If you're moving along into your 2nd or 3rd Trimester, you've probably begun sleeping on your side. Often times this causes pain or numbness in the hips, as well as restlesness in the legs. By practicing Trikonasana or Triangle Pose you will be able to stretch the outer hip and the inner thighs, strengthen the legs, and elongate the spine. For this pose you may need a yoga block or a similar prop like a sturdy book will do.
To begin, start in a wide-leg stance with the legs 3 to 4 feet apart. Turn the left foot out so the heel is in line with the arch of the right foot. Keep the left leg straight, but make sure the top of the thigh, the knee, and the foot are in line with each other. Place the block on the inside of your left foot.
Bring the arms parallel to the floor and gaze over your left arms. Reach the left arm forward following the direction of your gaze as you tilt the pelvis. Keeping both sides of the torso even, lower your left hand to the block or the the left shin. Use the block or your shin only if necessary. Do not place the entire weight of your upper body on the block/shin. Keep your legs strong.
While creating firmness in the legs, continue to extend the left ribs as you stretch the right arm vertically and rotate the right hip and shoulder upward. If it is comfortable for your neck look up at your right hand. If not, just look forward, but keep the head lifted and the spine elongated.
Breathe normally and stay in the pose for 5-8 breaths. To challenge yourself, lift the hand off of the block to increase the strength in the legs further.
When you are ready to release from the pose, bend the left knee and bring yourself up to Warrior 2 (click here to see information on this pose). Turn the left toes to face the same as the right, then turn the right foot out so the heel is in line with the left arch. Now that you've changed legs, continue on this side and hold for 5-8 breaths. Return to Warrior 2. Turn the right toes in so now you're in a wide leg stance with the feet parallel to each other.
From here you have two options. You can simply “heel-toe” walk the feet together, round out the spine and come to standing. Or you can take a wide-leg forward fold. For the fold, place your hands on your hips and fold toward the floor with a flat back. Bring your hands to the floor or a block, keep your legs straight (if your hamstrings are tight you can give a slight bend to the knees), relax your low back. Take 3-5 breaths here before you “heel-toe” walk the feet together and come to standing.
Written for: BabyOhm
Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (or more simply known as Pigeon pose) is by far one of the most enjoyable poses for pregnant women. While intense at first, it stretches some of the main muscles that are impacted during pregnancy. Benefits of pigeon pose are that it helps open the hips, it is the best pose for ailments associated with sciatica, it releases tension in the low back and buttocks, and it stretches the groin and psoas muscles. Take your time getting in and out of pigeon pose as it can be awkward. As always, listen to your body, honoring any restriction and adjusting if necessary.
Starting on your hands and knees gently bring your right ankle toward your left wrist, then slide your left leg back behind you. If there's pressure under your left knee, place a blanket underneath. Make sure that the hips are even and that your buttocks aren't resting on the floor. If you're comfortable doing so slowly lower down bringing your forearms to the floor. Relax the shoulders as much as possible. Close your eyes, connect with your baby and breathe into your hips. It's most beneficial if you can stay in this pose for 1-2 minutes. If this becomes too intense, then come out whenever you're ready.
If you feel that it's difficult to fold forward because your belly is in the way, then you can place a thick folded blanket or a yoga block under your left thigh. Doing so creates more space between your body and the floor and creates more room for your belly. You can also place a blanket or yoga block underneath the right buttock if needed.
To come out of the pose, curl the left toes under, straighten the arms, press into the hands and push yourself back to hands and knees. Gently rock the hips side to side or you can come into downward facing dog or child's pose with widened knees. Take a few breaths here and when you're ready return to hands and knees and switch sides, bringing the left ankle forward.
Take another resting pose after you've completed both sides. Check in with how you feel physically and if you've released any tension in the body. This pose is another one that can safely be practiced every day... your body will thank you!
One of the most common pregnancy related complaints I hear from my pregnant clients and prenatal yoga students is back pain. Low back pain, mid back pain, shoulder and neck pain...you name it, most pregnant women feel it at one point or another! What pose comes to the rescue?? Cat/Cow stretches!
This flow of movement between two poses works on stretching your entire spine, releases low back tension, helps gently tone the abdominal muscles, and helps lubricate the spine. This post is safe for all trimesters and can also be extremely beneficial during labor to alleviate tension or to help with “back labor”.
Come onto hands and knees making sure that your knees are directly under your hips and a few inches a part. Your wrists should be placed directly under your shoulders with the fingers facing forward. If there's pressure under the knees you can place a folded blanket or towel underneath. Elongate the spine, reaching the crown of your head forward, your gaze looking down at the floor.
On your inhalation (breathe in and out of the nose) let the belly drop towards the floor and hallow out your back, lifting the tailbone and lifting the chin slightly. Gently squeeze the shoulder blades together to open the heart. This is called Cow pose.
