Prenatal Yoga - The Art of Slowing Down and Listening
During pregnancy the body transforms in miraculous ways. The uterus expands 500 times its normal capacity. The hips expand and the ligaments become more lax to prepare for labor. Of course, there is the weight gain part of it as well - anywhere from 25 to forty pounds on average. But there is little else “average” about pregnancy. Every pregnancy is different, and there is much that can occur beyond just the physical changes.
The First Pregnancy
For me, the first pregnancy was a cautious time. My husband and I had been trying to conceive for almost two years. We finally decided we would continue trying for three more months and then if it didn’t happen naturally, we’d look into adoption. We knew that if it didn’t happen naturally for us, then we’d love to provide a home for a child in need. Little did we know at the time we made that decision that I was already pregnant. It was miraculous given that fact that I had stage-four endometriosis and my chances of getting pregnant were very slim.
During that first pregnancy, I napped daily, got massages, did a little bit of yoga, and walked as much as I could. I pampered myself and embraced every part of the pregnancy, even the morning sickness that lasted all day. My husband and I took the Bradley Method course, which is a husband-coached childbirth class that focuses on nutrition and natural labor. My labor was thirty hours long, yet meditative, natural, and unmedicated. It changed my life, for I knew I was capable of anything. The first moment of holding my son will be engraved in my memory as magical.
The Second Pregnancy
I am now 35 weeks pregnant with my second baby. For those of you trying to do the math, I’m eight months pregnant. This pregnancy has been a completely different experience. I got pregnant while still breastfeeding and had no idea I was even ovulating yet. Chasing a toddler around has forced me to stay very active during this pregnancy, without the naps or pampering. I did not slow down and even pushed my body a little too much until recently. I was walking five miles a day; doing my daily prenatal yogic squats; skipping the naps; teaching classes, privates, and teacher trainings; and trying to be supermom. Until a couple of weeks ago, when during my routine doctor visit I was put on bed rest due to the risk of preterm labor.
My body was preparing for labor at 32 weeks and having the baby come out would not be ideal. I slowed down, but still was teaching until I got the stomach flu last week and was hospitalized to replenish fluids through an IV. While in the hospital, my contractions were coming strong and every three minutes, so it looked as though I was going into labor. My husband reminded me to breathe. I thought to myself, “I teach students to breathe for a living and it was time to practice what I teach.” I started to breathe slowly and deeply and talk to the little one living in my womb. It was amazing to watch her heart rate go from 190 to 150 (normal for a fetus) beats per minute in a matter of seconds. My contractions lessened in intensity and duration, and I felt an overall sense of peace.
Every pregnancy is different. Some women feel strong and healthy the whole pregnancy. Other women feel sick and tired all forty weeks. Whatever the case may be, there is not a one-size-fits-all prescription for prenatal exercise. Prenatal women are the most intuitive they will ever be because there are two souls in one body. Overall, if there is no medical reason not to, walking is beneficial for the mind and body. Cat and cow exercises are important for getting the baby in the correct position and yogic prenatal squats are great for opening the hips and pelvis for birthing. However, simply meditating and sending love to the unborn baby is essential for creating a lifelong connection between mother and child.
Photo 1 courtesy of Julie Rader.
Photo 2 courtesy of Shutterstock.