All photography credit: Pregnancy Yoga with Ayala Gill
Few things change your life as much as being pregnant. Suddenly things aren’t just about you anymore, and you’ve got another life to worry about. There’s all the planning to do, baby’s room to prepare and all the hospital and doctor’s visits to contend with. And on top of that your body goes through the biggest changes you will ever experience.
As your body changes shape and you begin to put weight on, everyday activities can become challenging and it can be easy to become sedentary, especially if you’re working throughout your pregnancy. Although you don’t want to overexert yourself, it’s still really important to stay active and engage in some moderate exercise every day.
Yoga has been shown time and again to be beneficial to pregnant women. It’s been shown to boost energy levels and also increase oxygen flow to the placenta, so it’s good for mum and baby. It’s also great for maintaining flexibility and mobility as well as reducing lower back pain and strengthening the spine, hips and pelvic floor, all areas that can be adversely affected during pregnancy. Just as important are the mental benefits: yoga helps you to feel calmer, more focused and more connected to yourself and your baby.
To help you work through some yoga poses we’ve enlisted the help of Triyoga who run wonderful pregnancy yoga sessions in London, as well as an incredible range of other yoga classes. Ayala Gill, mother of 3, has been teaching pregnancy yoga for 15 years and seen it bring strength, flexibility, poise and serenity to thousands of expectant mothers!
Sit with your back against the wall on enough cushions so that your knees rest lower than your hips when you cross your legs. Move your sit bones well back and your inner groins down so the base of your spine is supported by the wall, then move your shoulders back so your chest is open. Close your eyes and rest your hands around your baby. As you breathe in through your nose imagine your inhalation is like a waterfall flowing down to your baby. As you breathe out imagine this “water” of breath surrounding your baby like a pool. Let your attention move down to your baby as you breathe in, and rest gently with your baby as you breathe out.
Meditation is a practice that guides us towards experiencing all things just as they are, right now. All our relationships, whether to ourselves, to others, to discomfort or to giving birth, are distorted by habitual ways of perceiving. When we shift our perception to see life as it is, we are no longer slave to our habits. We are freed to live with greater intimacy, clarity and possibility in each moment of our lives.
Still sitting upright against the wall, bring the soles of your feet together and lengthen from your groins to your knees. Make sure you are seated towards the front of your sit bones. You can hold your shins, or pull on a strap around your feet to help lift your spine up. Feel the space you have made around your baby. Then move away from the wall so that you can bring one hand to the wall while holding your shin with the other hand: use your hands to lift your spine up as you twist. Change sides when you are ready.
Soothes back pain; strengthens the muscles of the pelvic region and lower back; tones the kidneys; alleviates heaviness and improves circulation in the lower abdomen; gives freedom to the pelvic floor muscles. Twisting provides relief from dizziness and fatigue, helps treat nausea, back pain and toxemia, assists in flushing the kidneys.
Stand with your back to the wall (or if you don’t have the space put the outer edge of your left foot against a wall) and step your feet wide apart. Stretch your arms sideways then turn your right leg out 90 degrees. Inhaling, make your arms and legs strong, then exhale and bend your right knee until it’s in line with the ankle. Stretch your spine sideways to bring your elbow onto your knee: press your inner knee back and grip your right hip so your body stays in line. Stretch your top arm up, then turn the palm to face the floor and extend the arm past your ear as you press into the back foot. Inhale to come up when you’re ready, then come to stand with your feet hip width apart for a few breaths before you change sides.
Relieves hip pain, backache and lower back pain. Helps breathing and corrects digestion, flatulence and elimination problems.
Stand with your back to the wall and step your feet apart. With your feet a few inches from the wall, turn your right leg out 90 degrees. Place a small stool, low table or pile of books a few feet in front of your right foot. Stretch your arms sideways and make your arms and legs strong as you breathe in. Keeping your back leg strong, as you breathe out bend your right knee so that you can reach your right hand on to the support. At the same time, keep stretching the back leg as you lift your left foot off the floor, using the wall to balance. As you straighten your right leg, keep it turned 90 degrees. Stretch your top arm up and breathe deeply. Keep your back leg strong as you exhale and bend your standing knee to come up. Stand with your feet hip width apart for a few breaths before you change sides.
Makes you feel light and elated; eliminates dullness and fatigue; reduces anxiety and nervous tension. Strengthens and firms the breasts, and reduces discomfort there. Strengthens the spine and pelvic muscles. Creates space for your baby and for deeper breathing. Reduces nausea and vomiting. Maintains proper kidney function and regulates blood pressure.
Place cushions on a chair or table to a height about level with your thighs, then step your feet wide apart facing the chair. Keep your legs strong as you bend at the hips to rest your head and forearms on the cushions. Check that your back is straight so your chest is open and there’s lots of space around your baby: if your back rounds just add more cushions.
Strengthens the muscles of the legs and hips; widens the pelvic region. Improves breathing, blood circulation and digestion. Reduces high blood pressure; soothes the nervous system. Lessens nausea and relaxes the head.
Lie on your side with cushions under your head, between your legs and between your arms, so that your head, pelvis and shoulders stay level and can relax fully. Close your eyes. When you breathe in, feel your baby’s presence, and each time you breathe out, let go of the weight of your head a little more and relax your face.
Soothes and invigorates both body and mind, removing tension. Allows you to rest in a state of being rather than doing: an alert but spacious and relaxed presence.
Remember to listen to your body and make sure your breathing remains smooth and steady throughout your practice. You’ll find full instructions on these and many more pregnancy yoga poses in the App “Pregnancy Yoga with Ayala Gill” available from the Apple App Store. Practising poses at home is a great way to ease into pregnancy yoga, but nothing beats attending a class with other mums led by a qualified instructor.
If you’re interested in attending a pregnancy yoga class, why not use a Spafinder Wellness 365 Gift Voucher to pay for the class. Find out more about yoga vouchers.