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The gift of prenatal yoga: Nicole Bookman shares serenity, centering, and stretching with moms-to-be.

Practicing yoga during pregnancy is a beautiful way to embark on the path of motherhood. The practice of yoga is the union of the body, mind and spirit. Prenatal yoga is perfect for a mom-to-be to focus on herself, her changing body, and the growing life inside her.

Prenatal yoga involves ancient techniques, which include breathing exercises (pranayama), postures (asanas), meditation and deep relaxation. Such specialized techniques are completely safe and have numerous benefits. This gentle practice will help moms get centered, relaxed and grounded. Additionally, yoga is great for stress relief and helps prepare the body for birth. Even if you are forbidden to exercise during pregnancy, the breathing exercises in yoga can be safe and easy to learn and will help tremendously with labor and birth.

Prenatal yoga postures involve a variety of simple standing and sitting stretches, which incorporate breathing and relaxing techniques. The squat and side lying stretches help to prepare for birth. Asanas that position the mom in a crawling posture (all-fours) help to relieve back pain. There are a bevy of other stretches and positions that feel good to the pregnant mom, relieving tired and sore muscles, while strengthening them.

Another added benefit of yoga practice is the relaxation response. Relaxing is vital during pregnancy, the birthing process, and the postpartum period. In fact, most techniques used in childbirth classes for relaxation are based on yoga. Learning meditation with colors, sound, and imagery helps reduce stress, clear the mind and provides the mom with mental clarity. This helps a mom to listen to her intuition and brings confidence and trust in her body for the birthing process.

Prenatal yoga should not be practiced before the fourteenth week of pregnancy as a precaution against miscarriage. However, if you have a strong yoga practice prior to conception, you can practice prenatal through out your entire pregnancy. Many moms even do yoga postures during labor! Julie Tomlin, AFAA CPT, Dip N. Med states that "prenatal yoga helps a women to become accustomed to the natural and instinctive positions that most women prefer to use during labor and birth."

Due to the physiological changes involving the flexibility and suppleness of joints and ligaments during pregnancy it is important that prenatal yoga is practiced with care. First and foremost, it is important to have permission from your doctor or midwife before engaging in yoga or any exercise program, especially while pregnant.


Safe for all three trimesters ...

Belly Breathing (Pranayama)

An important part of yoga is watching the breath, experiencing how to breathe and focusing on how the breath feels coming into and exiling the body. "Yogic breathing" can bring a source of energy that also offers "mindfulness," a place you bring yourself to appreciate the present. Sitting in a comfortable position making sure the spine is straight, close your eyes, place one hand on your heart and the other hand on the baby, and start focusing on the breath. Slowly start increasing your oxygen intake. Start feeling the back and the sides of the lungs expanding, and then exhale slowly out the mouth with a falling out breath. Notice the belly becoming full with the inhale and how the belly button comes in toward the baby with the exhale. Allow all other thoughts to fade away and focus on the sensation of the lungs inflating and deflating. In the beginning, start out doing this exercise for three minutes and gradually increase your time. Notice the feeling of relaxation and calmness.

Right Angle Pose (Asana)

Performing asanas with awareness creates inner calmness as well as reduces fatigue and stress in the body. The Right Angle Pose to Wall relieves lower back tension and is especially beneficial in the third trimester when the heaviness of the uterus causes lower back muscles to contract. To do this, extend arms straight out from shoulders and place palms on the wall. Walk feet back until arms and back are parallel to floor, and legs are directly under hips. Position feet parallel to each other, and stretch toes. To lengthen lower back, tighten front thigh muscles, push wall firmly, and extend hips away from wall. Keep head in line with arms, and fully stretch shoulders. Breathe naturally, lengthening torso with each exhalation. Hold pose until back feels stretched. Slowly walk hands up wall until standing.

Meditation and Relaxation

Relaxation allows the body and mind to become still and peaceful. Find a comfortable lying down position where your body can feel totally at ease, supported by blankets and pillows. Now it is time to breathe and let go. Take a couple of deep breaths in, and exhale with a loud sigh. Allow everything you no longer need or want to leave with the sigh. Now start bringing your attention to the breath. Relax your entire face including the jaw. Start deepening the breath, and visualize the breath coming down and wrapping the baby in love. Choose a color if your wish and see your baby floating in the warm, healing light. Your baby feels this relaxation. Every bone, muscle, organ, nerve and cell in your body are relaxed and your breath becomes soft. Stay in this relaxation state for at least ten minutes. To come out of the pose, return your awareness to your breath. As your breathing deepens, feel prana, fresh energy, in every part of your body. Slowly wiggle your toes and fingers and stretch out your arms and legs.

Nicole Bookman is the director of the prenatal and postnatal yoga program at Namaste Yoga and Healing Arts Center at 57 Broadway in Asheville, NC. For class schedule or more information, call 828-253-6985.
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Article Details
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Author:Bookman, Nicole
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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