Friday, January 15, 2016

Prenatal Yoga: Preparing for Labor

I remember going in for delivery when having my first baby and being so nervous... Now even after having my third, I still get nervous!
Although I was bigger with this baby than the previous two, I still continued to practice yoga and get a little cardio in.
During delivery, it's important to focus on your breath and stay as calm as possible.  I have to admit, I get an epidural but I try to wait as long as I can.  I think this is where yoga has helped me immensely. I know how to control my breath and find that inner peace when things start to get tough.  If I had any advice for a woman who is nervous about delivery, it would be to practice either meditation or the breathing part of yoga.  
The most important part of doing any type of exercise while pregnant is LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.  I've found that this last pregnancy has been a little more uncomfortable than the previous two.  I felt more pressure down my legs and realized I need to do more modifications with my practice.  One pose I've really noticed this with is tree.  I still had good balance but noticed that putting my foot up to my thigh made the pressure in my legs worse.  So I had to let go of my ego and just place my foot on my calf.  I've also noticed that I get light headed when I'm in down dog for too long, so I have modified to only holding this pose for a breath or two before moving on. 

disclaimer** I debated adding pictures to this post because I am certainly not in the shape I want to be.  (I guess just having a baby does that to ya.)  But I decided that this is my reality right now, but hopefully not for too long!  Also, a post without pictures is just boring.** 

One exercise that is very beneficial for mommas getting ready to deliver is kegel exercises.  The great thing about this exercise is you can do it anywhere without people knowing.  Kegels help tone the pubococcygeal (PC) muscle, which is what you use to stop the flow of urine.  Practicing these exercises can help prevent hemorrhoids (and those hurt almost worse than delivery itself), decrease your pushing time, and help with a fast recovery time.  So how do you do these exercises?  Oh I thought you'd never ask ;)  

  • act like your trying to stop the flow of urine to isolate these muscles.  Now I've heard to not actually do these when your trying to pee because it can cause a UTI, but I've never had one before and will occasionally try it while going to the bathroom just to make sure I'm doing it right.  
  • squeeze for 5 seconds then release for 5 seconds.  And repeat!  Try up to 10 times, 3 times a day!
** As I was writing this article, I found that there is a lot of controversy in whether to practice kegal exercise while pregnant.  So please make sure you consult your doctor before doing any type of work out.

Childs Pose
This pose is great to help alleviate morning sickness, headaches, and promotes a restful sleep.  It is also said to aid in relieving hemorrhoids.  
  • Start on all 4s and slowly bring your hips back until they're resting on your heels.   Remember to allow your knees to spread out wider to make room for your growing belly.  You can keep your arms stretched out in front of you or bring them back by your heels.  your forehead can rest on the ground or be placed on a bolster.  Close your eyes and enjoy this pose for however long you like!

This pose has NEVER felt so good!  If I'm feeling any a little discomfort in my back, I make sure to do this pose a couple of times and feel so much better!
  • Start on all 4's.  Inhale as you take your gaze up to the ceiling, pointing your heart forward and your tailbone up.  Allow the belly to drop.
  • Exhale looking toward your belly button, separating the shoulder blades and point you tailbone toward the ground.  Think of a scared Halloween cat.  

Crescent lunge
This is a great pose to help strengthen your thighs and hip flexors.
  • Step your right foot back making sure to keep both hips pointing to the front of the room.  I like to start with my hand on my hips to make sure they didn't open up to the side.
  • Begin to lift arms up towards the ceiling and if it feels good to you, start taking your gaze up too.  Thinking of squeezing your hips together the whole time.

Down Dog
This pose helps to release the muscles around the uterus and abdomen.  It also helped to relieve some of the lower back and sciatic pain I had going on!
  • Start on all 4s and roll your toes underneath you.  Slowly lift your knees up off the ground, pressing your hips back.  Hold for as long as you want.  I found I started getting dizzy in this pose towards the end of my pregnancy so I could only hold for a couple of breaths.

Legs up the wall
This pose helps to relieve swelling of the feet and legs and also helps to prevent hemorrhoids.  It also helps to promote a restful nights sleep!

  • Take your time getting into this pose especially toward the end of your pregnancy.  Scoot close to a wall and place your hips as close to the wall as feels comfortable.  Then allow your legs to move up the wall as you take your arms out into a T position and just... RELAX

Sounds simple right?  But you would be surprised how many of us practice poor breathing techniques... Especially when we get nervous or anxious.  We start breathing through our mouth and feel like we can't get enough air.  
There are SO many benefits benefits of yogic breath.  Especially for labor.  Yogic breath can help you feel in control of your body and help manage pain.  It can also decrease fatigue and help you focus.
If you practice belly breathing BEFORE labor, it will be easier to remember and to think about it when the going gets tough.  Belly breathing can help calm you and help you tune in to that intense focus you might need.  
  • Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes so you can focus on your breath without letting outside influences distract you.  Inhale, breathing in through your nose, feeling the BELLY, not the chest expand.  Exhale, breathing out through your nose, feeling the belly pull in.  I like to count how long I'm inhaling and exhaling.  Start small, breathing in for 3 counts and exhaling for 3 counts.  See how long you can make your breaths.  Maybe 6,8, or even 10 seconds?  
After having your baby, make sure you give your body a chance to heal.  I know I feel ready to start working out at around 3 weeks but found with my first baby that this isn't smart to do for my body.  However, you can always practice breathing or meditating and a few small yoga moves until you get the okay from you doctor for a more vigorous workout.

What yoga moves do you feel has helped you during your pregnancy or delivery?   


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