your mind wonders or thoughts come into your head - acknowledge them and then return your attention and focus to the breath.

To finish, draw your attention back to your baby maybe placing a hand there and feel your breath in your belly around your baby.

Tae some time to deepen your breath and only make small movements when you feel the urge.

Come up slowly.

 

ENJOY MAMAS x

 

 

WHY DO PREGNANCY YOGA?

How can pregnancy yoga help? 

Becoming a mother is a very personal, transformative and profound experience. Practicing yoga during pregnancy can help a woman to cultivate strength, awareness and emotional wellbeing, to embrace the changes taking place, to feel empowered and to prepare for childbirth and motherhood, physically, mentally and emotionally. 

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As your baby grows, pregnancy yoga can help to strengthen, tone and make more space for your growing baby. 

Pregnancy yoga can offer a little piece of sanctuary, providing a safe, supportive space to cultivate connection and awareness.

 Many women who practice yoga during pregnancy, comment on the positive impact of yoga in building their awareness of their breath and praise the use of conscious breathing techniques to manage and even eliminate pain, intensity and anxiety during labour. 

Pregnancy yoga is a safe and highly complementary practice during pregnancy, helping to foster a sense of calm, strength and inner balance so women feel empowered and equipped to navigate the many changes and challenges of pregnancy, birth and motherhood.

 

What is pregnancy Yoga?

Yoga is a wonderful practice to do during pregnancy as the essence of this ancient practice embodies the ‘union’ of mind, body and breath.  The developmental, physiological and emotional changes which happen during pregnancy are supported by the practices of movement and asana (poses), breath awareness and breathing techniques (pranayama), meditation and relaxation. These practices can help to support the many transitions of pregnancy, alleviate common symptoms throughout this transformative time and help you to feel more connected and in tune with your body, your baby and your breath.

There are many different schools of yoga, but all emphasise the importance of breathwork, relaxation and mindful movement. Pregnancy is not a time to overexert yourself but rather a time to cultivate deep respect and self-love. Practising yoga during pregnancy can help you to prioritise nourishing and caring for yourself and your baby, making space just for you and acknowledging just how precious pregnancy is as a time in your life. 

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When can I start pregnancy Yoga?

Most pregnancy yoga classes may specify that you can attend any time from 12 weeks of pregnancy. This will depend on the teacher and it is best to connect and discuss this directly with a specialised pregnancy yoga teacher 

It is important to find a teacher that you trust and feel comfortable with, so you feel both supported and at ease within the class. Think about what you would like to get out of the class and let that be your focus rather than a class which is nearest or at the studio or centre you already attend. Some pregnancy yoga classes may incorporate birth preparation, relaxation and visualisation and open discussion whereas some classes may focus primarily on a yoga sequence of movements or poses adapted for pregnancy. 

 

I’ve never done yoga before.

Anyone can do yoga during their pregnancy, in fact it is a really wonderful time to start and can offer such a powerful opportunity to really embrace all that is happening and use the practices of breathwork, movement and relaxation to feel a little more ‘at home’ in the physical body.

 

Why should I do Pregnancy Yoga?

The practice of yoga should evolve with you as you journey through your pregnancy and prepare for life as a mother.

1st Trimester

During your first trimester it is vital to listen carefully to your body and take this time to really connect with the body’s innate wisdom, letting that be your guide for any activity. It is advisable to avoid any strenuous exercise during the early stages of pregnancy, as your baby develops from an embryonic cell into a growing fetus and makes its home in your uterus. This is a great time for a more meditative practice and very gentle movement. A perfect opportunity to give yourself space and time to really absorb, acknowledge and reflect on the changes taking place.

2nd Trimester

In the second trimester most women feel more energised and often find sickness and tiredness abates. This is a great time to build both physical, mental and emotional strength and stamina exploring standing postures, squats and poses that focus on building awareness of the freedom around the hips and pelvis, to prepare physically for birth.  Gentle movement and exercising your body using asana can help to cultivate deeper awareness, trust and intuition for the needs of yourself and your baby.

