It's a month after the birth of my son. It is also 5am after the 4th feed of the night and time to share how yoga helps pregnancy in unexpected ways! My yoga practice has changed and deepened in so many ways- for all you yoga quota mamas out there and pregnancy-curious yogis please read this blog to see what to expect (from your yoga practice) when expecting!
Firstly, the obvious effects- The physical changes- you can't get round it! Hatha physical yoga is going to be different now!
A proficient hand stander I was not before hand- but I am really not now! Check out this astounding lady on pinterest- I think she must be a gymnast! But this is NOT RECOMMENDED and for all us mere mortal yogis we need to follow these physical rules:
Abs - limited - Take cobra and lying on your stomach. This is a pose that is out. The baby is there and you don't want to squash him! Logical. Luckily this pose very quickly tells you not to go there! It was the most fabulous feeling in hospital post birth to lie on my stomach reading a newspaper!! Not preggers yet? Take advantage of cobra and up dog to your heart's content!!! You'll miss these simple classics!!!
But they do say to do some gentle ab work throughout. I did navasana until week 32 when I 'lost that pose' (every week I seemed to 'lose a pose' to pregnancy!!) and after 2 weeks my 'jelly belly' post partum was flat again...though very scarred! So I recommend doing some abs but you must must listen to your body and your GP of course.
Twists- no no no!!! Again this motion very quickly feels horrible, luckily but all closed twists where you tie up your body and your torso goes one way your pelvis legs the other are OUT. In the pregnancy you can break your waters and induce labour doing this. Which is not ideal in the middle of a yoga class or early. In fact one of my students (pre yoga quota) did this on purpose when she was late in order to induce labour. REALLY NOT RECOMMENDED!!! Not Just telling you it works so you don't want to do this!
Pelvic floor- yes oh yes!
Your pelvic floor now more than every needs to be strong for pushing and for quick recovery! I recommend a version of Ashwini mudra we do in yoga quota mama classes. What you do is imagine the anus, vagina and urethra as three storeys in a building- ground floor (bum), middle floor (vagina) and top floor (urethra). Now imagine you are in a lift going up and down this building, squeezing the muscle and breathing once at each 'storey'. Then you breathe twice then three times at each storey. It's tough especially when a yoga teacher like me makes you breath slowly and deeply!!! Luckily it is one of those 'honesty' poses because no one can tell if you're doing it or not. So you just have to be honest with yourself.
And for the more subtle things in yoga that transform pregnancy- Pranayama (breath work)
Even your breathing changes. Eventually you can't breath as deeply or as easily because you have feet wedged up in your diaphragm! However!!! In my mind this was the most helpful aspect of yoga for the pregnancy and labour. Pranayama chilled me out during pregnancy- there are emotional times during that 9 months! And it helped me breath through pain in labour. So I'd say, if nothing else, practice pranayama!!!
I'm still such a novice at meditation, it is a daily journey which is a LONG journey! I think my daily dose of headspace during pregnancy helped to keep me centred. And now during breastfeeding it helps me get over the initial latch soreness. Andy Pudicombe of headspace wrote a book for pregnancy using meditation. I found it so helpful- especially a comment about labour...The jist of this was that you need to think about when you take pain away from someone you end up feeling better yourself. For example, if some one you love has to carry their shopping into the house but it's painfully heavy- you do it for them- you take their pain and you feel good for it. If you take this analogy for what you do during labour, and you imagine all the pain you are feeling is just you taking pain away from baby (who is squishing most painfully to get out of you) then you'll feel better. This was quite a sustaining thought to meditate on. It may work for you!!
Enjoy the journey
So I've explained this concept before but there are 8 limbs to yoga (the poses breathing and meditation being three of them) but the first two are a bit like the Ten Commandments and ethical guidelines. One of which is to surrender the fruits of your labour to God. I translate this to 'Enjoy the journey'. Pregnancy really, really, really solidifies this!! No longer can you leap around like a yogi Instagram godess (not that you did before hand but the mere possibility may have driven you to try!!) you now have to settle into the baby steps of growing a baby and your practice in more subtle ways. I found pregnancy a wonderful reinforcement of this challenging yoga ethic!
Hope this helped the curious or the yoga quota mamas out there understand how yoga can transform your pregnancy.
Enjoy the pregnancy journey if you can and remember the time when you can't sleep (I'm writing this at 5pm, burping my son!) is far more rewarding than the previous 9 months of being kicked from the inside!!!