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Posts Tagged with: prenatal yoga

How Yoga Can Help Prepare Your Pelvis for Labor

catcow pose prenatal yoga

When you are pregnant, it seems like there is a never ending to-do list of things to get ready for baby; suddenly you find yourself spending many evenings lost in an internet hole researching something you never thought about before such as the most life-like nipple for a bottle, or some kind of weird mobile made in Sweden (where all the babies are happiest, right?). And then there’s the nursery, all the childbirth and infant care classes, and of course, picking out a name for your tiny human. It can be overwhelming!

Preparing the pelvis, a part of the body which plays a pretty integral role in childbirth, isn’t always found on those to-do lists. Yet, preparing your pelvis is pretty important in getting your baby in an optimal position for birth (more than just head down) as well as crucial for aiding in alleviating pelvic pain during pregnancy and labor.

If you are anything like me before I started learning about all this stuff, you may not have the most intimate relationship with the structure of your pelvis. Let’s take a look at a picture:

pelvisThe pelvis is made up of three bones, the two on the sides and the triangular like bone wedged in the middle called the sacrum, a bone you probably hear your yoga teachers mentioning a lot in class. There are also three joints, the two sacroiliac joints (often referred to as SI, you may hear someone complain of SI pain, that means there is most likely an imbalance or misalignment with their sacroiliac joints) and the pubis symphisis, the joint at the front of the pelvis where the two halves meet. The harmony and alignment of these bones and joints is essential for pelvic health.

There are also many ligaments in the pelvis which work to help support the structure by connecting it to muscles. The ligaments with the most important job during pregnancy of course are those that attach the uterus to the pelvis. The Broad ligament holds the uterus from the back, attaching it to the sacrum and the two Round ligaments hold the uterus from the front, attaching to the pubis.

During labor, the bones in the pelvis will shift naturally to make room for baby, and throughout your pregnancy the ligaments are relaxed due to hormones, mainly relaxin. Great, so what do you need to prepare for if the body naturally opens up?

Well, if the bones and ligaments are misaligned before labor begins, the ligaments can pull on the uterus, leaving it imbalanced. Even though the uterus is connected to the pelvis, it still can move. An imbalance in the uterus can affect baby’s ability to move into an optimal position for birth, as well as even cause the birth canal to narrow, and guess what that most likely means: more pain.

In general, in the body, imbalance = discomfort and sometimes misalignments can lead to injury. Much of the time when a woman is experiencing pelvic pain during pregnancy or labor, it is because of a misalignment in the pelvic joints, ligaments, or bones. Luckily, there are ways to combat this, and prepare the pelvis.

Yoga is one helpful tool. Yoga is not the magic cure all for imbalances in the body, but it can certainly help!

Yoga poses to help align and prepare the pelvis

Cat and Cow

Pelvic tilts help soften and stretch the overworked pelvic joints as well as help to release strain from low back muscles. We do these a lot in prenatal yoga classes, they feel good! Practicing cat and cow or just pelvic tilts in general is also a great way to encourage your baby into a good birthing position by encouraging the little one’s heaviest parts, the back and back of the head, towards mama’s belly. You may hear these poses being recommended to help turn babies who are in a posterior position (face up) or breech (feet or butt first).

Hip openers

You certainly want to encourage hip mobility during pregnancy, and that will help to keep that natural openness, as well as stretch the psoas and help release pelvic ligaments that may be overly tight or even slightly torqued. However, do be aware that you are already naturally more open due to relaxin (hormones as mentioned earlier) and that being too open or over stretching can certainly cause imbalance in the pelvis as well, i.e. pain, so be sure to engage your muscles during hip openers, especially the abductors (outer hips). To do this, think about drawing the outer hips inwards, like someone put their hands on the fleshy part of your hips and are gently hugging in. It is also important to engage the core (especially lower abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles). A helpful visualization to find that engagement is to imagine you are zipping up a tight pair of jeans, and the low belly goes up and in.

Hip openers that may feel good to you during pregnancy include standing poses such as warrior II, side angle pose (no need to go to your deepest side bend here) and goddess or temple pose (a wide leg squat). Malasana (yogi squat) is also great, using support under the pelvis may feel most balancing and supportive (you can use blocks or a bolster, or books or pillows work too) and easier to access muscle engagement.

Pigeon can also be nice, but do use support under your hips if necessary, and if you are suffering from SI pain, this pose is contraindicated since it can only deepen the imbalance if not practiced correctly. If in doubt, just ask a yoga teacher if you are doing the pose correctly!

Agnistambhasana, or double pigeon is also a good hip opener to practice. If you are going to fold forward, try sitting up on a blanket or two to encourage your pelvis to tilt forward which will keep the lower back muscles from straining and causing pain.

