Prenatal Yoga Blog – Written by Carla Collins:
My eldest daughter is 11 and I can scarcely believe that more than a decade has passed since I was pregnant with her. I clearly recall how terrifying, how difficult and strangely romantic it was. I used to envisage her and I hand in hand running through fields of blossoms, how I would raise her organically and we would dance in the light of the moon. A far cry from reality. I had her birth carefully mapped out, my husband and the midwife would gather round the birthing bath and out would pop my perfect child, holistically and naturally to the sound of soothing music. Instead I had her via emergency c section after 22 hours of medication free labour.
Now I am not suggesting you need to opt for a drug free birth or a natural one. By all means take the drugs! The only reason I mention this is to illuminate the power of focused breath. I managed so many hours of labour because I knew how to breathe fully and with awareness, I knew how to breathe through the pain and manage the contractions and I would breathe great big yogic breathes. I had done a few years of yoga and when I fell pregnant I found myself a prenatal yoga class so I was both mentally and physically prepared for this journey of birth. It enabled me to meet each contraction with breath and movement (a circular motion of the hips on a birthing ball) and to go with the flow when the whole plan changed. And when you have children the plan is constantly changing. So we breathe and move through the changes.
Pregnancy yoga has numerous benefits starting with breath but far from ending there. Breath awareness of course is hugely beneficial and not only nourishes you your growing child but it helps with pain alleviation and uterine contractions in labour. Yoga will also strengthen your pelvic floor which will not only support the pressure of your growing belly but make for swifter recovery whether you ease babe out into the world or require a c-section. Yoga strengthens your body preparing it for the endurance of birth and motherhood but it also nurtures a robust spirit which you will most certainly require when the going gets tough. It works with the nervous system and thus aids in easing your reaction to stress and anxiety making labour in all its variables easier to manage. Prenatal classes have the added benefit of creating a sisterhood with all the future moms who you will soon call friends. I am still in contact with a couple of women from my prenatal yoga days and we have watched each other’s children grow even from afar.
So how does this magical practise manage to deliver on such lofty promises? Yoga is an ancient mindfulness practise which links mind and body via breath. Yoga literally means to “Yoke” to “join” or “unite. In pregnancy this union of mind/body/breath gains increased importance as your body grows your baby. The way you breath, what you eat, how you move and how you feel, all greatly impact the health of your child and so there is an increased focus on your wellbeing . Apart from the physical benefits (and there are many) yoga helps you to cultivate patience and an ability to surrender to the process of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.
I would certainly suggest that you find a prenatal class with a good teacher who is versed and sensitive to the needs of pregnant women. However to add to your practise, in the coming months we will feature poses and other elements of yoga on this blog.
To birth this blog I have chosen the cat/cow asana (pose) combination for the dual purpose of it being a wonderful way to freely move the spine during pregnancy and is also a suggested posture for labour.
Be on all fours , hands and knees. Ensure your hands are shoulder distance apart, stacking wrists, elbows and shoulders, your knees are hip distance apart with the feet neither falling in nor out. Have your spine in a neutral position.
As you exhale tuck your chin slightly press into your hands and shins and round into the spine taking your gaze to your belly. (cat)
As you inhale draw shoulder blades back onto the spine press your chest forward and allow your sitting bones to lift towards the ceiling. Look straight ahead. (cow) Move slowly and mindfully between these two poses allowing the inhalation and exhalation to move you.
Carla is a Yoga teacher in Hout Bay. She teaches at the Wellness Connection and privately.
For more information contact Catherine at The Wellness Connection or Carla at email@example.com