The now glowing Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge has given up her punishing exercise routine in wake of her pregnancy and is now practising yoga to help ensure a natural, drug free birth for the pending heir to the throne.
Why yoga during pregnancy?
Yoga is being hailed as THE form of exercise of pregnant women everywhere, allowing mother to remain fit and flexible while building a strong mind and body to prepare for childbirth. The focus of yoga during pregnancy works on relaxed stretching (asanas), yogic breathing (or pranayama) and deep relaxation or savasana. Yoga during pregnancy and also post-partum with baby can decrease the incidence of antenatal depression and has been proven to actively encourage mum and baby bonding, even while in utero.
Where do I start with prenatal yoga?
I highly recommend if you are completely new to yoga, then you should join a special prenatal yoga class with a properly qualified perinatal yoga teacher (200 hour yoga teaching qualification with specialist perinatal yoga training a minimum.) If you are a yoga newbie and do wish to practice yoga in the first trimester, look towards relaxing poses and deep breathing, focusing on meeting and getting to know your baby.
Here are some easy to try yoga postures to try at home. Remember that unless you are an experienced yoga practitioner with an existing practice, you should not undertake yoga until 14-16 weeks gestation.
Cat Curls (Bidalasana): Bidalasana helps relieve lower back pain and to release the length of the spine, a common problem during pregnancy.
- Get down on your hands and knees with hands placed directly under shoulders and knees under the hips.
- Inhale and lift your heart, stretch back through your tail and concave your spine.
- Exhale and roll your spine, lowering the head, pressing through the hands back to straight back.
Cat Curls in pregnancy differ from your normal cat curl as we don’t curl the abdomen towards the floor, after curling up we simply return to flat back or table top. Repeat following your breath – Inhale as your curl the spine up and exhale back to flat back.
Childs Pose (Balasana):
- From any kneeling position, sit your tail back toward your heels.
- Take the knees as far apart as you need to to make your bump comfortable.
- Sit back as far as is comfortable and rest your head toward the mat. If you can’t reach your head to the mat, rest your chin on your hands. You can stack your fists and rest your forehead there or use a block if you can’t quite get down. Otherwise, you can stretch your arms out long in front of you and lower your head all the way to the mat.
Avoid balasana if suffering from sciatica.
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana): Baddha Konasana is a classic pregnancy yoga posture and is excellent for helping to open up the hips and pelvis in preparation for birth. This is a posture that be practised at night while reading a book or watching TV and is especially important for the later stages of pregnancy in the third trimester.
- Sit on your mat with the soles of the feet together.
- Bring your heels as close to the groin as possible and pull the shoulder back and down away from the ears to straighten the spine.
- Hold the feet with the hands and (with a straight spine) begin to gently bend forwards from the hips – only as much as is comfortable – please do not squish your baby!
- Remember to breathe in and out through the nose.
Downward Facing Dog (AdhoMukkhaSvanasana): Downward dog can be practised with feet wider apart than normal to accommodate your bump, although ideally no further apart than hip width.
- Push into the palms of the hands and pull up on the hip bones.
- When and if ready, takes the heels to the mat. It’s fine to keep the knees bent when pregnant and focus on stretch from hands to hips, lengthening the back.
Only hold any inversion for 5 seconds during pregnancy and if you feel dizzy or nauseous at all, come back down onto the mat and into child pose and relax.
Yoga Squats (Malasana): Squats are great for building strength and stamina during pregnancy and in preparation for birth. Many women like to squat while birthing. As you get bigger in pregnancy, use props such as blocks, bolsters or a rolled up blanket to rest your bottom on. Focus on relaxing and letting your breath drop deeply into your belly.
- Stand facing the back of a chair with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed outward.
- Squat toward the floor as though you were going to sit down in a chair.
- Contract the abdominal muscles, lift your chest, and pull the shoulders back and down. Most of your weight should be toward your heels. This can be done against the wall for support.
Remember to avoid wide legged postures if suffering from pelvic girdle pain or PSD.
Cheryl MacDonald is the founder of YogaBellies which specializes in perinatal yoga and natural birth preparation. She created the Birth ROCKS natural birth preparation method and has trained over 70 YogaBellies teachers across the world and has been working with birthing women for almost ten years. She is mother of one lovely three year old buy and lives with her husband in the west end of Glasgow.