Childbirth requires a great deal of strength, stamina and focus; yoga and meditation these elements in abundance. Research has shown that women who exercise during their prenatal period are able to better withstand labor than those who don’t exercise. Exercising mothers also seem to report more positive feelings toward the childbirth experience.
Yoga makes women feel more confident to take charge during labor, to know how to use their bodies correctly allowing gravity to assist the birth process rather than lying down helplessly while others intervene.
According to yogic physiology, the pranic force which flows downward from the navel into the pelvis is known as apana shakti. This energy is responsible for propelling the infant down the birth canal during the process of delivery. The secret of successful delivery is to alternatively project and withdraw the apana, bearing down from above in harmony with the contractions of the uterus.
- Increased Focus of Breath: Yoga allows one to achieve control over breath and subsequently, over the body. During labor and delivery … our breath is a means to surrender and allow the muscles to relax to in order to facilitate the process and lessen pain. By fixing the awareness on something other than the intensity of a contraction, you can learn to lessen your reaction to the pain. Clenching an overly fatigued muscle only leads to more pain. By focusing on the breath, you encourage your body to relax as much as possible and promote a feeling of well-being in the face of adversity.
- Shortened Duration of Labor: According to a study that looked at the average length of time women spend in labor, taking a prenatal yoga class can shave almost two hours off labor and delivery. In comparison groups, women who took a third trimester prenatal yoga class spent 559 minutes in labor vs. 684 minutes for women who didn’t practice yoga.
- Enhanced Hip Flexibility: Yoga can help with opening the pelvic bones and hips — and toning the inner thighs to help support the body alignment during delivery.
- Optimized Baby Birth: Yoga asanas can help to increase the room in the lower area of the uterus and release any tight ligaments. giving more room in the pelvis for mal-positioned babies to reposition. Uttana Shishosana or modified dog helps baby rotate themselves so their head is coming down from an optimal angle.
- Strengthened Birthing Muscles: The “birthing muscles,” include the abdominals, the pelvic floor muscles, and the legs. When you need the power to push, you will be glad you practiced yoga. This will further facilitate easy bouncing back recovery after child birth.
- Less Scope for Lower Back Pain: Positions, such as the “half tortoise” and “child pose” , offer benefits for muscle relaxation throughout the lower and upper back, and can help open the hips during delivery.
Yoga Poses to Prepare for Childbirth
Utkatasana (Chair pose):
- Standing with the feet hip width apart and parallel. Imagine sitting in a chair as your hips move back and down but keep the knees over the ankles, and lift through your spine. Hold for 3-5 breaths and come back up to stand.
- Inhaling raise the arms up by the ears (keeping the shoulders down) as you exhale bend your knees to lower and inhale bring the palms together to a prayer position as you come back up to stand.
- Repeat 5 times to strengthen the legs.
- Stand feet wide apart. Hands held stretched above your head. Look in front.
- Bend slowly down, squatting to a comfortable position. Weight equally distributed on the feet.
- You can get your arms in the front doing namaskar.
- Return back and relax.
Chakki Chalanaasana (Mill churning pose)
- Sit with the legs stretch out in front of the body; separate the legs as wide as possible, keeping them straight.
- Interlock the fingers of the both hands and hold the arms out straight in front of the chest. Keep the arms straight horizontal throughout the practice; do not bend the elbows.
- Bend forward maximum you can.
- Imagine the action of the churning the mill with an old fashioned stone grinder.
- Rotate to the right so that the hand pass over the right toes as far to the right as possible.
- Lean back as far as possible on the backward movement. Try to move the body from the hips.
- On the forward swing, bring the arms and the hands to the left side, over the left toes and then back to the center position.
- One rotation is one round, practice 5-10 rounds clockwise and then practice 5-10 rounds anti-clockwise.
- Breathing: Inhale while leaning back, Exhale while moving forward. Maintain a comfortable position throughout.
Sukhasana (Butterfly pose)
- Sit on the floor stretching straight up through your spine. Bring the heels of your feet together, with your knees bent and pointing out to the sides.
- Let your legs open towards the floor to a position where you are comfortable.
- Hold your feet in your hands and slowly stretch forward.
