Whatever decision you make about how you want to give birth, yoga-with-weights exercises can gently help you prepare for the big event by making you stronger and increasing your ability to focus and concentrate. In addition, the exercises help you maintain a high energy level after the baby is born and help you get back into shape.
The exercises we present here are designed to help prepare pregnant women for labor and condition them mentally and emotionally for giving birth. Even if you walk for only a few minutes every day and adopt the breathing and mindfulness techniques you find in this book (see Chapters 4 and 5), you'll feel and look your best during and after your pregnancy. The yoga-with-weights exercises in this chapter help strengthen your back, make you comfortable while you're pregnant, and prepare your pelvic floor for a healthy delivery when the time comes to give birth. Use the last exercise as an affirmation to plant the seeds of well-being and make yours a joyous childbirth.
Before beginning any new exercise program, pregnant women should consult with a health professional or primary prenatal care physician, especially if they have pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, early contractions, or vaginal bleeding. The exercises we've designed for pregnant women are slow, comforting, and relaxing exercises. Nevertheless, exercising can pose risks to pregnant women, especially those in or beyond the sixth month of their pregnancies. In our experience, pregnant women who have permission from doctors to exercise have no trouble doing standing yoga-with-weights exercises and poses that require you to have the support of a chair. Starting at the sixth month, however, you may need to stop doing exercises that require lying on your belly or back. Twisting exercises also aren't recommended for pregnant women, so to be on the safe side, we don't offer twisting exercises in this chapter.
Yoga breathing and childbirth
Sherri Baptiste is the mother of four children. Here's what she says about yoga breathing and childbirth:
"I was always surprised to hear, while I was giving birth, that I have a high threshold for pain. What I really have is an understanding of the power of yoga breathing and an ability to harness that power. During labor, I was able to stay calm as the contractions intensified. I completed labor without the use of any drugs."
"Throughout labor, I felt that I had yoga breathing as a tool and a friend to help me in the challenge to stay calm and be present. Yoga breathing took the edge off as the waves of pain grew stronger and stronger with each contraction and the forces of labor took over. In each phase of delivery, the power of the breathing allowed me to draw my attention and all my strength into the moment and into what I was doing."
"I'm no hero or saint when it comes to pain. I felt it every inch of the way as those babies of mine — two daughters and two sons — worked their way out into the world. I was one of those women who didn't look forward to labor. I just wanted to get it over with as quickly, safely, and painlessly as possible — but without any drugs."
"I learned from giving birth that, realistically speaking, the mother is just along for the ride. You have little control over any of it. But you do have the power within yourself — breath by breath, moment by moment — to help nature direct your childbirth and support your ease and well-being. Yoga breathing can be your best friend, especially when you're giving birth. It can help you to better manage the pain of childbirth, harness the strength you need, and discover the timeless wisdom that every woman carries within herself to give birth and become a mother."
Exercise gently when you're pregnant. Notice any signals of discomfort, and stop doing an exercise if it doesn't feel right. You want your workout to gently relax your whole body, leaving you with a peaceful sense of well-being.
Be sure to read Chapter 4, which offers yoga breathing techniques. During childbirth, the power of the breathing (and the controlled state of mind that breathing can bring about) may help to slow down or speed up your labor as necessary. Breathing can help you smoothly ride out the waves of labor, which is why Lamaze and Bradley classes teach breathing techniques for expectant mothers. These breathing techniques train mothers to relax during delivery.
The purpose of Courage and Strength is to prepare you for childbirth by giving you the tools and techniques necessary to build your courage and strength. You have to remember that courage isn't the absence of fear, but the ability to proceed skillfully, moment by moment, with conviction and clarity.
This exercise helps train you to focus during childbirth, opening your heart and mind to the process at hand. It strengthens your back and spine and shows you how to open your pelvic area. It also strengthens your arms so you can carry your baby easily after you give birth. You're going to have to do plenty of multitasking: holding your baby, preparing the bottles, unloading grocery bags, and so on. It helps to have strong muscles!
Use the lightest hand weights you have for this exercise. Also, grab a blanket. Follow these steps to find your courage and strength:
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