Pelvic floor training (aka Kegels)

It is likely that if you are pregnant, at least one person has told you that you should be doing kegels (contracting and releasing the pelvic floor), and this is certainly true. Pregnancy and labor can weaken and stretch pelvic floor muscles, and you certainly need then to push, as well as to stabilize the core. The pelvic floor makes up the bottom (the floor) of your core. I once read somewhere that pregnant women should be doing around 200 kegels a day. This might seem a little crazy, but it illustrates the importance of strengthening the pelvic floor. In yoga, this is called mula bandha, and is an action that is helpful to find core engagement in arm balances and many other poses. To do this, imagine your pelvic floor is an elevator, and as you inhale, try to relax. As you exhale, feel the elevator lifting, (or, think of the action of trying not to pee), inhale again and relax, but this time not quite fully. And then continue up to 200. Just kidding, you do not have to do 200, just as many as you can is good enough.

Besides yoga, bodywork can be helpful for finding pelvic balance and preparing for labor, as well as just being very aware of your posture as you stand, sit, and walk around, avoiding slumping. Practicing breathing into your diaphragm is great to.

To sum it up, in case this got too technical for you: a happy, balanced pelvis = less pain and discomfort and aids baby in doing their job which is getting into the best position for getting them out here. Balance is both support and open. Gotta have both. That’s why it’s called balance!


kim neer prenatal yoga teacher at One Down Dog Yoga in SilverlakeKim Neer is the newest addition to the One Down Dog team, teaching prenatal yoga classes on Mondays at 10:45a and Saturdays at 9am.

Check out our interview with Kim to learn a little more about her and check out her Prenatal 101 post for answers to frequently asked questions.

 

 

prenatal yoga one down dog

8 Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

benefits of prenatal yoga

1. Keep your stress level in check
Decompressing and reducing stress is something that brings a lot of people to yoga, and of course this becomes even more important to do during pregnancy; your baby feels everything that you feel! Yoga is calming for the mind, and the postures help to release tension that seems to accumulate extra during pregnancy. The work we do with breath awareness also helps greatly with de-stressing. Slowing down the breath, especially the exhale, slows down the heart rate so that you and baby can feel calmer and more relaxed.

2. Connect with your baby
The practice of prenatal yoga is all about creating space for baby; physically, as well as mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Your yoga practice is time you set aside to take care of yourself, and in turn you are connecting to your baby. They practice with you. Every breath you take is a breath you share. And there is plenty of quiet time to communicate with your baby in any way that makes sense to you.

3. Increase circulation

Through the combination of breath and movement used in yoga, circulation is enhanced within the body as synovial fluid is activated and dispersed and the muscles are elongated. Increased circulation helps to reduce swelling, a common and sort of inevitable side effect of pregnancy.

4. Prepare for the intensity of labor
Yoga teaches us to breathe consciously and mindfully, even during times of intensity. Practicing breathing calmly through the different poses is wonderful practice for being able to breathe through the intensity that you will experience during labor. It is the practice of being comfortable with discomfort. There are also many yoga poses that we practice during class that can be helpful to use during labor such as child’s pose to rest or malasana (squat) to push efficiently with gravity.

benefits of prenatal yoga

5. Gain a community
It can be very comforting to be with a group of women going through the same process you are. Prenatal classes are safe spaces to communicate with one another, rant, complain, share stories, support, and congratulate one another. A sisterhood is created.

6. Relieve tension, ease aches and discomfort in the body
As baby grows, more stress is put upon the low back, hips, upper back, chest and shoulders. Many yoga poses help to relieve some of the discomfort caused by the changes in the body. In my prenatal classes I always start by asking each student what is going on in her body so I know where to focus some of the poses in order to address specific needs of each body that day.

7. Stay active and in shape
Being pregnant does not mean that you are broken or with an illness! You can absolutely stay active, in fact, most women enjoy more ease during pregnancy when they stay active, as you can imagine the body is not meant to be stagnant. Movement helps to stay balanced and to release tension and toxins. Also, labor is one of the most physically demanding feats you will accomplish in your life. So it makes sense to prepare the body and strengthen the muscles! It’s also a good idea to start working on upper body strength as you look forward to the days of carrying around a baby everywhere you go, plus all their stuff.

8. Tune into your body’s needs
During pregnancy, your body is changing every day. It is so valuable to set aside time in your day to quiet your thoughts, and really pay attention to what is going on. Your body will tell you what you need, whether it is to rest, or to work, or to play. The practice of yoga is nurturing. It is so crucial to take of yourself during this time, you are growing a baby! You deserve to be nurtured and cared for. Also, the time that you are pregnant flies by. Savor this short and sweet time while you can by slowing down and being present!


kim neer prenatal yoga teacher at One Down Dog Yoga in SilverlakeKim Neer is the newest addition to the One Down Dog team, teaching prenatal yoga classes on Mondays at 10:45a and Saturdays at 9am.