- Hold for 5 seconds then return to the starting position.
- Repeat 3 times to help open hips and warm up.
Baddha Konasana (Tailor’s pose)
- Sit on the floor and pull the soles of your feet together, keep your back straight.
- Hold your feet or ankles and let your knees drop to the floor.
- Inhale and exhale.
Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)
- Begin on all fours: shoulders over wrists, hips over knees, tops of feet on the floor. Slowly walk your hands out as you drop your chest towards the floor (keeping hips over knees and arms shoulder-width apart).
- If you are having trouble with your form, try drawing your navel up and your hips back as you extend the hands forward, in order to keep your hips over your knees. Now drop your forehead to the floor and let your neck relax. You may want to place a bolster under your forehead to support your weight.
- Now, press down through the hands and stretch the arms while pulling your hips back toward the heels (keeping a slight curve in your lower back). Make sure your elbows are not touching the ground, but keep your arms active.
- You should feel a rather intense inner-shoulder stretch. If you aren’t feeling the stretch, check your form. You should feel a nice long stretch in your spine.
- Hold this posture for 30 seconds-1 minute. When you are ready, exhale and walk your hands in, lifting your body up to a kneeling position. Remember that a sudden change in blood flow can cause dizziness, so take your time when coming out of an inversion pose such as Extended Puppy.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- From Downward Facing Dog, drop the knees to the floor. Spread the knees as wide as the mat, keeping the big toes touching.
- Bring the belly to rest between the thighs and the forehead to the floor.
- There are two possible arm variations: Either stretch the arms in front of you with the palms toward the floor or bring the arms back alongside the thighs with the palms facing upwards. Do whichever feel more comfortable to you.
Bitilasana (the Cow pose)
- Start on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position.
- Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor.
- Center your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor. As you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to sink toward the floor.
- Lift your head to look straight forward. Exhale, coming back to neutral “tabletop” position on your hands and knees. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
- This pose is often paired with Cat Pose on the exhale for a gentle, flowing vinyasa.
Virabhadra (Warrior Pose)
- Stand in mountain pose continuing with your smooth flowing breath.
- Jump your feet sides ways and sweep your arms out to the side so your ankles are below your wrists. Establish your foundation, by pulling your knees and thighs up, tucking your tailbone under, pushing your feet firmly into the floor. Visualize an imaginary line running vertically down the centre of your body, dropping your shoulders. Squeeze your arms and legs away from the centerline. Keep an awareness of this line as you turn your right foot out to 90 degrees and turn your left foot in to 70 degrees. Ensure the heel of your front foot aligns with arch of your back foot, hips facing forward.
- Draw up your pelvic floor muscles. As you breathe out, bend your right knee as far as is comfortable. Keep your left leg straight and extended with your left foot firmly on the ground. Hold this position for as long as is comfortable while breathing normally.
- On a breath out, push up through your front leg and return to the starting position with your feet back together and arms by your side, palms facing inwards. Rest for a moment, then repeat on the other side, remembering to exhale while lowering into the pose.
- If needed, stand against a wall or use your partner for support.
Vrksasana (Tree pose)
- Begin with your feet together and your arms by your sides.
- Rock slightly back and forth to evenly distribute your weight and find your optimal point of balance.
- Slowly lift one leg from the ground, placing the palm of your lifted foot onto the standing leg.
- Place the foot anywhere from your calf to your upper inner thigh.
- Bring the palms of your hands together at your chest or lift your arms over head like the branches of a tree.
End with relaxation for optimal mind/body health. This practice helps lower blood pressure and pulse, and is beneficial for swollen legs and reducing stress. Lie down on your side, close your eyes and practice your breath awareness. The key is to relax as much as possible and to get good at it so that you can stay relaxed during contractions. If you notice yourself becoming distracted by thoughts or noise, draw your awareness back to the breath. Stay here for 20 minutes or more.
Seek prior permission of your doctor before starting yoga practice. After your fourth month, do not lie flat on your back; doing so can decrease the amount of oxygen to the fetus. Make sure you are propped up so that your head is above your heart. Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you feel any symptoms such as chest or abdominal pains, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision or lack of fetal movement