Staying fit and eating healthy are not the only things that top the priority list for a pregnant woman. Rather, maintaining a calm and stress-free persona and looking after her health and also the well-being of her unborn are important. And this is where yoga comes in. Dr Amrapali Patil, weight-management and yoga consultant, says, “Most women are anxious about their pregnancy -their own or their baby's well-being. Yoga tends to stabilise the mind and help gain perspective (unlike other forms of physical activity) as it is meditative in nature.
Pranayams tends to calm and balance the mind.“
Prenatal yoga classes are important, say experts.
Gynaecologist Dr Kiran Coelho states, “I advise pregnant ladies to join prenatal yoga classes to stay fit, calm and stress-free. These classes prepare the couple to handle the newborn.“ “The aim of practising yoga is to bring the newborn into the world with minimum pain and hassle. Also, it keeps your mood swings, emotions and physical worries at bay. Other than the mental wellbeing of the mom-to-be, yoga also helps them to keep their weight in check and be physically fit,“ says Dr Coelho. There are some dos and don'ts (see box) that one needs to keep in mind, suggests Dr Patil.
A pregnant woman automatically assumes a guarded posture of protectiveness towards the baby in her womb, says Dr Patil. Some also encounter increased awkwardness due to the sheer change in their size.
This leads to rigidity and stiffness of muscles, which can hamper a smooth delivery. Gynaecologist Dr Mugdha Raut says, “You can continue yoga in the first trimester, after incorporating a few modifications. There is also the belief that if you did an activity prior to pregnancy, you can continue to enjoy it throughout pregnancy, without changes. However, I think it is incorrect to ignore the hormonal, physiological and anatomical changes that happen to the pregnant body, regardless of pre-pregnancy conditioning.“
Dr Patil suggests the following asanas...
Sukhasana Tadasana Ardha-vakrasana (don't overtwist here.
Turn from shoulders and chest and not e from your waist) Marjarasana Yoga mudra Gomukhasana in sukhasana Shavasana RECOMMENDED PRANAYAMS:
Anulom vilom Sitali Sitkari
BEFORE YOU BEGIN PRENATAL YOGA CLASSES...
Consult your doctor before you embark on any exercise regimen.
Make sure you go to a qualified yoga instructor who has experience in teach ing pregnant women.
KEEP IN MIND
“Women at risk are those with a past history of miscarriage, placenta previa or a weak cervix. Those who have undergone cervical cerclage and similar procedures should be extra careful,“ says Dr Patil.
DOs Set aside a fixed time.
Wear loose and comfortable clothing.
Be relaxed. Use a chair if you want.
Hold each pose only for about 10 to 40 sec onds, based on your comfort level.
Be in sync with your body. Don't let your attention wander, lest you hurt yourself.
Yoga is meditative, so being focused helps.
Do yoga twice a week for 5 to 20 minutes.
Consult your doctor immediately in case of any doubt.
DON'Ts Avoid over-stretching at all costs.
Stop immediately if there is any discomfort.
Don't lie on your abdomen.
After the first three months, don't lie on your back as doing so impedes the blood flow to the uterus and can affect your pregnancy adversely.
Avoid long duration of activity.
Don't do any asana or breathing exercise vigorously. Take time.
Easy does it.
TRIKONASANA OR THE TRIANGLE POSE
Stand straight with your feet apart. Raise your arms and then bring them parallel to the floor, keeping your palms down. Now exhale and bend from your hip (not waist). Rest your right hand, without distorting your body, on your shin or ankle or on the floor while you stretch your other arm up in a line with your shoulder. Hold this pose for around a minute or less and then inhale as you come up.
Reverse and repeat.
BENEFITS: This works the legs and also stretches the side body.
Your shoulders open up and your hips are energised too.
BADDHA KONASANA OR BUTTERFLY POSE
Sit with your legs stretched in front of you. Then bend your knees, bring your feet in and make the soles of your feet touch.
Clasp both feet with your hands and while you keep your back straight. Move your knees up and down -try touching the ground too -without moving your joined feet. It should resemble the movement of butterfly wings.
BENEFITS: Stretches the inner things and hips and increases mobility of the hip joints.
SITTING SIDE STRETCH
Sit with your legs stretched in front of you. As you exhale, slowly spread out your legs. Then, fold your right leg and bring your heel towards your crotch. Let your left leg remain straight, with the toes pointing to the ceiling. Stretch your right hand towards the ceiling and bend sideways. Your left elbow should be near your left knee, palms facing upwards.
BENEFITS: This asana opens up your side waist, pelvis and also stretches the hips.
WARRIOR POSE OR VEERABHADRASANA
Keep a distance of two to three feet between your legs as you stand straight. Turn your left foot by 90 degrees and align the heels of both feet. Lift both your arms together and bring them parallel to the floor. Now exhale as you bend your right knee and look to your right. Your ankle and knee must be in a straight line. Stretch your arms, push down your pelvis gently. Keep breathing as you go lower. Inhale when you come up and exhale as you bring your hands to your sides. Reverse and repeat. This asana should be practised with support -stand close to the wall.
BENEFITS: Ladies in their second and third trimester will find this asana beneficial. This strengthens your limbs, improves balance, increases stami na and releases stress. Your lower back will also benefit.
BENEFITS OF PRENATAL YOGA Yoga stabilises emotions.
It facilitates blood circulation for both mother and the baby.
Yoga boosts the functioning of relaxin (a hormone that relaxes the muscles and joints) and makes the muscles, supple, strong and flexible, says Dr Patil.
It improves sleep, reduces stress and anxiety.
It leads to a marked increase in muscle strength and flexibility and so, helps in birthing.
Regular yoga decreases the risk of pre term labour.
In the postnatal period, yoga strength ens the pelvic floor just like Kegel's exercises. This prevents prolapse of pelvic organs, especially that of the uterus.