May 29, 2008

Pre-Natal Yoga: An Easy Sequence to Do at Home.

Practicing yoga during pregnancy is a deeply effective way to empower yourself for labor, giving birth and mothering. Got back pain? Sore muscles from carrying all that extra weight? A simple morning yoga practice will go a long way toward sorting you out all day long.

Starting yoga for the first time while you are pregnant? You may want to check with your doctor or midwife to see when it is ideal to start (it’s never too late to start!). The general rules for prenatal yoga are not to hold the postures for too long, not to overheat and—most importantly—to listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. This is a time for intuition, deep listening and honoring this beautiful life—yours, and the one that is blossoming inside you.

Alison Litchfield teaches at the Yoga Workshop and Om Time in Boulder, Colorado. eKo eco yoga mat courtesy: manduka.com

Virasana (Hero Pose) > Kneel on folded blanket with knees together, feet pointing straight back, slightly wider than hips. Discomfort in knees? Place a blanket or block under buttocks. Extend arms in front of you and interlace fingers. Stretch arms overhead, palms facing the ceiling. Without tensing shoulders, press palms toward ceiling as you release sitting bones to earth. Hold for 20 seconds, then release arms down. Repeat two or three times. A great way to create more space for the baby, this pose also helps to relieve heartburn.

Malasana (Squatting) > Stand with feet wider than your hips. You can place a folded blanket under your heels for support. Keep feet parallel or turn them slightly out if it is more comfortable. Bend knees and come to a squat, bringing hands together at heart. Keep the chest opening and knees widening. This pose helps increase mobility of pelvic and hip joints, and is a natural position for giving birth. If you are past 34 weeks and your baby is in the breech position, only squat halfway.

Utkatasana (Standing Squat) > Stand with feet 4 to 5 feet apart. Turn feet out making sure the knee tracks over the ankles. Bend arms and place right on top of left, placing palms together. Bend knees and keep inner thighs wide as you drop tailbone to the earth. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

Vrksasana (Tree Pose) > Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend right knee and place heel of foot on inner left thigh. Resist a little with your inner thigh to create stability and lift in the spine. Reach arms overhead. If it’s challenging for you to balance, use the wall for support. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds on both sides.

Wall Dog > Place hands shoulder-width apart on the wall. Walk feet back and slide hands down until legs and torso are at a right angle. Keep hands slightly higher than shoulders and armpits lifted. Melt heart and let belly release to the floor while reaching sitting bones back behind you. Keep spine elongated as you relax into breath. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) > You can do this at the wall or in the middle of the room—whatever feels better to you. Take your feet 4 to 5 feet apart. Turn front foot straight out, and back foot in slightly. Place a block on outside of front foot. Inhale and spread arms wide; exhale and extend arm as you come over the front leg, placing hand on block. Spread feet and toes into earth and soften belly as you elongate spine. Hold 20-30 seconds on each side. You can repeat both sides.

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) > Bring mat to wall. Take feet 4 to 5 feet apart. Come back into triangle pose using a block on outside of foot. From there, bend front knee and bring back foot in. Take block in front of little toe and stand on front leg as you lift back leg toward ceiling. Use wall for support and let your belly relax. Look up toward ceiling and breathe. Hold 20 to
30 seconds and then repeat both sides.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) > Use wall or sit on a blanket. Bring soles of feet together and lift spine tall. Allow inner thighs to spread wide as you lift crown of head toward the sky. You can practice kegels here to strengthen the pelvic floor.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle with support) > Use two bolsters, one the length of your spine and the other under top part of the bolster. Lie back with torso at a nice angle. Use another blanket under head for support. Before lying back, place strap around lower back and then up around feet. Buckle strap and adjust to comfort level. If you feel discomfort in hips or back, put support under both knees. Lie back, close eyes and enjoy this pose for up to 15 minutes a day!

Upavistha Konasana (Wide Angle Seated Pose) > Sit on a blanket or two, on your mat or against the wall. Place hands just behind you and lift up through the side body. Allow spine to elongate. Breathe and visualize creating more space for the baby in your womb. Hold
for one to three minutes.

Savasana (Corpse Pose) > From the fourth month on, it is recommended to lie on your side using bolsters for support. Place one bolster between knees and one under head. You can also have one in front to support your arms. Rest here and remain in this pose as long as you like. Focus your attention on your breath, breathing into your belly and sending your baby unconditional love. When you come out, use arms for support and sit in an comfortable posture for a minute or two, sending blessings to you
and your baby!


THE POINT>> Help yourself so you can
help others.

PROPS>> Meditation cushion, biodegradable/non-P.V.C. yoga mat.

CLOSE THE DOOR>> Turn off that cell phone. Forget about coffee or laundry or work or girls or he said, she said or breakfast or children. Just give yourself these 10 minutes.

MEDITATE>> With eyes open to the world around you, take an uplifted yet relaxed posture—Indian-style if possible (use a cushion if knees are higher than hips, or a chair if need be). Bring attention to outbreath as it goes out. When you find yourself wandering off in thought, come back gently by silently intoning “thinking” and returning attention to the breath for five minutes. End by dedicating actions
to the benefit of others, then bowing
(a traditional sign of appreciation).

UJJAYI BREATH>> In Sanskrit, ujjayi means “victorious”—and is designed to build and maintain our internal heat, or tapas. (We don’t need no externally-heated yoga). Open your mouth and make a “haaaa” sound. Now, close mouth and make same sound. This is ujjayi breath. Keep it steady and rhythmic throughout your practice—it will help guide and open your movements.

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