Check out our interview with Kim to learn a little more about her and check out her Prenatal 101 post for answers to frequently asked questions.

 

 

 

Prenatal Yoga 101: Frequently Asked Questions

prenatal yoga faq

Kim here. I teach the new prenatal yoga class at One Down Dog. When I tell people I am a prenatal yoga teacher, they usually have a lot of questions for me, pregnant or not. Here are my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I get regarding prenatal yoga. Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional and all of my answers are garnered from my education, experience, and research I have done. For a little more about me, see last week’s interview post. Check out our class schedule here if you’re interested in trying a prenatal class. See you on the mat!

How is prenatal yoga different from “regular” yoga?
The biggest difference is that everyone in the room is a pregnant woman! This results in a class tailored more specifically to address the aches and discomforts of pregnancy. Also, the aspect of community is a major part of prenatal yoga classes. It’s a wonderful place to meet other women who are going through a similar experience as you, making it a great place to vent, share stories, get tips, or whatever else you may want to hear/say. The other difference is that the teacher is usually trained in prenatal yoga or at least has some experience with birth that qualifies them to teach this speciality, therefore they have a fairly good understanding of the process of pregnancy and birth and are comfortable offering options and answering questions.

What are the benefits of prenatal yoga?
Many women come to prenatal yoga never having practiced yoga before, because their doctor recommended it. Why exactly are they recommending it?
There have been medical studies done regarding the benefits of prenatal yoga. Here are some according to Mayo Clinic.

Studies have suggested that practicing yoga during pregnancy can:

  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Increase strength, flexibility and endurance in muscles needed during childbirth
  • Decrease some common “side effects” such as carpal tunnel, low back pain, nausea,
    shortness of breath, headaches
  • Decrease risk of pre-term labor

Also prenatal yoga can help you meet and bond with other pregnant women as you prepare for the stresses of new parenthood. Another awesome benefit of prenatal yoga is the focus on the breath. Many of the breathing practices that we practice during class can be extremely helpful to use during labor. Some women even find that they use certain yoga poses during labor.

prenatal yoga faq

How early in pregnancy can I start taking prenatal yoga?
Generally, during the first trimester, energy levels can be very low, women can feel nauseous, and hormone levels can be rather unpredictable. For this reason, most women prefer to do a lot of resting during this time, and it’s not very common that I see students before the 12 or 13 week mark. Additionally, there is a high risk for miscarriage during this time, so the body may be sending messages in general to take it slow.

However, it’s never too early to start prenatal yoga, as long as you are listening to your body during your practice and staying within the comfort of your physical limits. Sometimes women who are trying to get pregnant like to take prenatal yoga, and I say they are more than welcome! Even if you are not pregnant it can be a nice practice, I just prefer to keep the classes women only for comfort of my students.

How long into pregnancy can I practice yoga?
As long as it feels good! I have had students practice during their 41st and even 42nd week, just days before giving birth. I even know of one student who went into labor later in the day after attending a prenatal class that morning!

I’ve been practicing yoga for a while, can I continue taking my regular classes or should I switch to prenatal because I am pregnant?

I would say this is totally up to you! If you already have an established yoga practice and feel connected to your body, then trusting your intuition should be fairly easy and you may feel comfortable modifying poses yourself without the guidance of a teacher. But if you are fairly new to yoga, or would just really like to experience the camaraderie of sharing your practice with other mom-to-be’s, then you would probably really enjoy a prenatal yoga class!

prenatal yoga faq

Are inversions safe during pregnancy?
This is kind of a complicated one to answer! The simple answer is yes, IF 1. inversions are already an established part of the pregnant mama’s practice 2. she is listening to her body and intuition while inverting 3. she knows her limits and can get up and down safely. Pregnancy is not, however, the right time to start an inversion practice.

That being said, the more complex answer requires defining more specifically what an inversion is. Some consider an inversion to be any pose where your feet are about your head. Under that definition, legs up the wall, a restorative pose which can be helpful in reducing swelling in the feet and legs that is common during pregnancy, would count as an inversion.

Another definition sometimes given for inversions is that they are any pose where the head is below the heart. This definition would include down dog and standing forward folds as inversions, poses that again, are safe and commonly practiced in prenatal yoga classes.

This is not to say that these definitions are incorrect, but when talking specifically about yoga during pregnancy, an important factor to consider in poses is where the pelvis is in relation to the heart. Therefore, the best definition of inversions to use in relation to prenatal yoga is: poses that have the pelvis lifted higher than the heart. This definition would include many of the poses that we may more readily think of as inversions such as handstand, headstand, shoulder stand, forearm balance, scorpion, etc.

