In times of pregnancy when women are battling mood swings at varying levels, fatigue and sickness, painful leg cramps and breathing problems; yoga exercises, techniques and postures ease the mental and physical burden while also safeguarding the health and success of both the labour and birth. The primary aim of pregnancy yoga is to help the mother bring the new born safely into the world with the minimum amount of stress and struggle. The 8 x positions and exercises practiced across the three trimesters of pregnancy differ with every phase and require professional and expert supervision in the correct environment.
A pregnant woman must take into consideration her health history before commencing an exercise routine. For those who are doing yoga for the first time it is recommended to progress through beginner level and get a feel for the rhythm and exertions required. With all clauses and health tips in mind, let us now move forward to the ‘asanas‘ most recommended for would-be-mothers. The 8 x yoga postures focus on strengthening the pelvic muscles that help enhance the womb for the healthy growth of the foetus. By doing this regular exercise, natural hormones are released known as ‘endorphins‘ that keep the mother energetic and in a positive frame of mind.
1.Vakrasna (Twisted pose), sit erect with feet stretched in front, inhale and raise your arms at shoulder level, palms facing down. Exhale, twist your body from waist towards your right moving head and hands simultaneously to the same side. Swing arms back as much as possible. Do not bend your knees. Inhale and resume the original position maintaining your hands shoulder level and parallel to each other. Repeat on other side. This posture works and conditions the spine, legs, hands, neck and abdominal region.
2. Utkatasana (Chair pose), stand erect with feet 12 inches apart, keep feet parallel to each other, inhale for 2 seconds and raise your heels and arms at shoulder level palms facing down, exhale slowly then assume a sitting squat pose (on your toes) keeping your hands in the same position, inhale and get up slowly, stretch and stand up on tip toes, exhale placing hands and heels down simultaneously. This posture strengthens thigh and pelvic muscles.
3. Konasana (Angle pose), stand erect with feet 24 inches apart, leaning on a wall for support if required, raise your right hand up keeping your elbow straight, stretch and inhale, bend sideward towards your left, exhale and drop your hands down. Repeat on other side. This posture promotes flexibility of waist and regulates or tightens body fat around the stomach and abdomen.
4. Paryankasana (Ham’s pose with one leg) lie down on your back, straighten your legs keeping your knees together, fold your right leg in at the knee, breathe normally, hold the position as long as you’re comfortable and repeat the same on other side. Straighten your leg. Repeat with the left leg. This posture strengthens the abdominal and thigh muscles.
5. Hast Panangustasana (Extended hand through big toe pose), lie down on your back, straighten your legs keeping your body in one line, make T-position with hands palms facing down, slide right leg towards your right side, reach down to hold your right toe with your right hand, slide your leg back to original position, repeat on other side. This posture strengthens the leg and pelvic muscles.
6. Bhadrasana (Butterfly pose), sit on the mat with legs fully stretched keeping the legs in contact with the mat, form ‘Namaste’ with your feet, sit erect without leaning forward, place your hands on knees or thighs. Hold the posture as long as you can, straighten your legs and repeat again. This posture strengthens the inner thigh region.
7. Parvatasana (Mountain pose), sit on the mat, inhale, raise your arm and join your palms in ‘Namaste’ position keeping your elbows straight, raise your hands to your neck, hold the position for a few seconds and repeat 2-3 times. This posture improves body strength while relieving backache.
8. Yastikasana (Stick pose), lie down on your back, straighten your legs keeping your body in one line with knees and feet together, point feet upward hands resting at sides. Inhale and raise hands, stretch upward pushing toes out simultaneously. Exhale, raise your hands and resume original position. Repeat 3-4 times. This posture corrects body contours posture, stretches ligaments and tendons and relieves general body tension.
Note, once the expectant mother feels uncomfortable doing an asana, it is advisable to stop immediately without further straining the muscles. Avoid forward bending asanas, inverted poses and exercises that might put pressure on the abdomen. Asanas that require lying down on the weight of your stomach should be strictly avoided and any exercises involving balance should be done with utmost care. Also avoid hurrying into any weight-loss exercise regime immediately after the delivery. Post-natal yoga should be practiced only when the mother’s physical and mental strength is fully restored. These stretching exercises encourage circulation, increase fluid retention and, most of all, relieve external and internal stress