Pregnancy Yoga or Prenatal yoga is becoming more and more popular for its holistic approach. It includes exercises for flexibility, meditation for relaxation and calm, and the breathing practices of pranayama for improved oxygen supply. Pregnancy Yoga benefits the mother and the baby by increasing the blood flow and there by oxygen and nutrition. All this ensures that fetus gets what is optimum for maximal physical and mental development.
Pregnancy Yoga techniques assist in easy birth, the infant makes a smooth entry into the world and grows up into a child less inhibited by stress and potential illness. The best part is that yoga can be done by almost anyone and no previous knowledge is required. If one wants to begin in pregnancy, it is important that you practice yoga under an expert teacher only after your obstetrician gives you the green signal.
Yoga is not just about exercises but is a way of life. There are five vital steps that have to be followed to obtain maximal benefit from Pregnancy Yoga :-
- Yoga exercises: Pregnancy Yoga exercises work smoothly on the pelvis and reproductive organs and increase the chances of natural child birth. They reduce pregnancy ailments like dyspepsia, heartburn, backache, leg oedema (swelling) and cramps. They also help in the supply of blood and nutrients to the developing fetus.
- Breathing or Pranayama: Breathing or pranayama techniques improve oxygen supply and provide a better life force to the mother and child.
- Mudras and Bandhas: Mudras and bandhas are Gestures and Locks that internalize the energy released by pranayama. The energy thus reaches the end organs through various pathways (nadis) instead of being wastefully dissipated externally. They have a powerful effect on the reproductive organs and the benefits during pregnancy are many.
- Meditation: Meditation helps remove psychological fears and stress so that you remain mentally peaceful. It also creates a subtle connection between you and your baby that is beyond explanation.
- Yoga Nidra/Deep Relaxation: It gives deep physical and mental relaxation.
Pregnancy Yoga Asanas (Yoga Exercises)
If practiced regularly Pregnancy Yoga Asanas :
- Relieve backache, heartburn, swelling of feet and leg cramps
- Help maintain body shape and flexibility
- Prepare the body for a smooth and natural childbirth
- Improve physical and mental health of the fetus
- Help in maintaining adequate weight gain
- Help return to the pre-pregnant state faster.
Yoga Poses For Pregnancy
Some of the asanas that can be preformed during pregnancy are:
Half Butterfly Pose (Ardh Titali Asana)
Sit with legs out stretched. Bend the right leg and place the right foot as far up on the left thigh as possible. Place the right hand on top of the bent right knee. Hold the toes of the right foot with the left hand. While breathing in, gently move the right knee up towards the chest. Breathing out, gently push the knee down and try to touch the floor. Keep the back straight and avoid straining. Repeat with left leg. Slowly practice about ten up and down movements with each leg. This Pregnancy Yoga asana loosens hip and knee joints.
Sit with legs outstretched. Bend the knees, bring the soles of the feet together and draw them as close to the body as possible. Clasp the feet with both hands and gently bounce the knees up and down. Repeat 20-30 times, straighten legs and relax. This Pregnancy Yoga asana relieve tension from inner thigh muscles.
Sleeping Abdominal Stretch Pose (Supta Udarakarshanasan Asana)
Lie in the back. Interlock fingers of both hands and place hands beneath the head. Bend knees, keeping the soles of your feet on the floor. While breathing out, lower the legs towards the right, trying to touch the knees on the floor. At the same time move the head towards the left, giving an uniform twisting stretch to the entire spine. Repeat on the other side by bending legs towards the left and head towards the right. This Pregnancy Yoga asana improves digestion and relieves stiffness of the spine.
Churning The Mill Pose (Chakki Chalan Asana)
Sit with legs stretched out in front of the body about one foot apart. Interlock fingers of both hands and hold the arms out straight in front of the chest. Make wide circular movements 10 times in each direction. This Pregnancy Yoga asana tones up the pelvic organs.
Chopping Wood Pose (Kashta Takshan Asana)
Squat with feet flat on the ground and slightly apart. Interlock fingers of both hands, straighten your arms and keep them between the knees. Then raise arms high behind the head, stretching the spine upwards and look up. Make a downward stroke as if chopping wood. Repeat 5-10 times. This Pregnancy Yoga asana loosens the pelvic girdle and tones the pelvic muscles.
