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Pyhsical Activity

Yoga and exercises for yoni

We’ve already established that physical activity is important for the healthy functioning of the digestive system as well as ensuring efficiency in all the systems of the body. If you are not going through a risky pregnancy, a 30-minute brisk walk or a slow swim-ming session every day will both help your digestive system operate properly and help you have a more comfortable delivery. 

As you keep up with moderate physical activities such as walking and swim-ming in this trimester, you can also do meditative and breathing exercises, look over birthing positions and try yourself at a few light stretches.

Yoga will help you prepare for the birth both physically and spiritually. Although giving birth is a very physical event similar to running a marathon, it is also quite an emotional and spiritual journey, the ending of which brings us into motherhood. Giving birth is one of the most unforgettable and transformative experiences in a woman’s life.

Whether you have a home birth (which is not yet a common practice in Turkey) or a C-section at a hospital, there are numerous benefits of yoga. The most important thing during delivery is to be as calm and relaxed as possible, because it’s not only you giving birth; your baby is being born and going through the same delivery experience as well. If you can remain calm, your baby will surely be much more comfortable.

The more peaceful the environment the baby is born into, the happier it will be during its first days of life on earth. How can you become peaceful? By breathing… If your breathing is calm and conscious, you will not panic under any circumstances!

You can keep your breathing calm by focusing on your breath. If you practice this before going into labor, it will be really effective during delivery. The exercise I’ll share below is quite beneficial for the periods before and after delivery. I can honestly say that 25 hours of my 30-hour labor went by comfortably almost only by using this method of focusing on my breath.

Breathing Exercise 1: Getting deeper in breath

First, become aware of the way you breathe in and out. Don’t try to change it, just rec-ognize it. Watch how your abdomen and chest rise every time you inhale and go down every time you exhale. Then you can begin to deepen your breath. Slowly inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 4. Repeat this several times and then let your breath go back to normal. Then repeat the exercise. If 4 is too high a number for you, you can try breath-ing in and out for 3 seconds each.

As you get more comfortable with the exercise, you can try exhaling for longer. For example, you could inhale for 4 and exhale for 6. Later, you can take this even fur-ther and inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 8. What’s important is that you don’t strain yourself in any way. Further along the road, you can change the ratio to 5-5 or 6-6 meaning you inhale for 5 or 6 seconds and exhale for 5 or 6.

With this exercise, slowly breathing in and out and the increased oxygen helps slow down the heartbeat, lower blood pressure and relieve stress. Any anxiety, nerv-ousness and frustration just drifts away. As you focus your attention on your breathing, your entire nervous system begins functioning more effectively.

Learning how to control your breath is extremely beneficial for when you give birth. Because all you need to do during contractions is focus on your breath. When the mind is concentrated on breathing, it calms down and as a result, the intensity of feelings that are perceived as pain/aching is felt less and less by you.

Kegel Exercises

The famous Kegel exercises help improve the pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor mus-cles are located in the pelvis and they support the bladder, the rectum, the uterus and the intestines. The exercise routines are named after Dr. Arnold Kegel who first identi-fied the practice in 1948.

To find your pelvic floor muscles, try to stop the stream or urine in the middle of peeing. If you were able to stop peeing, that means you have found those muscles. Once you locate your pelvic floor muscles you can do the exercises in any position you want, but it might be easier to do them while laying down at first.

Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold them tight for 5 seconds and then relax them for 5 seconds.

Repeat this exercise for 4-5 times. In the second round, try to hold the muscles for 10 seconds and rest for another 10. You really need to focus on that spot to be able to do this. Concentrate on tightening your pelvic floor muscles only and try not to con-tract your abdominal or hip muscles. Don’t hold your breath while you do the exercise and try to breathe comfortably. Repeat the exercise three times a day. You can go for 10 seconds on each set.

Pelvis Area Exercise

Female sexuality has been surrounded by superstitions, privacy and shame for hun-dreds of years. The word “vagina” for example, has its etymological roots in Latin, meaning “a sheath” (for a sword), and has clearly negative connotations. The word “yoni” in Sanskrit, however, is easier to adopt and reflects reality much better. “Yoni” means holy canal or spring.

We should be defining each part of our bodies with this open and accepting ap-proach and honoring them. Knowledge is power, and the power women have to control their bodies is a natural right. Knowledge and information helps us realize that power.

The pelvis resembles a big bowl. The pelvic muscles are like a hammock that supports the weight of urinary, excretory and reproductive organs.

When these muscles are weak, the weight of those organs move downward and can lead to sagging or urinary incontinence. Noticing those muscles is important in terms of strengthening them and our general wellbeing.  

Ideally, you should start doing pelvic exercises before you become pregnant. During pregnancy, the weight of the baby might significantly weaken pelvic floor mus-cles. The pelvic floor stabilizes the pelvis by helping support both the growing uterus and the lower back torso, and prevents any potential pain that can occur in the spine, the sacrum joints and the groin. 

There are 3 exercises focusing on the pelvic region in yoga; the first one is con-tracting and relaxing the anus, the second is contracting and relaxing the urethra and the third one is contracting and relaxing the vagina. All these exercises help strength-en the muscles in that. While sitting or lying comfortably, relax all other muscles in your body and try to isolate these muscles and then contract and release each of them.

