From a trained Yoga teacher and good friend:
My niece is now 3 months pregnant and wants to start doing yoga with me to prepare for her labor. Do you have any asanas or pranayamas that you recommend?
Yoga is a wonderful addition to any prenatal plan. It helps to relax and prepare both the body and mind for labor and delivery, and its attention to purity helps to create a safe and non-toxic environment for the growing baby.
Things to do:
- Sit in bhadrasana every day for at least five or ten minutes during pregnancy. This will help to relax the pelvis and facilitate an easier birth.
- Prasarita Padottanasana is another good posture for prevention and relief of back pain during pregnancy.
- Viparita karani will help to relieve fluid accumulation in the legs and feet as the pregnancy progresses.
- Brahmari pranayama to soothe both mom and baby and to increase their connection.
Things NOT to do:
- Avoid any pranayama in which there is breath retention to avoid temporarily decreasing oxygen flow to the developing baby. That means no conscious cessation of breathing at either the end of inspiration or the end of expiration.
- Avoid lying flat on the back during the second half of the pregnancy. As the uterus enlarges, it can fall back and compress the vena cava, the main vein draining the legs and pelvis, with disastrous consequences. To prevent complications in savasana during the latter half of pregnancy, place a pillow or bolster underneath the right side of the torso so it tilts towards the left, and if you ever feel lightheaded in savasana, roll to the side.
- Avoid sirsasana and other poses that require balance to decrease the risk of injury from falls. The bodys center of gravity shifts with the growing abdomen.
- Avoid forward bends with the legs close together. Proper performance of these asanas is hindered by a large abdomen and may put too much pressure on the uterus.
- Avoid goal oriented and competitive behavior and instead focus on very gentle and relaxed stretching. The pregnant body produces more relaxin, a hormone that makes the bodys connective tissue more flexible. Take care to not overdo it.
- Yoga brings awareness to body posture. When walking and going about activities of daily living, be careful not to let the weight of the growing baby tilt the pelvis creating an accentuated curve in the lower back. Mindfulness will go a long way towards preventing the back pain so many women experience in the latter stages of pregnancy.
- After a gradual relaxation sequence in savasana, take a few minutes to visualize a happy, healthy baby growing within the uterus to full term and then a successful, relaxed, and pain-free vaginal delivery.
- Decrease any and all potentially toxic exposure. If possible, avoid all medicines while pregnant – even those deemed safe by standard medical practice like Tylenol and many other over-the-counter drugs. (Anyone taking prescriptions needs proper consultation with their doctor and pharmacist.) Also avoid all plastic. Drink from glass or stainless steel water bottles and avoid packaged and restaurant foods covered in plastic and plastic-coated cardboard. Avoid canned foods as they frequently contain BPA. Place a carbon filter on your faucet for drinking water in the home. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove chemicals and dont eat fish which may contain mercury and persistent organic pollutants. Instead, if vegetarian, maintain adequate protein levels with legumes, whole grains, nuts, and low fat yogurt.
- If you are vegetarian (and particularly if you are vegan) supplement the diet with a B12 vitamin to ensure proper growth of the babys brain. Its also a good idea to supplement the diet with flaxseed, two tablespoons each day (preferably bought whole and then ground just before use), for adequate nutrition for the growing baby. Plenty of legumes and green leafy plants will supply needed folate.