“Whether your pregnancy was meticulously planned, medically coaxed, or happened by surprise, one thing is certain — your life will never be the same.” ~ Catherine Jones, Eating for Pregnancy.
As pregnant women, we notice changes in our body every day. Sometimes those changes can be dramatic; but for the most part, they are gradual…developing day-to-day or week-to-week. And of course, no pregnancy is exactly the same. Each woman will have her own mixture of emotions and discomforts, and each woman will handle the side effects of her developing baby in her own unique way.
For the most part, my pregnancy was just excitement and anticipation masked by little inconveniences. During my first trimester, I was in a state of both shock and amazement. My pregnancy came a couple of years prior to our planned timeline. It was hard to imagine blue jeans with an expanding belly ban or unexplainable food cravings in my foreseeable future, but there it was right in front of me. Plus, I was absolutely exhausted all of the time. I would wake up on the couch at the end of a movie having only remembered the opening credits. Bedtime moved from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m., and lunch breaks turned into 30-minute nap breaks.
During my second trimester, I started having occasional swelling of the ankles, and my cravings for carbohydrates led to a bi-weekly obsession with blueberry pancakes. However, my “baby fever” finally kicked in…a dry erase board filled with baby names took residence on my kitchen wall, and my “nesting” instincts had me steam cleaning carpets at midnight.
My third trimester highlighted waddling hips, sleeplessness, and a realization that life would never be the same. I had confidence in my body’s ability to birth. However, motherhood still seemed like a foreign concept. My thoughts were uncontrollably on the future. My mind raced with all of the things I didn’t know. I would fret on my lack experience with newborns, my secret fear of breastfeeding, and my dogs’ reaction to their new little friend. But at the same time, I just couldn’t wait to meet my baby. The idea of little hands, beautiful blue eyes, and infinite amounts of love filled my heart with overwhelming joy. It seemed somewhat impossible to stay focused and be present in the moment, especially with this new little person about to enter the world.
Through all of this inevitable changing, one thing remained calming and constant in my life…my yoga practice. Standing poses like Warrior II and Chair increased my energy level and strengthen my legs. This was an absolute gift during my first trimester. I knew if I practiced a little bit of yoga daily my fatigue would automatically lessen. One hour of yoga equaled three hours of energy for evening activities. Plus, I knew that maintaining a healthy mindset and body was important for both my baby and me.
Squat, Bound Angle, and Half Circle encouraged gentle opening through my hips and inter thighs. Cat and Cow relieved minor back discomforts and increased mobility in my pelvis. The restorative pose, legs-up-the-wall, reduced ankle swelling and leg cramps. The more I practiced yoga the more comfortable I felt lying down in bed at night, especially as my belly expanded in my second trimester. Plus, I knew in order to do natural childbirth I needed a strong and open body. Therefore, working on the strength and opening of my pelvis and hips would be lead to a more successful and safe birth for both mommy and baby.
Downward dog improved my circulation and temporarily relieved pressure in my low spine. Plus, meditation and breathing increased my focus and relaxed my overactive mind. As a preparatory action, I explored different breathing techniques to discover the one that worked best for me. I wanted to take this technique into childbirth with confidence. In addition, I actually used cat/cow, downward dog, and a yoga ball during labor. All three of these techniques dramatically improved my comfort level and assisted my baby in moving through the birth canal.
I have been practicing yoga for seven years. It has been an integral part of my life through so many life-changing events, and now I can’t wait to share my newly acquired prenatal training with others. I hope new mothers-to-be will find my classes helpful and inspiring. We will practice all of the poses I mentioned above…plus much more.
Alice B. Schlegel, CYT
–In February 2011, Alice is starting a prenatal yoga series at the Yoga Community. Alice completed prenatal training with Colette Crawford at the Seattle Holistic Center in December 2010.