Yoga for Two

06 Aug 2013

One way to stay healthy and fit, both during and directly after pregnancy, is through yoga. Check out these fab pre-and postnatal poses

Instructor Camilla Way provides SHAPE Middle East readers with both pre-and postnatal poses that are sure to help ease the birth experience, while helping you stay fit throughout

Pre and postnatal yoga
The ancient practice of yoga has evolved and been adapted to cater for bodies and lifestyles of the 21st  century. With numerous yoga styles available you can be sure to find the teacher and style to suit your needs. If you are pregnant or have just given birth and you are looking for ways to relax during the pregnancy, help ease the birth experience and stay fit pre and post birth, prenatal yoga is an excellent, safe way to help you reach physical and emotional well-being. It does not matter if you’re brand new to yoga — in fact, many new mums realise the benefits of pre and postnatal yoga and then continue their own yoga practice after the birth. Prenatal yoga can also help you meet and bond with other pregnant women, share your experiences and help prepare and cope with the emotions of being a new parent. Make sure you consult with your doctor before starting any exercise regime, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy.

Prenatal Yoga
Prenatal yoga is combination of concentrated breathing, specific stretching and centering (meditation) techniques to help you keep your body agile during pregnancy and help your body and mind prepare for the birth. When you go to a prenatal yoga class, the teacher will adapt the stretches and postures dependent on what trimester you are in. The teacher will give you standing, sitting or lying on the mat postures aimed at developing your strength, flexibility and balance. Props such as blankets, cushions and bolster’s may be used to provide support and comfort.  At the end of each prenatal yoga class, you’ll relax your muscles and restore your resting heart rate and breathing rhythm. You may be encouraged to listen to your own breathing to bring about a state of self-awareness and inner calm. Monica Mascaros is in her third trimester and  (as shown over the next few pages) demonstrates a few prenatal postures with the assistance of her yoga teacher, Camilla Way. It is important to note that as the third trimester progresses, prenatal yoga may become more difficult as your belly becomes fuller and your tiredness increases.

Third Trimester Adaptations:
All poses that compress the belly should now be avoided.  
At around 36 weeks, you are advised to decrease the number of inversions.
Poses done on all fours are also good for turning a breech baby.
Squats continue to be appropriate to the end of pregnancy, unless you are at risk for preterm labour.
Avoid positions that stretch the abdominal muscles too much, such as deep forward and back bends and deep twists.
You may want to skip any movements that require you to lie flat on your back for longer than a few minutes, especially after the first trimester.
Just as in any other style of yoga, listen to your own body and trust what it tells you. If you’re feeling pain or discomfort, make an adjustment.

The postures:
Cobbler’s or Tailor’s pose (baddha konasana): 

*Sit on a cushion or blanket on your mat.
*Sit up straight with the soles of your feet touching each other (lean against a wall if you prefer to have your back supported).
*Place pillows or rolled-up towels under your knees to avoid hyperextension of your hips.
*Gently press your knees down and away from each other, but don’t force them apart. Stay in this position for as long as you’re comfortable, taking full deep breaths.
This sitting pose helps open the pelvis. 
*Practice slow deep breathing to help calm the mind and ease any tension in the hips and jaw and shoulders.

Pelvic tilt or Cat-Cow

Get on your hands and knees, arms shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart, keeping your arms straight, but not locking the elbows.
*Tuck your buttocks under and round your back as you breathe in.
*Relax your back into a neutral position as you breathe out.
*Repeat at your own pace.
This position helps relieve back pain, a common problem during pregnancy.