3rd Trimester

During the final trimester towards the end of pregnancy the emphasis is on cultivating a more restorative and meditative practice, exploring the power of the breath and its relative influence over both the mind and body. The use of breathing techniques, meditation, visualisation and positive affirmation is a really powerful way to prepare for the process of birth and motherhood. These practices are ones which are often dismissed in our very goal orientated society where ‘doing’ and productivity is viewed in the highest regard and more contemplative, inner work can be viewed as lazy, easy, boring or pointless. It is these subtle and intricate practices which can be the most challenging and subsequently which can have the deepest cellular effect on a physical, mental and emotional level and these breathing and mindfulness practices which can provide such support during birth and motherhood.  

 

What is pregnancy yoga good for?

The yoga practices of asana, breathwork and meditation can help to nurture positive qualities such as courage, acceptance, trust and patience and encourage women to really listen to and trust their natural instincts, let go of the need to control and to surrender to the moment. These qualities are some of the most powerful and positive tools during the process of birth. By exploring and integrating these yoga practices before labour, the effect is that women then intuitively use what they need during birth, as the benefits of practices have been embodied. The emphasis within any yoga class and not least in pregnancy yoga is that there is no prescribed perfect sequence, pose or set of techniques to learn.  Yoga is such a great practice during pregnancy as it supports you to find movement and deep connection with your body, your baby and in labour to work with the natural hormones released and to discover and embrace your own power and intuitive knowing.

 

Becoming comfortable and at ease with different breath techniques and incorporating sound into these practices has a physiological impact on the body helping to relax the jaw and muscles around the pelvis and in particular sound vibration and releasing tension in the lips can impact upon cervical dilation and the physiological progression of labour. 

 

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Say hello to your pelvic floor

The pelvic floor muscles provide a multi plex hammock which attaches to your lower back and abdominal muscles. These muscles undergo significant changes during pregnancy to support your growing uterus and other organs. Deep breathing and specific stretches help to increase the elasticity of these muscles. Learning to locate, activate, isolate and relax these muscles is an important process in supporting a physiological birth and improving the efficacy of uterine contractions. 

The breathing practice and adapted yoga postures used to tone and connect with your pelvic floor in pregnancy can continue to benefit you through birth and beyond and help to boost energy and relieve pelvic pain.

 

Managing change, intensities or pain in the body - Breath is Boss

The use of breathwork and in particular the extended exhale achieved when practising the golden thread breath is the bodies antidote to pain. The exhalation is when tension and anxiety are released, reducing the feeling of pain in the body.  

Yoga offers us the opportunity to both connect and discover, leading to greater self-awareness. The breath is tone rhythm of the body we can consciously influence. Calming the breath, slows the heart rate, and moves the body into the parasympathetic nervous system and away from a ‘stress’ alert or fight or flight response. So the impact of conscious breath work techniques such as the golden thread breath help us to connect with a state of ‘feeling’ rather than ‘thinking’. This helps to shift the focus from a ‘doing’ state, to a ‘rest and digest’ response. This can actually boost vitality, and support women to honour to the emotional, spiritual and physical adjustments during pregnancy, birth and the post-natal period. 

 

Learning to listen to our bodies - Moving intuitively 

Awareness of breathing rhythms helps to relax and nurture your wellbeing which directly extends to your baby, this is significant throughout pregnancy and beyond but particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy where heightened levels of cortisol in the mother’s body can actually inhibit the onset of labour.

Yoga tunes us into our instinctual nature, so invaluable in pregnancy, birth and motherhood. Rather than relying on willpower and a need to control, yoga and use of conscious breath techniques can help us to listen to the bodies cues, to connect and bond more deeply and intuitively with our baby and respond to changes taking place calmly.

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Give it a go!

I encourage any mama to be, to explore pregnancy yoga as a means to really embrace the full spectrum of their pregnancy journey to prepare for birth and life as a mother. It can provide opportunity to feel the power and impact of community and support from a circle of women and the space and sanctuary to come home to our truest nature as we nourish and celebrate the new life within us.

 

Check out my Next post - 5 of my favourite yoga poses during pregnancy

Be sure to check out my next post on 5 yoga poses for pregnancy & birth preparation, understanding these poses are doing on a physical level and the benefits regular practice can have on an emotional and spiritual level in preparation for birth and motherhood.

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Looking for a class?

I offer weekly pregnancy yoga and birth preparation classes, for full class details check the website.

Details and updates on workshops, events and happenings can be found on the YesYoga instagram and facebook pages.