& She Moves: Prenatal Yoga
Learning proper breathing mechanics is so important as we prepare for birth. Working with the natural breathing pattern of our body allows our core muscles to work optimally which reduces excessive pressure on our abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and helps helps the pelvic floor muscles be more pliable for the birthing process. This is a great breathing pattern to use during labor as your pelvic floor muscles need to relax in order for your baby to pass through the vaginal canal smoothly.
- Try this exercise sitting on a ball if you have one in order for you to get some tactile feedback.
- Wrap your hands around your ribcage, just below your arm pits. Apply a little pressure into your body with your hands. On the inhale feel your ribcage expand from side to side and front to back and on the exhale allow your ribs to relax back. With each inhale your pelvic floor muscles naturally relax, so as you breath in and feel the ribs expand imagine your pelvic floor muscles, soften and relax. On the exhale allow your pelvic floor to naturally draw back up. Don't think of squeezing or forcing it but just imagine the muscles drawing upward.
ROLLING WITH BALLS:
This feels great if you are experiencing sore and tight muscles in the feet. Which is very common during pregnancy. During labor this can help to release tension in your hips as there is a line of fascia that connects your feet to your hips. Ball work, especially on the feet, encourages sensory awareness and can help you feel present and in your body. Try rolling the ball on the arch of your foot you can move forward, back and side to side. You can also take the ball against the wall and massage different areas of your back, between your shoulder blades, your lower back and your sacrum.
RECLINING BOUND ANGLE POSE:
This is a great pose to help release tension in the inner and outer hip as well as pelvic floor. This can be a good position to practice core breath in and helps to calm the nervous system. Could be helpful if labor is stalled or in the early stages of labor.
- Prop yourself up with either a bolster or a few blankets and pillows. Check that your whole spine is supported on what your lying back on. Bring your feet together and allow your knees to open to the side. Place a yoga block or a few books under your knees so the muscles around your hips can really relax.
- Modification: Make this posture a bit more active by adding in some upper body movement. Reach your arms up to the sky and as you inhale, open your arms out wide. Think of reaching your elbows to the wall on either side of you and feel a stretch across the front of your chest. On the exhale wrap your arms around you and give yourself a hug. Keep moving your arms with each inhale and exhale. *See image below.
Another great position to practice the core breath in. This pose encourages optimal length of the pelvic floor muscles and stretches the muscles of the back. This can be helpful in labor if you are experiencing back labor, someone can easily apply pressure to your lower back and hips to relieve some discomfort. During labor you can try a similar version resting your upper body on a birthing ball.
- Place the bolster in front of you and take your knees wide, bring the bolster in front of your belly and slowly lower yourself on top. Let your head rest to one side and you can wrap your hands around the front of the bolster or rest them on the ground. As you inhale feel your ribcage expand side to side and front to back. Feel for your sitting bones (the bone in the middle of your bum cheeks) moving away from each other on each inhale. As you exhale, your pelvic floor gently draws upward and your ribs relax.
This stretch helps to release tension in the psoas (a muscle that runs across your hip) and can affect the placement of your pelvis and ribcage. This misalignment can affect the positioning of the baby and contributes to excessive pressure on the pelvic floor and abomidnal muscles.
- Come into a kneeling lunge position with your front foot wide enough to have space for your belly and your front heel under your knee. You can rest your hands on your thigh or down onto yoga blocks or a stack of books. Check that your hips feel level and your bum tucks under slightly. Begin to shift your pelvis forward until you feel a stretch across the front of the hip. Move back and forth a few times, keeping the movement fairly small and then allow your pelvis to drop down toward the ground creating a deeper stretch sensation, keep encouraging a little tuck of your bum and keep the front heel under the front knee. You can create a bit more space by inching your back knee back a bit.
Creating pelvic stability and support is just as important as releasing tension. Lunges can be a gbreat exercise to help you create strength. If you’re feeling shaky or having trouble with your balance hold onto a wall or the back of a chair. An alternative to this exercise would be a stationary squat if you’re feeling too much pressure on your knees or you’re experiencing pelvic pain.
- Step one foot back, your feet should be at least hip width apart or more to help with balance. Lift the back heel away from the ground and think of driving the front foot down into the ground. As you inhale lower the back knee down toward the ground, it definitely does not have to touch. Press into the front foot firmly as you exhale and straighten your legs. For a whole body exercise use a therapy band and pull it apart as you come up to standing. This will stretch the chest muscles and strengthen your upper back.
Strengthens obliques as well as the muscles around the shoulders to help with good upper body alignment. During pregnancy it is common to lift our ribcage to create space for our growing baby but this lifting action can contribute to overstretching and the overseparation of the abdmoninal muscles.
- Come onto your side and bend both knees so they stack on top of each other. Align your heels, bum, hips and shoulders in one line. Place your bottom elbow underneath your shoulde and let your top arm rest on your hip. As you inhale allow your ribs to drop toward the ground and on the exhale press into your bottom arm and lift your ribs away from the floor. Let your top arm reach overhead and feel for a nice stretch on the top side of your body.
- Take a minute to stretch out after your perform this exercise by reaching over toward your feet and breathing into the top side of your body. Let your neck and shoulder relax and relax your chest a bit so your upper body rounders slightly.
MODIFIED DOWNWARD DOG:
This is a great stretch for the whole back line of your body. Tension in the back of the legs can cause the pelvis to become misaligned creating excessive tension and pressure on the pelvic floor. This is a great pose to draw on into labor especially if you’re experiencing back labor. Try swaying your hips side to side to help encourage baby to move through the pelvic opening.
- Try this either holding onto a partner, the wall or even the kitchen counter or a chair.
- Walk your feet back so they stack under your hips. Think of lifting your bum up toward the ceiling to encourage optimal length of the pelvic floor.
- Keep your spine long so only hinge as far forward as you can without your back rounding. Think of keeping your ribs lifted up toward you, not dropping or sinking toward the floor.
MINDFULNESS | MEDITATION:
Take a few minutes either after your movement practice or throughout your day to connect inward to yourself and your baby. A simple practice is to bring your awareness to your breath and if your mind starts to wander, without any judgement say “thinking” and guide your awareness back to your breath. Be gentle with yourself, this is a practice and it’s in these moments that we cultivate self compassion instead of judgement, a perfect lesson to learn as you move toward motherhood!