Friday, March 8, 2013

My Top 5 Prenatal Yoga Poses

Coming into the home stretch of this second pregnancy my practice has really dwindled down to just a few essential poses to keep myself feeling both strong and open.  Ready and rested for delivery.  

Here's a listing of my Top 5 poses for pregnancy:

"Pointer" - I like to start my warm-up with some cat/cow and then move into this great strengthener.  Since I've been off of abdominal exercises for some time, this pose helps keep a little bit of wrapping of my muscles around the baby and helps maintain some mid and low-back strength.  You can always add the opposite arm extending forward to build in more strength.

Warrior 2 -  I love (hate) love this one for pregnancy because it is such a powerful pose.  I write (hate) because at the end of this 3rd trimester I am seriously challenged to stay here for any length of time with my knee properly aligned over my ankle.  But the plus side is I feel my feet strongly grounding into the Earth and power rising up into my body.  I feel STRONG in this pose.   And, it gives me an excellent opportunity to focus on breathing through challenge - a skill I will be using in labor, birth, and the next 18 or so years!

 Prasarita Padottanasana - This pose saves my hips and low back.  When I stand with feet wide and then STRONGLY isometrically (without moving) pull them towards each other I can feel my muscles engage all the way up my legs and wrap around my back.  Suddenly I feel spacious and released in my tired aching back.  I can also allow the weight of my baby to hang forward towards the floor and if he's been hanging out low in my pelvis then he moves up just a little and gives my bladder a break.  Sometimes I fold all the way over.  Sometimes I waggle my hips a little bit in a primal pregnant kind of way... all in preparation for going deep into the labor zone.

Malasana (Squat) - This one's for the delivery.  Otherwise I'd never ever have it on a list of favorite poses to be honest.  Squatting is one of the tried and true most excellent positions for giving birth and, it's hard work.  So during my yoga practice I like to take a dynamic approach to it.  I start standing and squat way down then rise back up to standing, repeatedly, for as long as I can possibly manage it.  You may notice that my heels are on the roll of my mat, that gives me a sense of grounding and keeps me safer.  The motion of this dynamic squat also helps to bring the baby down deeper into the pelvis so if at 34 -36 weeks and after baby was breech I wouldn't be doing this.  And if he felt too big and I were exhausted I'd just do dance Plies instead.
The other thing I really value about Squatting is that it's not a lunge.  Lunging in pregnancy as the hormones really get going (so later and later in pregnancy) can put some strain on the pubic symphysis (which is the place in the front of your pelvis where your pubic bones meet).  It isn't comfortable.  And if you do it enough ligaments can be stretched so much that they never go back in place.  So squats keep the PS centered and from being pulled in two different directions simultaneously.

Then after squats when I'm totally exhausted.  I sit, close my eyes, hold my belly and do my Kegels.  No reason to wait until after the delivery - I'm going to need all the strength I can get down there!
and Finally

Supta Bada Konasana - Reclining Bound Angle pose.  Ah!  I lived in this pose for the first trimester of this pregnancy when I was too sick to do much else.  And I'm living in this pose now when I'm too tired to do much else.  There's all this advice not to go on your back while you're pregnant.  I find that I can be on my back briefly but not for long.  So you'll notice in the photo that I'm on a bolster with blocks underneath which creates a nice incline for my resting position.  I sometimes also put blocks under my knees to support my hips.  But this is one of my favorite ways to feel open in my hips and chest but also supported for a nice long rest.  I'll often use a recorded guided relaxation as I rest in this position.

This is not the complete practice I do every day.  Sometimes, and for much of the pregnancy I do a lot more.  Sometimes I do a lot less.  But these are the top 5 to keep me feeling strong, prepared, and open ... just getting ready for this baby to arrive.

photos by Stacy Abbott

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