On your exhalation tuck the tailbone, tuck the chin and round out the back reaching the spine towards the ceiling. Using your abdominal muscles gently engage the core and give your baby a hug to tone the abs. This is called Cat pose.
Keeping your arms straight continue flowing between these two poses with your breath. Inhale to Cow. Exhale to Cat. Feel the tension in your spine releasing, feel the rhythm of your breath. Continue this movement 6-8 times total and then allow yourself to rest in Child's pose. Take your knees wide and push your bottom back toward your heels, keep the arms extended with the palms pressing into the mat and rest the forehead on the floor or a blanket. Connect with your breath, connect with your baby. After a few breaths in Child's pose, feel free to come back to hands and knees and do another round of Cat/Cow!
Practice Cat/Cow each day as a way to prevent or alleviate back pain. It is an invigorating moving meditation that can be done to help awaken the body after a good nights sleep or to stretch the body after a restless night.
Squatting, in my opinion, is the most valuable pose for pregnancy and childbirth. In a full squat position, your pelvis opens up about 20% more than any other position your body can be in, it shortens the birth canal, and employs gravity to encourage the baby to move down.
Squatting is important for many reasons. It helps open the hips, strengthens & stretches the thighs, elongates the spine, and can even assist in breaking up scar tissue in the cervix (caused by previous cervical procedures or previous births), in addition it can bring relaxation to the pelvic floor muscles. During labor and birth, squatting can help by opening the pubic symphysis in the pelvis making more room for the baby.
There are several ways to squat safely (in all 3 trimesters) without losing your balance. Make sure you're close to some other that you can hold on to if needed (couch, chair, etc). If you find it difficult to stay in the squat for a while you can sit on pillows or a stack of blankets.
If you are not used to squatting, begin with a half squat at the wall.
Standing with your back to the wall, place your buttocks against the wall and widen your stance so that your feet are a little more than hip distance apart. Begin by bending the knees (you may need to walk your feet 6-12 inches away from the wall to make room to bend) and slowly lower the buttocks down the wall. Keep increasing the bend in the knees, squatting, until your things are almost parallel to the floor. Your feet should be flat on the floor as well. Bending at the waist, take the elbows/forearms to the inner thighs and gently press the knees apart. Reach the crown of the head toward the opposite side of the room to lengthen the spine. Hold here for about 1 minute, if not more. Breathe. Listen to your body and only squat for as long as is comfortable for you & your baby.
When you are ready to come out of the squat, press into your feet and press your buttocks to the wall, then straighten your legs slowly. You may need to pedal your feet back and forth or roll your ankles a bit once you return to standing.
As you practice this wall squat you may notice that you can widen your stance further and remain in the pose longer. When you feel confident in this pose and are ready for a little more intensity, move onto a full squat.
Malasana (full squat or supported squatting pose):
Start standing and widen your stance to a little more than hip distance apart and turn your feet out to a 45º angle. Take a nice inhale and bring your arms up overhead, on your exhale take the hands together in front of the heart, then bend the knees and lower the bottom towards the floor. Again, the feet should be flat on the floor (if the heels do not reach, place a folded blanket or towel underneath them). Let the bottom sink toward the floor and if you feel unbalanced hold onto the couch or a chair, etc. If the hands are in front of the heart, press the elbows into the insides of the knees to gently encourage the hips to open further and engage the inner thighs. Keep the chest lifted and elongate the spine. Breathe. Connect with your baby, feel your body opening up in preparation for childbirth.
If this is too intense to begin with, place blankets or pillows underneath the buttocks and allow your body to rest on them. If you feel the intensity of this pose lessening each time, then widen your stance further and increase the outward pressure of the elbows to the inner knees. Hold this squat for 2-3 minutes.
To safely come out of this pose, plant both hands on the floor in front of you, shift your weight forward and bring your knees to the floor. You can widen your knees and push your buttocks back toward your heels for an easy child's pose for a few moments.
Try doing this squat each day and increase the length of time you spend in the pose each time (even if it's just by a few seconds). Some researchers suggest that squatting in the last few weeks of pregnancy can compromise your baby if he/she is in an Occiput Posterior position (their spine is to your spine). If there's any discomfort during this pose make sure to come out of it safely and be sure to discuss safe squatting with your care provider if you have concerns.
Written for: BabyOhm
Growing that “baby belly” can be a wonderful, joyous experience, but it is often mixed with challenges for the body and mind. Developing a consistent yoga practice during pregnancy is probably one of the most beneficial things you can do for your body & your baby in preparation for childbirth. By linking yoga postures with breath as well as the use of guided meditation, yoga during pregnancy can help bring awareness to the mind, body, & spirit, as well as help connect you to the spirit of your baby.
