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Yoga for Moms-To-Be. Bond with your unborn baby and prepare for labor.By Lynn Felder
Posted on 15-Feb-2011
During the first trimester both beginning and experienced yogis should only do a gentle practice or none at all, as the fetus is still implanting and the risk of miscarriage is highest.
Shari Barkin, M.D., a pediatrician with Wake Forest University Health Services/ Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem, who practiced yoga during her two pregnancies, cautions against starting "any new kinds of strenuous activities during pregnancy. However do spend at least 10 minutes a day doing Ujjayi breathing (Victorious Breath). Do some hip openers, forward folds, and Cat-Cow poses," she says. "If you are used to doing yoga, then keeping up your regular routine with modifications is important."
In all three trimesters pregnant women can expect to experience hormone surges, mood swings, bouts of insomnia, and frequent urges to urinate, explains Stephanie Keach, director of the Asheville Yoga Center and mother of two boys. Two kinds of pranayama are especially beneficial during pregnancy: Ujjayi, a long, strong, deep breath that helps you to focus on the present moment and maintain calm, and Nadi Shodhana, (Alternate Nostril Breathing), which according to yogic teachings helps to balance the body's energy flows. Avoid any kind of breath retention or hyperventilation that could limit the baby's oxygen supply. "As the circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, digestive, and nervous systems get nurtured by correct deep breathing, sleep comes easier and moodiness is less intense," Keach says.
During pregnancy the body produces the hormone relaxin, which softens the connective tissue. The good news is that this allows the pelvic joints to become more flexible while the uterus expands, making space for the baby. The bad news is that it can lead to instability in the sacroiliac joints and can cause lower back pain, so pregnant women need to be careful not to overstretch in their asana practice. "Pregnancy is not a time to strive for more flexibility, although it may occur" adds Keach.
First Trimester (0 to 13 weeks)
The first trimester holds mixed blessings for most women. There can be a lot of joy as well as much discomfort. Most women experience nausea and fatigue. They may not look pregnant, but profound biological and musculoskeletal changes are occurring in the body. "It is rare to want to do anything physical during this time, so I don't have many first trimester mamas," Keach says. Although most experts advise against starting a yoga practice in the first trimester, they also say if you already have a strong practice, you can continue yoga with modifications."Do not do inversions, twists, or jumps in your first trimester," Barkin says. "Step back; don't jump back in Sun Salutations. It's important not to jar or threaten implantation of the fetus and placenta." Barkin also advises substituting Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) for Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow Pose) during your first trimester. Consult with a prenatal yoga teacher to find out how to modify your practice as your body changes.
Second Trimester (14 to 28 weeks)
Most women begin their prenatal practice during the second trimester. Often they may feel very good. "They are not too huge and can do just about anything they feel comfortable doing, with or without props, as long as they can breathe deeply," Keach says. A woman may feel faint or light-headed during this time. "She will feel like eating more," Crawford says. "Pregnancy is a natural low blood sugar state." During pregnancy, explains Barkin, "the volume of blood in the body expands 40 to 60 percent to support the fetus and placenta, the blood circulates faster, your rate of metabolism increases, and your resting heart rate rises. You're using up your body's sugar faster; important reserves are being used to support the placenta and fetus." To meet the needs of your changing metabolism, eat a light meal or snack about an hour before class, drink plenty of liquids, and don't push yourself. Increasing your protein intake (as long as the kidneys are healthy) to about 60 grams a day is the best way to keep the blood sugar steady, Barkin says.
Third Trimester (29 to 40 weeks)
Now your body is really changing. The baby's movement is strong. The sacroiliac joints are loose, and breathing may be difficult. The extra weight and your protruding belly will likely challenge your balance in every posture. "Balance is an issue, as is weight, and the presence of a protruding belly makes a lot of poses difficult, requiring modifications and props," Keach says. Barkin, however, says she loved doing balance postures throughout her pregnancies. "Balance postures made me feel lighter and more aligned . . . but do them near a wall if you are feeling unsteady." Although some experts advise against lying on your back after the sixth month so as to avoid putting pressure on the vena cava (a large vein that runs along the side of the spine and curves behind the uterus), others say it's acceptable for short periods of time. It is especially important for a woman to do deep breathing when she is lying on her back, says Keach
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