Cat Pose (Marjari Asana)
Kneel on all fours. While inhaling raise the head and depress the spine so that the back becomes concave. Exhale while lowering the head till it is between the arms, facing the thighs and hump the spine. Repeat 5-10 times. Be careful not to strain yourself. This Pregnancy Yoga asana improves flexibility of the neck, shoulders and spine.
Waist Rotating Pose (Kati Chakrasan Asana)
Stand with the feet about half a meter apart and the arms by the sides. Inhale while raising the arms to shoulder level. Exhale and while smoothly twisting the body to the left, bring the right hand to left shoulder and wrap the left arm around the back looking over the left shoulder. Repeat in the opposite direction. Do 5-10 rounds. This Pregnancy Yoga asana tones the waist, back, hips and relieves physical and mental tension.
Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasan)
Kneel on the floor. Bring big toes together and separate the heels. Lower the buttocks onto the inside surface of the feet with heels touching the side of the hips. Place hands on knees, palms down. Keep back and head straight. There is an enhancement of digestive functions and a decrease in hyper acidity thanks to this Pregnancy Yoga asana.
Spine Bending Pose (Meru Akarshanasan)
Lie on our right side with the left leg on the right leg. Bend your right arm and by placing the elbow on the floor support the head on right palm. Place your left arm on the left thigh. Raise the left leg as high as possible, slide the left hand to the foot and grasp the big toe if possible. Repeat on the other side. This Pregnancy Yoga asana relaxes the hamstring, inner thigh and abdominal muscles while stretching the muscles of the sides making them strong and flexible.
Bend the right leg up and place the foot overhanging the left knee. Hold the right toes with the left hand. Steady the right ankle with the right hand and move the ankle around in a large circle. Do 10 rotations in each direction. Repeat with other ankle. This Pregnancy Yoga asana is especially useful in pregnancy oedema and cramping.
Raise the arms up and place fingers on both shoulders. Slowly rotate both arms together in large circles five times in each direction. This improves circulation and flexibility in the shoulders and upper back relieves neck tension and encourages better breathing. Post-natally this asana stimulates the breasts to function properly.
Pranayama is a disciplined yogic breathing practice,in which the breathing process is consciously regulated. It induces a feeling of well-being,improves emotional stability, helps treat insomnia and breathlessness, increases stamina and vitality and decreases the distress and fatigue of labor. The various methods of pranayama are best learnt from a yoga teacher.
Mudras and bandhas
In order to perform pranayama it is necessary to know something about mudras , and bandhas. The Sanskrit word mudra means a seal or a lock. It denotes positions which close the body apertures, and where the fingers are held together in special gestures.
Bandha means bondage or joining together where by certain parts of the body are gripped, contracted and controlled. Mudras and bandhas channelize the energy (prana) generated by pranayama to the right places for proper utilization and do not allow its external dissipation. Those that can and should be done during pregnancy will be taught by your yoga teacher who will also be in a position to see if they are being performed correctly.
Meditation is concentrating effortlessly at one point without being distracted by external stimuli. It takes a lot of time and determination and if your attention gets diverted do not get discouraged.Gently bring it back to your point of focus – be it a flower or a candle flame. Use a mantra or chant that is repeated silently or loudly to obtain inner silence and peace. Meditation helps restore physical and mental equilibrium and induces a deep sense of rejuvenation and relaxation.Meditate regularly preferably at the same time every day (early morning is best). Begin by meditating for five to 10 minutes initially and extend the time gradually as per your need and capacity.
Yoga-nidra is a method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. It is important to remain awake and aware, for this is the ideal time to make a sankalp a – resolve. You can do this by making a “auto-suggestion” –short, positive and precise statements about what you want to achieve. They should be easy to memorize and repeat. For example,“I will have an easy delivery,” “I will be a good mother,” etc. These auto-suggestions sink easily into the subconscious of a relaxed mind which in turn directs the conscious mind to transform positive thoughts into reality.
Yoga soothes the nerves, calms the mind and improves physical health and stamina. As pregnancy is one of the most trying periods in a woman’s life, Pregnancy yoga is a wonderfully natural way of coping with it. There are trained experts who conduct yoga classes for pregnant women. It is always better to attend classes than learning from books or videos, etc. Ensure the authenticity of the yoga expert and take your obstetrician’s permission before performing Pregnancy Yoga.