Prenatal Yoga is specifically designed to help alleviate the most common pregnancy ailments. The postures chosen by an experienced, educated teacher will assist in adapting to the many emotional & physical changes that occur during pregnancy. Specific postures help strengthen & tone the uterus and pelvic muscles, they improve circulation in the legs & pelvic area, they aid in digestion, exercise the spine, and increase overall comfort during pregnancy. Yoga can also help alleviate other discomforts such as low back pain, sciatica, swelling, varicose veins, and nausea.
There are many things to consider when choosing a prenatal yoga class. First, make sure that the teacher has specialized training in prenatal yoga & knows the modifications that are involved in teaching such a class. Let your teacher know what trimester you're in because some poses are acceptable & safe for the 1st trimester, that shouldn't be attempted in the 3rd. Second, find a studio that is calm & relaxing, free of any bothersome smells (incense, strong essential oils, etc) that could induce nausea. Third, make sure the studio has lots of props to assist in your practice (blankets, bolsters, blocks, etc) because the further along you get in your pregnancy the more awkward your practice may become. By using blocks to assist you into the postures it will allow you to relax further and therefore get the most benefit. Finally, if you've had a consistent yoga practice before pregnancy, recognize & accept the fact that your practice may change. Be accepting of the beautiful changes your body is withstanding and keep an open mind. Here are some general guidelines for Prenatal Yoga:
-Pregnancy is not the time to start an inversion practice. Poses where the legs are above the head are not suitable for pregnancy (with the exception of “legs-up-the-wall” which should be limited to a few minutes after the 1st trimester.
-Steer clear of positions that engage, stretch, or twist the abdominal muscles too much. Gentle twists are fine during pregnancy, but generally try to twist from the shoulders instead of the belly. There are safe ways to tone the abdominals without doing extreme core work. Avoid overstretching the belly in intense back-bends.
-Avoid “hot yoga” or Bikram classes. Pregnancy already makes a woman's body run a degree or two hotter and encouraging further heat could be dangerous for mom and baby.
-After the 1st trimester limit back-lying poses to a few minutes or less. If you remain on your back for longer, tune into your body and recognize any “worrisome” symptoms of blood restriction to the heart (ie: dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea) and turn onto one side if needed or ask your instructor for modifications.
Yoga is truly an ideal form of exercise for pregnant women. If practiced mindfully, it can increase flexibility, strength, circulation, & balance and has the potential to positively impact the birthing experience. Be sure to stay tuned for more information on delving deeper into a consistent yoga practice & assisting your body in opening up in preparation of the arrival of your baby.
Written for: BabyOhm
When thinking about the actual act of birthing a child, what muscles do you think we use the most? To me, the most obvious are the abdominals, the muscles of the pelvic floor, and the legs... well thank goodness for Warrior II, because that is just what this pose is for. In addition to strengthening these areas, it also increases the flexibility in the hips and groin, it increases stamina, and stretches the back and the legs.
Warrior II is probably one of the most well known poses in yoga and is one of the most beneficial for pregnancy, both for strengthening the body and alleviating prenatal discomforts. Done right, this pose can build up muscle in the inner thighs, help keep the abdominal muscles strong, can help maintain good posture, and can encourage you to engage and strengthen the pelvic floor.
To practice Warrior II safely, start standing with the feet at hip width apart, grounding the four corners of the feet into the earth. Once you feel grounded, keep the left foot planted and extend the right foot back, lining up the heel of the left foot with the arch of the right foot. Make sure your stance is wide enough so that when you bend the left knee, the knee does not go past the ankle (your left thigh and shin bones should create a 90˚ angle). Keep pressing into the inside of the left foot as you engage the inner thighs, let the left knee pivot toward the left pinky toe (we don't want the leg to fall toward the inside of the body because then we aren't getting the greatest benefit from this pose). Gently tuck the tailbone under so that the back is not swaying and gentle engage the pelvic floor (engage the muscles that stop the flow of urination). Keep the back straight and the chin parallel to the floor. Bring the arms up parallel to the floor and extend then straight out from the shoulders, you can then look over the left finger tips.
If you're able, try to hold the pose anywhere from 7-10 breaths. Let your breath move in and out of the nose and take some time to connect with your baby. If you find that you're struggling to keep your balance, do this pose close to the wall or you can straddle a folding chair or sit on a fitness ball with the legs in the same pose. Even if you use a prop to help support you, you'll still benefit from this pose.
To safely switch sides, turn the left toes to face the same as the right, then turn the right toes away and continue on the other side. Take your time, maintaining your balance and your focus.
Some important tips to remember when practicing Warrior II:
- Make sure the weight is even between the front and back foot.
- Relax the shoulders and the muscles in the face.
- Breathe deeply as this pose requires a good amount of energy.
- Notice that one side may feel different. Acknowledge that difference and examine why it might be so.
- Take your time to get in and out of the pose.
- Start off slow and gradually increase the time you spend in this pose.
Enjoy this quiet time as you prepare your body for childbirth and bond with your baby.