Those are the poses that should be an already established part of a woman’s practice if she is going to practice them during pregnancy. She needs to know how to safely get in and out of the pose, as her center of gravity shifts during pregnancy, challenging balance. Also because of relaxin and other hormones produced during pregnancy, her back and pelvis, as well as joints and ligaments are more at risk of injury. She must be very comfortable with the pose and know her limits.

There are many differing opinions on this subject in the yoga and birth world, however, the best answer I can give as a yoga teacher is: I am there to support you and make sure you are safe, but you know your body and practice best, and I will not tell you what you can and can’t do.

Are there any other poses that are considered unsafe to practice during pregnancy?
Again the best answer is to trust your intuition and listen to your body. Generally, it is best to avoid closed twists as they can decrease circulation. Also poses that target the abs aren’t great to do, including poses with a strong focus on strengthening the obliques as overly strong obliques can pull your abdominal muscles apart further than they are already being pulled, which causes a condition known as diastasis recti. Deep backbends such as full wheel can also cause diastasis recti. Better to stick with milder back bends such as camel or upward facing dog with a bolster under the thighs. It is also best to avoid poses that require lying straight on the tummy, mostly as that just won’t feel very good for you and your baby.

Once in the second trimester, lying on the back for long periods of times should be avoided. I recommend using a bolster and blocks during Savasana and other times that require being reclined. The increased weight on the uterus when lying flat on the back interferes with the flow of blood and nutrition to your baby. Plus it’s just not very comfortable and can aggravate low back pain and heartburn as well as possibly elevate blood pressure.

Finally, it’s best to avoid hot yoga during pregnancy. You already tend to be over heated most of the time anyway, and getting dehydrated is not a risk you want to take!

Growing a baby is hard work and truly an incredible feat, so honor your body, take it easy when you need to, believe in your own strength, and embrace what your body can do during this special time rather than mourning what it can’t.

prenatal yoga one down dog

 

 

Meet Our New Prenatal Yoga Teacher Kimberly Neer

We’re excited to announce our new Prenatal class on Mondays 10:45am-12pm and Saturdays at 9-10:15am with Kim Neer!

Meet other future mamas and get your yoga on ODD style. Improve circulation, ease digestion, maintain a healthy spine, strengthen your uterus and pelvic muscles, and feel at ease throughout your pregnancy. For all stages of pregnancy – get your bump to class!

Read on to learn a little bit more about Kim and click here to sign up for class.

kim-neer

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am playful yogi who loves puppies and babies. I don’t have any babies of my own yet, but I do have a doggie named Peanut and I am mildly (maybe severely) obsessed with her! Besides practicing and teaching yoga and talking about birth and general female empowerment; I enjoy traveling, being outside, trying new foods, listening to music, and learning new things.

kim-neer4

How long have you been teaching prenatal yoga and where did you do your training?

I have been teaching yoga for three years, and prenatal for a year and a half. I did my training with Jessica Jennings of Ma Yoga, which is a really cool yoga community that has yoga classes all over LA.

What drew you to teaching yoga/prenatal in the first place?

I remember being quite interested in prenatal yoga when we talked about it during my 200 hour training, especially when my teachers made us practice with a rolled up blanket under our shirts so we could get an idea of what it’s like to practice with such a different body! But it wasn’t until I was teaching a regular class at a shelter for survivors of domestic violence that I decided I wanted to learn more. Many of my students there were pregnant, and I felt that I needed more tools to offer them.

What do your students gain from doing prenatal yoga?

I think the most important gain from a prenatal yoga class is the sense of community. It’s so important for new mamas to surround themselves around others going through something similar because at least from what I gather, becoming a mom is a pretty wild ride and it helps to have a good support system! I like to leave time for my students to talk to one another; who better to share stories with about how crazy it is to have a different body everyday than another woman who is also experiencing that!

Plus, many students have reported back to me that the breathing techniques they learned from yoga helped them immensely during their labor. There are also many yoga poses that useful to do during labor, such as resting in child’s pose in between contractions!

kim-neer3

What is your favorite pose to teach and why?

My favorite pose to teach in prenatal is probably supta baddha konasana (reclined bound angle pose) using a bolster up on blocks and a blanket to support the legs. I love teaching that one because of the reactions I get from the mamas! That pose is so supportive and comfortable, and during pregnancy, comfort can be elusive. I also really enjoy teaching poses that I call “endurance poses.” This is when we do somewhat intense poses such as wall chair or do some punching for an entire minute. I like teaching these poses timed because contractions last about a minute, so it’s helpful for mamas to start to realize just how short that is and also to practice using their breath to stay present even amidst physical intensity.

What is one ODD fun fact about you?

I have seven tattoos and four of them are matching with someone else (all good friends of mine). My mom claims that someday she will get a matching tattoo with me, which would bring me up to five matching tattoos. That makes me feel pretty loved.

prenatal yoga one down dog