During pregnancy, it’s important to stay in shape and prepare your body for labor and birthing your baby. However, doctors often limit the things women can do during pregnancy for safety reasons. Yoga is a great, gentle way to get your body balanced and ready for bringing your child into the world!
There are three main poses taught during prenatal yoga that can aid you in having a quicker and more functional birth. In Columbia, there are not many prenatal yoga classes offered so these poses can be practiced at home during any trimester of pregnancy (see note about squatting for exceptions to this!). Movement during labor facilitates a quicker, less painful labor by relaxing the body and also helping the baby move into an optimal fetal position. Grab your yoga mat and let’s begin!
1. Poses on All 4’s
Come down onto your hands and knees. Hands and wrists are directly beneath your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and engage your arms so you don’t collapse into your shoulders. Knees are directly beneath your hips. If the knees are sensitive, place a blanket under them.
Begin to move through cat/cow. Inhale into cow where you will broaden through your collar bones, tilt your tailbone upward, and gently sway your belly down (without over arching your back). Exhale into cat, drawing your chin to chest, belly button draws up towards the spine, tuck your tailbone down, let your neck relax. Continue to move through this pose with your breath. This pose helps warm up the spine and relieves tension in the neck and back.
Other poses on all fours can be body circles, hip sways, and puppy pose.
2. Wide Legged Forward Fold
Walk your feet off your mat about 6-8 inches. Slightly turn your toes in. Gently bend forward and bring your hands down to the floor, blocks, or stacked books. Breathe into this fold as you relax your neck and upper back.
This pose spreads your hip bones and helps balance your pelvis. It also opens the pelvic outlet and spreads the pelvic floor which will need elasticity in order to birth your baby. Another benefit is that it can relieve pressure on the lower back. This posture can also be done with your arms against the wall and a partner squeezing your hips or rolling massage balls up and down your spine.
Squatting is a wonderful position to labor and birth your baby in as it opens the pelvic outlet 28% more than lying on your back. Many hospitals have squatting bars at the ends of the beds to use to help support you in this position (ask about this on your hospital tour!). This is a great pose to use but it can be challenging and tiring if you have not practiced it.
Before moving into a squat, warm up your calves, achilles, hips and ankles. Do this in anyway that feels good to you such as pressing your foot against the wall or a block to stretch your calf, ankle, and achilles. To move into the squat, walk your feet out slightly wider than your hips. Gently lean forward and bring your hands on blocks, books, or the floor if you can reach. Then slowly rock your hips side to side and move into the squatting position. If your heels come off the floor, place a rolled blanket underneath them for stability. Once you feel stable your can bring your elbows between your knees and hands to heart center. Try to keep your feet as parallel as possible as it opens the pelvic outlet more for baby to come out.
You can also do squats supported on blocks/books. Another variation is doing squats with a partner. Mom moves up and down in a squatting position while partner supports her by holding on to her elbows and arms.
***Avoid unsupported squatting if baby is breech, you have placenta previa, or hemorrhoids!***
Kyla Saphir teaches Prenatal Yoga at the Downtown YMCA and Postnatal Yoga at Rooted in Well Being in Rosewood. She is also certified as a Hypnomothering practitioner. When Kyla is not on her yoga mat, she is out exploring Columbia with her 2-year-old daughter.