Yoga doesn’t teach a specific way that a woman should breathe while giving birth, however, breathing deeply and comfortably, being as relaxed as possible and fo-cusing on your breath is highly recommended. Yoga teaches us to realize how much energy there is in each breath and to appreciate the power of breath.

Focusing on breathing downward in general can also help in the process of de-livery. Try to concentrate on your abdomen, uterus or the baby as you breathe in and out.

As we inhale, we get oxygen and achieve balance and as we exhale we drive away our worries, stress and anxiety. (“Prana” means “breath” in Sanskrit, and it is used in the context of life-giving power, body and the universal energy that flows around it. It’s the essence of the energy that works on all levels of our existence and the entire universe is actually a manifestation of that energy.)

Breathing Exercise 2: Balancing femininity and masculinity with breathin

Nadi Shodhana is the practice of balancing left and right, femininity and masculinity. It’s effective in clearing the mind and the body. Regular practice of this exercise pro-vides the body with energy and eliminates stress and anxiety. It’s best to do it in the open air in the morning with an empty stomach. However, if you can’t go outside, you can practice at home as well.

Sit down comfortably on a flat surface. If you can’t do so, you can use a chair.

Now, close your right nostril with your right thumb and breathe through your left nostril. Then close your left nostril with your middle and right fingers and breathe through your right nostril.

Then take a deep breath through your right nostril, close it, and take a deep breath through the other nostril. Repeat the movements.

Keep this up for 5-10 minutes.

Track your breath as it goes in through your nostrils and travels throughout your entire body.

Benefits:

· Improves blood circulation. 

· Soothes your mind.

· Prevents heart-related issues.

· Provides relief for the body and the mind.

· Regular practice of this exercise clears out, strengthens and tightens your nerv-ous system.

· Improves your concentration.

· Gives the skin a healthy glow.

· Helps improve the functioning of lungs.

· Helps prevent and manage diabetes.

· Prevents blockage in arteries.

· Helps with asthma, headaches, migraines, neurological problems, congestive heart failure, depression, stomach problems. 

· Balances out the left and the right, helps clear away any obscure thoughts and emotions.

What to watch out for

· Pregnant women can practice Nadi Shodhana breathing exercises, but they should refrain from straining themselves and never hold their breath.

· This exercise, as well as all other breathing exercises, should be performed with an empty stomach.

· The exercises could be performed in the morning, at night, or at both times of day.

Benefits of Breathing Exercises During Pregnancy

Breathing exercises (pranayam) are important to do during pregnancy. Most women are extremely intuitive, perceptive and sensitive during pregnancy. The general benefits of doing breathing exercises during this period are as follows:

· Increases oxygen in the body and in the placenta.

· Balances the emotions. Helps to overcome any challenges or fears that might occur during pregnancy.

· Helps with releasing any feelings and anxieties that have accumulated in the body by promoting the use of diaphragm while breathing.

· Increases the life energy and vitality of both mother and baby.

· Eliminates any blockages in the person’s energy.

· Helps to create a positive and peaceful environment for the baby.

· Improves both physical and mental health and wellness, strengthens the heart and the lungs, improves circulation, regulates blood pressure and encourages the elimination of metabolic waste.

· Prepares mothers for the physically and mentally challenging time ahead.

· Strengthens the respiratory system, enhances lung capacity and gives mothers more control over their breathing.

· Improves the ability to focus and concentrate during pregnancy and delivery.

· Teaches pregnant women to relax, have control over their mind, create inner peace, manage any sort of conflict including stress, nervousness and anxiety, and even improve their thoughts thanks to the powerful impact it has on the nervous system.

· Helps women become more consciously connected both with their bodies and their babies; build trust, faith and appreciation.

Labor Positions

There are many positions that help open up the pelvis area, move the baby downwards and manage pain. This is a matter of personal preference and the position you’ve de-cided on earlier may not feel good during delivery. That’s why trying several different positions and seeing which one feels the most comfortable is the best thing to do. Standing up positions are naturally positively affected by gravity.

Standing Squat

Standing on your feet and leaning a little forward. You can support yourself by holding onto a bed, a wall or your spouse.

Kneeling on the Floor

Place a soft mat or blanket under your knees. Again hold onto a bed, a wall or your spouse for support.

Squatting

Hold onto your spouse, a bed or a wall for support. Pelvic rotations, hip-bone rotations and stretching from right to left and back and forth help expand the pel-vic area.

The Tabletop Position a.k.a the Cat Pose in Yoga

While in the cat pose, placing the elbows on the floor and locking them together speeds up the birth. I’ve used this pose twice during my own delivery and it was quite effective. My midwife actually jiggled my buttocks to rearrange the angle of my baby’s head while I was in this position.

Half Kneeling Position

One knee and one foot on the floor, which looks like the war-rior pose in yoga.

Using a Pilates Ball

Very useful between contractions to relax completely. Sitting on the pilates ball and moving the pelvis area from side to side or laying on the ball with knees on the floor.

Instructor

Burcu Kutluk

Instructor

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