So Youre Having a Baby

Because yoga gets you moving, you'll be in better shape for the hard work of labor. Recovery and getting back to your prepregnancy shape will be easier, too. Taking a prenatal yoga class can be a lot of fun. You'll get to meet similarly minded pregnant women, you'll get qualified instruction on the safest and most beneficial yoga poses, and you may be more motivated to keep up your workout. Plus, in the last month or two when baby is getting big, he or she may be able to move more freely as you open your body in a stretch.

A few caveats are in order first, however. Take these precautions when practicing pregnancy yoga:

> Tell your doctor you are practicing yoga, and get permission for all poses you plan on practicing. If your doctor isn't familiar with yoga, bring pictures of the poses you'd like to do.

> Avoid extreme stretching positions and any position that puts pressure on or contracts your uterus. Skull-shining breath may be too jarring for baby, and full forward bends will probably be uncomfortable for you and baby, too.

> Avoid full backbends such as wheel pose and full forward bends such as head-to-knee poses—maintain that abdominal space. Give that little him or her a little room in there!

> Keep standing poses to a minimum, and never jump into them.

> Remember that your center of balance is completely different than it was. Be careful doing balance poses. If you fall, the baby is well-cushioned in your uterus, but you could injure yourself.

> Don't lie on your stomach for any pose.

> After the twentieth week, don't lie on your back for any pose (which will probably start to become uncomfortable, anyway). The weight of the baby can hinder your blood flow.

Wise Yogi Tells Us

After the twentieth week, practice shavasana with lots of pillows, lying on your left side instead of your back.

The following are suggestions only. If any pose feels uncomfortable or strenuous, stop at once. If you experience dizziness, sudden swelling, extreme shortness of breath, or vaginal bleeding, see your doctor immediately. Your best approach to these postures is to listen to your body and to never take it where it doesn't want to g°.

> Tadasana, mountain pose (Chapter 13). Focus on tilting your lower back in to prevent the weight of the baby from pressing against your lumbar. Bend your knees slightly and place your hands on top of your knees. Tighten your thigh muscles and watch your kneecaps lift up. Straighten your legs and try to lift your kneecaps.

The added weight of pregnancy can create a condition called "lordosis," a swayback effect. Practice tadasana, the mountain pose, and concentrate on maintaining the proper spinal and pelvic alignment.

> Shavasana, corpse pose (Chapter 19). After your twentieth week, practice shavasana lying on your left side. A pillow for your head and pillows between your knees can take pressure of your neck, lower back, and hips, which may all be suffering from the change in your center of gravity.

After the twentieth week of pregnancy, practice shavasana by lying on your left side.

> Hero pose (Chapter 17). Sitting in this pose helps to reduce swelling in your ankles, reduces fatigue, and improves circulation in your legs. Place a stack of pillows behind you and lean back. Bring your hands alongside your body to push yourself back up.

> Child's pose (Chapter 18, "Take the Forward Path"). Support your body with a stack of pillows placed between your knees, or stand on your knees and cross your arms over the back of a chair and lean forward. You might want a pillow or blanket under your knees as well, to protect and cushion them.

A variation of the child's pose during pregnancy.

> Simple hamstring stretches. Your hamstrings are the tendons at the back of your knee. Hamstring stretches relieve pressure on your lower back. Be gentle when you stretch.

Ouch!

At the first sign of leg cramps (common in pregnancy), draw your toes upward and push out your heel. Practice this movement so you can be ready to perform it in a split second when a leg cramp wakes you up in the middle of the night.

> Twisting poses should be performed gently.

When not pregnant, the focus should be on twisting the entire spine. During pregnancy, however, most of your twisting will be in your neck, shoulders, and head. Lift your spine as you inhale, twist as you exhale.

Ouch!

At the first sign of leg cramps (common in pregnancy), draw your toes upward and push out your heel. Practice this movement so you can be ready to perform it in a split second when a leg cramp wakes you up in the middle of the night.

> Use chairs for support whenever you can. For example, try the warrior 2 pose or side angle stretch (Chapter 13) seated on the center of a chair. It is more freeing and takes the weight off your legs.

The side angle stretch variation during pregnancy.

> Another way to use a chair is to try the downward facing dog while standing and using the back of the chair for support. What a wonderful stretch and release for the spine! Holding on to the chair takes some of the pressure off the legs in this pose. You'll feel freer, and so will your little passenger.

The downward facing dog variation during pregnancy. If you don't have a steady, firm chair to use, place your hands against a wall and stretch this way.

Learn some inspirational mantras to practice during childbirth. They'll be much more productive than yelling and swearing at your partner, midwife, or doctor. Let your baby experience the transcendent vibrations of a mantra. If nothing else, transform your "AAAAHHHHHHH!" into "AAAAUUUUMMMM!" The butterfly pose can help you relax, open your hips, and prepare for labor. If your hip joints are tight, sit supported with a pillow under each knee. Hold the position only as long as it is comfortable. Move into an easy pose and rest if you need to.

If the butterfly pose is comfortable for you, you might want to try this more advanced squatting pose. Stack the pillows as high on the floor as you need to, to reduce stress on your joints and muscles. When you are ready, return to a seated meditative position and breathe deeply and fully.

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