*Stand facing your teacher / partner, while holding each other’s forearms, with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed outward (or hold the back of the chair for support).
*Contract your abdominal muscles, lift your chest, and relax your shoulders. Then lower your tailbone toward the floor as though you were going to sit down on a chair. Find your balance — most of your weight should be toward your heels.
*Take a deep breath and, exhaling, push into your legs to rise to a standing position.
*Squat every day to relax and open the pelvis and strengthen the upper legs. As you start to feel heavier in pregnancy, use props such as yoga blocks or a few stacked books on which to rest your bottom.
*Focus on relaxing and letting your breath drop deeply into your belly.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

*Stand with the outside of your right foot leaning against a wall for support, with a straight leg.
*Step your left foot about 3.5ft  apart, aligning the heal to the arch of your back foot, bend your left knee (keeping the knee directly above the ankle) so the thigh is parallel to the floor.
*Stretch the arms away parallel to the floor. Don’t lean the torso over the left thigh, press the tailbone slightly toward the pubis.
*Turn the head to the left and look out over the fingers and relax the shoulders
Standing postures help strengthen your joints and improve your balance and the warrior pose can also ease backache and sciatica.

Partner Stretch

*Both sit down back to back with your legs wide apart. Interlace your arms gently. Press your heels and legs into the mat.
*The partner (who is not pregnant leans forward) allowing the pregnant lady to feel a support stretch into her spine and gentle opening of her shoulders. (the partner folding forward also receives a good inner thigh stretch)

Side-lying Position

This is a good position for the end of practise

*Lie on your left or right side with your head resting on your arm or a blanket.
*Put a body pillow or blanket roll between your thighs to give your hips some support and place a blanket or pillow under your belly for support
*Your instructor may guide you through some breathing exercises. You’ll be encouraged to focus on breathing in and out slowly and deeply through the nose.

*Encourages deep relaxation as the body as the weight taken off the feet and the belly and spine are supported.
*Prenatal yoga breathing techniques may help you reduce or manage shortness of breath during pregnancy and work through contractions during labor.

Postnatal Yoga
Postnatal yoga focuses on bringing relief to the areas of your body that had to work hard during pregnancy, labour and delivery. In addition, it builds up your strength all over, with particular emphasis on your pelvic floor, abdominals and back. doctors and midwives recommend that new mothers wait for at least six weeks (eight weeks for  C-section) before trying postnatal yoga. Do make sure you have a doctor’s approval to start exercising again. The abdominals are the muscles most affected by pregnancy, so core strengthening postures are ideal as well as breathing and meditation techniques to help cope with the emotions of being a new parent. If you had regular fitness regime or yoga practice post birth, do note that your body will have changed during your pregnancy so practice with awareness and listen to your body as some exercises may not be as accessible as they were post pregnancy.

Recommended Positions

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) 

Lie on your belly, with your hands under your shoulders.
*Squeeze feet and legs together and tuck the tailbone.
*Engage abdominal muscles, press hands into mat (keep elbows close to ribs) and lift chest and belly off the mat, keeping the hips on the mat, elbows bent and shoulders sliding down the back away from the ears.
*Look straight ahead.
*Helps regain strength in the back and abdominals.
*Helps release any tension held in the neck and shoulders from carrying and feeding a new born.

Half Boat Post

Sit on your mat.
*Lift your chest and bring your legs to table top position with your shins parallel to the floor and extend your arms, level with your knees palms facing inwards, (interlace your hands under your knees for lower back support).
*Hold and breath fully and deeply.
Benefits : Strengthens core and lower back.

Bridge pose  (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

*Lie on your mat, bend your knees with your heels close to the sitting bones.
*Pressing your feet and arms actively into the floor, lift your hips off the floor and firming the buttocks (about 30%) keep your thighs and inner feet parallel extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders.
*Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.
*Encourages the pelvic floor to fall back into the body and makes it easier to contract.
*Helps strengthen core and lower back 

Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)

Lie on your back and bend your knees.
*Hold onto the sides of your feet and gentley draw your knees towards your chest and draw your shoulders down your back. 
*Lengthen your spine as you release your tail bone toward the floor and draw your chin softly towards your chest to lengthen the back of your neck. You can gently rock from side to side. To see the expert – watch your baby do this!!!
*Gently stretches the inner groins and the back spine.
*Helps relax the shoulders.
*Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue.