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Physicial Activity

Being physically active during pregnancy is essential to the healthy functioning of the body, same as the rest of our lives, actually…

In addition to light and long winded activities such as walking and swimming, there is also yoga and its “sibling” pilates, which has been rising in fame in the recent years. I use the word “sibling” because pilates takes yoga poses, eliminates the medita-tive element and provides a more mechanical and bodily strengthening opportunity. I’ve done all of them; walking, yoga, pilates and, from time to time, swimming.

At this point, with the training I’ve had in India and my complete faith in yoga, I’d like to talk about pregnancy yoga, which has been incredibly beneficial to me both dur-ing pregnancy and delivery. Treating yoga as a physical activity only would be far from fair.

Because as the body moves with total breath awareness, your mind calms down, all unnecessary thoughts and worries drift away, your being relaxes, becomes more serene and you get a feeling of internal unity. The word “yoga” means “to unite” in Sanskrit. We need this feeling of unity and completeness during pregnancy more than ever.

Instead of describing all the poses (asana) in detail, I’d like to talk about a few basic asanas and breathing techniques. I would also like to suggest that you find a yo-ga studio near you and sign up for pregnancy yoga.

Doing yoga while you’re pregnant, prepares both your mind and body for an easy and safe delivery. Regular yoga practice helps minimize common pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness and constipation. Yoga also strengthens ab-dominal organs and muscles. Let’s take a look at some of the best and the safest yoga exercises for pregnancy:

Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)

1. Sit down on the floor and extend your legs out in front of you. Bend your knees, drop them out to the sides and exhale.

2. Slowly pull your heels toward your pelvis. You can grasp your big toes or the soles of your feet. Try to keep your knees as close to the floor as possible. If you are unable to hold your toes, you can hold your ankles or shins as well. Lower your shoulders, throw them back and push out your chest.

3. You can lightly press your knees to the floor to open up your hip joints.

4. Exhale while keeping your back straight and your chest open, and extend your torso forward. Do not compress your stomach.

If you are having a hard time sitting up straight on your hip bones, you can sit on a couple of folded blankets or a cushion.

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

Stand up and spread your legs about twice as wide as your shoulders. Extend your arms to the sides on shoulder level while your palms point toward the floor. Turn your right foot 90 degrees out to the right. Inhale as you bring your left arm straight up, clos-er to your left ear. Exhale and extend your torso to the right and grab your right ankle with your right hand. Keep your left arm straight up, in a vertical position to the floor. To keep your balance, look at a single point and at the hand you have up. Stay in this pose for a few breaths, come up as you inhale and bring both arms to shoulder level with palms facing down. Then repeat the same pose on the reverse.

If at first you have a hard time extending toward your ankle, you can use a stool, chair or yoga block before you increase your flexibility in time. You can also support yourself by resting the hand that’s parallel to the floor, on a wall.

Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose)

1. Stand up and place your feet twice as wide as your shoulders. Turn your right foot 90 degrees out to the right.

2. Raise your arms straight up to shoulder level with your palms facing the floor. Bend your right leg from the knee down to 90 degrees but the knee should not extend beyond the toes. The back leg will be stretched.

3. Look straight ahead (or at your right middle finger). Your back should be straight and shoulders relaxed.

4. Keep this pose. Then, go back to standing, to tadasana, again, rest, and repeat the pose in the reverse position.

This pose is great for increasing spiritual strength and inner resilience.

Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose)

1. Stand up and place your feet twice as wide as your shoulders and point your toes out to the sides.

2. Push your hips back and bend your knees so that they are over your ankles. Ex-tend your tailbone downward.

3. Your hands should be on your knees. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and in a relaxed state. Take at least three deep breaths in this position. You can bring your hands together on your chest in the namaste position, if you’d like.

This pose strengthens your lower body, enhances the flexibility in your hips and cre-ates more space for the back muscles for the hips to open up more easily, thus reliev-ing pain. It’s an ideal exercise to facilitate an easier delivery.

Konasana II (The Angle Pose)

While standing up (tadasana) keep your feet shoulder width apart. Raise your arms up and put your palms together. Inhale and then exhale as you bend your arms and your entire body toward the right and lightly stretch your side. Inhale and come back to the middle position. Bend toward the reverse side as you exhale and stretch the other side of your body.

Bitilasana - Bidalasana (Cow Pose - Cat Pose)

1. Assume a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Make sure that your knees are right below your hips, your shoulders and wrists are in line and in a parallel perpendicular to the floor. Keep your head in the center and your eyes on the floor.

2. Push your hips and your chest up toward the ceiling as you inhale. Your stom-ach should get closer to the floor with this move. Lift your head up and extend it forward (cow pose).

3. Round your spine toward the ceiling (like an angry cat) as you exhale. Keep your shoulders and knees in place. Lower your head toward the floor.

4. Assume the cow pose as you inhale and the cat pose as you exhale and repeat this a few times. 

The cow pose and the cat pose help strengthen and stretch the spine.

Setu Bandhasana (Half Bridge Pose)

1. Lay down on your back and place a blanket under your shoulders to protect your neck if you need. Bend your knees and keep the soles of your feet on the floor as you pull your heels back towards your hips.

2. As you inhale, push your pubis toward your stomach and lift your hips off the floor as you firm your buttocks. Your hips, knees and feet should be parallel to one another. Keep your arms at your sides with palms facing the floor.

3. Push your pubis up so that your hips are nearly parallel to the floor.

4. Press your shoulder blades to the floor and let a space form between your shoulders and at the base of your neck.

You can maintain this pose from 30 seconds to a minute and then lower your hips as you exhale. You can also repeat the slowly lifting and lowering move a few times if you prefer.

Malasana (Squat Pose)

1. Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder width. Then, squat as low as you can with your toes pointing out to the sides, while keeping your heels firmly on the floor.

2. Bring your palms together and press your elbows (or your upper arms) to the in-ner side of your knees as you also press against your elbows with your knees. This will help lengthen your torso.

3. You can keep this pose for 30 seconds to a minute.

4. Inhale, straighten your knees and stand up.

This pose is actually the position that is assumed while using a squat toilet in India and Anatolia. It’s a very useful pose for delivery as well.

Physical Benefits Of Pregnancy Yoga

 Increases body’s flexibility

 Strengthens the muscles in abdomen and uterus, where the baby will be posi-tioned for nine months

 Strengthens the back muscles and the backbone, where lots of pressure is felt during pregnancy

 Prevents any irregular curving that could occur in the body due to pregnancy, prevents bending of the back by strengthening back muscles, ensures that the uterus, which will be carrying the baby, is steady in place by strengthening the muscles that activate the pelvis. Flexibility and stretching of these spots in the body is extremely helpful to the mother during delivery.

 Yoga helps strengthen and control the uterus and other muscles that carry the baby.

 Yoga teaches mothers how to relax various tightened muscles during delivery.

 Yoga helps increase the oxygen levels in the bodies of both the mother and the baby.

 Yoga teaches mothers how to use and control their breathing systems more ef-fectively during delivery.

 Yoga facilitates the easy removal of waste materials from the body.

 It makes the body fitter.

 Yoga increases blood circulation and strengthens the heart.

 It regulates blood pressure.

 It helps strengthen the immune system.

 It prevents back/lower back pain and facilitates a stress-free delivery.

 Prevents the mother’s body from retaining too much water.

 Prevents cramps and varicose veins in feet.

 Prevents constipation.

 Wards off any other problems in the digestive system caused by pregnancy.

 Yoga increases the level of energy in the body.

 It calms the nerves.

 Yoga helps create more space in the hips and relieves the pressure on ab-dominal muscles.

  It creates relief in the mother’s chest as she has breathing difficulty due to the pressure caused by growing uterus, especially in the last trimester.

 Yoga prevents nausea and fatigue.

 It helps manage the extra weight gain during pregnancy.

 Yoga makes it easier to keep one’s balance and plant feet securely on the ground as the center of gravity changes with weight gain.

 It increases movement coordination.

 Yoga helps keep internal organs in ideal shapes and prevents hemorrhoids.

 Yoga helps facilitate a natural and healthy delivery without surgical intervention or anesthetics. 

Emotional and spiritual benefits of pregnancy yoga

 Yoga eliminates negative feelings and occurrences such as fear, excitement, increased blood pressure and stress.

 It helps the body relax and handle stress, makes one feel good emotionally.

 Calms the mind and brings peace.

 Helps one unwind and learn how to unwind, increases mental control.

 Helps the development of a strong relationship between mother and child.

 Creates a stream of thoughts that is mentally higher in quality.

 Helps balance feelings and preserve stability of feelings which can be affected by hormones during pregnancy.

 Creates the strength of mind needed to handle any problems that might occur during pregnancy and delivery.

 Produces positive thoughts in the mother’s mind (love, compassion, apprecia-tion, peace, etc.).

 Gives the pregnant woman resilience and strength to fight any hardships that she might encounter in this period of her life, whether they are related to the pregnancy or not.

 Strengthens faith.

 Strengthens women.

 Enhances the respect women have for themselves and helps them enjoy preg-nancy, a special period of their lives.

 Pregnant women might have trouble focusing and yoga improves their ability to think well.

 Helps the woman give birth in a way that is strong and informed by increasing her awareness.

Benefits of yoga for the baby to be born

 Creates a more peaceful environment and positive energy for the baby.

 Helps the baby feel safe.

 Supports the baby’s spiritual development.

 Positively affects the baby’s blood circulation, defecation and feeding

Many pregnant women decide to start doing yoga in the second trimester of their preg-nancies, meaning between months 3 and 6. This is the period when most women feel the best. Nausea and vomiting virtually stop at this time and energy levels begin to rise. The risk and fear of miscarriage dissipates. 

If you are going to be standing up for a certain amount of time, the distance be-tween your feet should be enough to support the size of your belly.

As you do the yoga poses (asana), you should not put any extra weight on your growing belly or your back.

You should be adapting the poses according to your body. Always keep the principles of yoga in mind and refrain from over-extending and over-stretching your body.

You might be feeling more energetic, so you might be inclined to push your body a little too far while doing yoga. You may end up hurting yourself, and you should avoid any moves that might strain you. Refrain from lying on your back if you feel dis-comfort or faint. Lying on your back can sometimes cause issues due to the curve in the lower spine or the weight in the stomach, so lying on your side is recommended.

Avoid any yoga poses that require lying face down.

This trimester is the one where you should strengthen your legs to prepare them for the moment of delivery. You should try working on asanas that open up your hips or have you squat down to prepare for the birth. Poses that strengthen the back and im-prove back pain are also important, especially for those whose backs have too much of a curve. Asanas that improve posture and support the balancing and coordination abili-ties are essential at this time, particularly because the body’s center of gravity changes due to weight gain. Having good balance will also give you a feeling of lightness. Be-coming aware of your posture is good for both your daily life and the moment you give birth.

To avoid cramps, you should try yoga poses that tighten and stretch calves. Lift-ing up your feet and resting them on a wall is a good precaution for avoiding oedema.

What is meditation?

There is a New Yorker cartoon that sums up meditation pretty well: Two monks are sit-ting next to each other, meditating. The younger one gives the older one a puzzled look and the older one responds, “Nothing happens next. This is it.” In other words, medita-tion is nothing more than being in the present moment by driving any distracting thoughts away from your mind. It’s a state of experiencing total calmness in your mind and body by focusing on your breath in the moment you’re in and it’s quite simple.

Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention to a single point of refer-ence. It can include focusing on breathing, bodily sensations, or a word or sentence, also known as a mantra. I choose to focus on my breath, only because that’s the easi-est option.

Breathing meditation

Sit comfortably, close your eyes and let your mind go free.

Focus your attention on your heart and stomach. You can also place your hands on these areas, if you’d like.

Take a deep breath with your diaphragm while counting to 6. Then slowly ex-hale while, again, counting to 6. (If you are not pregnant, you can try holding your breath for 3 seconds between inhaling and exhaling, but do not hold your breath while you’re pregnant.)

Repeat this 10 times, rest, then do another 10 repeats. You can do a set of 3 (3×10). 

You can also focus on the spot between your eyes each time you inhale. If 6 seconds is too long for you, start out with 4.

Instructor

Burcu Kutluk

Instructor

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