Everyone will tell you I am the most unlikely person to get pregnant and have a baby. Not that I don’t like kids because I really do, but, more because I loved my career. It was wild and fun taking me away from home a lot and I had a wild and crazy social calendar to match. And then I grew up. Albeit later than most, I married eight days shy of my 35th birthday and was pregnant later that year. I had hit a point in my life where I needed to slow down and so I did an about face turn moved to a new country, married my love of eight years and became a domestic goddess all the while practicing my yoga.
There is a sense of calm and well- being that comes from my personal yoga practice. It’s the best medicine! Where ever I go I try to take in a yoga class. It’s my touch stone for finding familiarity in my ever changing life and so when I found my body changing with pregnancy I spent a lot of time on my yoga mat.
I will sing the praises of my yoga practice for helping ease me through the changes in my body as pregnancy took over. On days when I felt gawky and awkward, when growing pains and leg cramps battled to take over, I headed to my yoga mat. When I had a bad bubble of gas, stuck, causing acute pain leaving me breathless, I headed to my yoga mat. When I was over tired and teary, I headed to my yoga mat. When was happy and hyper, I headed to my yoga mat. You get the gist.
Early in my first trimester I didn’t do much of anything except carve a path between the fridge and the bathroom. Beginning in my 10th week of pregnancy I was guiding yoga eight to ten hours a week. I was my own Guinea Pig when it came to learning the body of a woman in the family way. How does the relaxin affect the joints and muscles? How does the balance shift as the body becomes more rotund? How does the baby react to certain postures? It was and is fascinating to me.
Photos courtesy of Chris Witzgall
On regular routine checkups with my midwives and in speaking a few friends who are labour and delivery nurses about my yoga practice they all lit up and said I would do great during labor advising me to keep up with my practice. The focus and breath work associated with labour stems from the yogic ujaii breath and meditation practices. These aspects of yoga after years of practice come second nature. They are the go to practice in times of stress, which, let’s face it – going to the hospital (I wanted home birth but they don’t allow it in NC) is stressful enough let alone bringing a human being into the world from your lady parts! Natural yes, thousands of woman have done it before you, but still stressful!
Yoga during pregnancy helps to alleviate bloating due to water retention, ward off miserable nights of discomfort while trying to get into a comfortable position in bed, creates space in the abdomen for the baby, can adjust the position of the baby in order to help get that limb out from under your rib cage or off your bladder! Yoga will help to keep abdominal strength up, strengthen back muscles (which is vital to supporting a baby belly) and help to pull the shoulders back. Women who carry babies and baby bellies are prone to rounding the shoulders causing muscle pain in the mid back and neck. A prenatal yoga class instructor will also likely lead a series of Kegel exercises which will help post labor. Breath work and focus are developed during a regular yoga practice which will carry a woman quite far during labor. I can attest to this!
If you are new to yoga, having never taken a yoga class before becoming pregnant and want to register for a prenatal yoga class – it’s best to find a certified instructor who is aware of the correct postures for pregnant women as there are some that should be avoided during early pregnancy. Some classes will ask that you begin after your 14th week of pregnancy and may even go so far as to ask for a doctor’s note prior to your participation.
Once practicing beware of bone alignment, muscles and joints – the relaxin has kicked in and you will find yourself to be more flexible than ever before. Be cautious not to over do your stretching, go slowly, savour your “you” time.
No excuses now! Don’t let your ugly bare feet and the fact that you have no pants that fit any longer stop you from heading out to try a pre-natal yoga class! Go get yourself a pedicure and some big girl pants and then hit up your local yoga studio for some quality mom and baby time. Get to know yourself, your body and your womb-mate before your big delivery day.