Photo courtesy of Kim Blake Photography:

Prenatal Yoga is a great practice for supporting physical fitness, easing discomforts, and encouraging mental and emotional balance during pregnancy.  It can help mothers-to-be connect with their bodies and their babies and also provides movements, relaxation, and awareness that can be utilized in labor and beyond.  Staying appropriately active during pregnancy is important for health, building strength and stamina for labor and birth, and for supporting postpartum adjustment.

Physical activity of any kind should be modified to your specific needs in pregnancy and it is important not to overdo it.  Please discuss your physical activity (including yoga practice) with your doctor or midwife.

Butterfly Pose: Open the Hips
Butterfly pose (baddha konasana) is a wonderful stretch for the hips and groin muscles. For many women who feel aching in the hips, this can be a comfortable position to sit in even when not doing yoga.

Cat-Cow: Keep the Back Happy
Cat-cow strengthens and relaxes the lower back, improves circulation, and provides a nice release for the belly. It also encourages optimal fetal positioning when used regularly in the later weeks of pregnancy.  Leita D.,a mother who used Prenatal Yoga,  says, “I liked cow posture (like in cat-cow) because my belly was able to just hang, and I felt a relief of pressure – especially during the last stretch. I would often get into cow position at home simply for the comfort it provided.”

One caution in the “cow” posture: be careful not to over-arch the back, which is common in pregnancy and can sometimes be exaggerated in this posture.

Squatting: Strength & Birth Preparation
While it has been lost in many birth settings in Western culture, squatting has actually been used by birthing women since the beginning of time.  Squatting opens the pelvic area by as much as 25 percent, utilizes gravity, and often provides an ideal angle for the baby’s descent.  Even if it is not used in birth, squatting is wonderful for building strength and stretching the muscles of the back and hips.  Use it throughout pregnancy (and in labor and birth if you wish!) but avoid squatting in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy if the baby’s position is breech or unknown.

Arm Swings: For Endurance
There are numerous variations of arm swings that can be used to build stamina and endurance, and develop the mind’s capacity to “keep up.”  Heather L., who practiced Prenatal Yoga throughout her pregnancy, says these arm exercises gave her that kind of mental state during labor. She says, “I also notice this now, postpartum.  I gave birth at home in the water, and I really felt a true connection between being in the moment in yoga, and being in the moment in birthing.”  For examples of arm swings, see page 35 of the book Bountiful Beautiful Blissful or the last two exercises of the Strengthening the Aura set in Sadhana Guidelines.

Read more information in the post Prenatal Yoga: Approaches for Conscious Pregnancy. For other fabulous Prenatal Yoga ideas see Bountiful Beautiful Blissful by Gurmukh or Conscious Pregnancy  Yoga Manual by Tarn Taran K. Khalsa.  And be sure to check out Snatam Kaur‘s new CD, Divine Birth, for an inspiring soundtrack for pregnancy and birth.

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