Now we would like to provide the reader some information on the specifics of hatha yoga practice for women during pregnancy. First of all, we want to draw your attention to the fact that in the absence of obvious, direct contraindications to physical activity, a pregnant woman can and should practice physical activities. Childbirth is like going to the gym. This is a completely natural, physiological process, which, as was created by nature itself, a woman must pass on her own. If there are no physical activities for 9 months, the birth itself risks prolonging and complicating, and the sensations in the following days will be unpleasant. This fact does not allow many women to enjoy long-awaited motherhood and give their attention, tenderness and care to the baby in sufficient measure. In addition, if a woman is very weak after giving birth, even in those maternity hospitals where joint stay for the mother and her child is allowed, the baby will be taken to a separate box, since the mother will not be able to take good care of him. We will talk in more detail about the paramount importance of joint stay of the baby and mother immediately after childbirth in the next section of the book. Now let’s consider what it is recommended to do for the pregnant women-yoginis, and what they should absolutely not do. Let’s start with the fact that the 1st trimester of pregnancy is the most delicate. Formation and attachment of the fetus and placenta occurs. The placenta continues to form and become fixed until the 16th week of pregnancy. At this time, it is desirable to be particularly attentive to the whole load on the body. Very often at the very beginning colds and fever appear. Immunity slightly weakens its protective properties and gives pregnancy to gain a foothold. In no case do you need to take any medications aimed at the treatment of the common cold. The best option is to stay at home for a few days and let the body do its job.
The second trimester is considered to be the best and quiet time, as the body starts to gain strength again, and the weight of the growing baby is not felt yet. In the third trimester, as a rule, yoga practices are also acceptable and even recommended for maintaining a good physical body level before childbirth.
Table “Recommendations on the practice of hatha yoga for women during pregnancy” Recommended, acceptable
Soft practice at a measured pace with a sufficient load on all muscle groups
Active fast practice with power asanas
Shatkarms aimed at cleansing the nasal and lacrimal canals (Jala Neti, Sutra Neti, Trataka)
Shatkarmas, in which the organs of the abdominal cavity are involved (kapalabhati, vamana dhouti or kunjala, shankh prakshalana, basti, etc.)
Breast backward bends, where the buttocks are tightened, the coccyx is turned under itself, the shoulder blades and elbows are trying to touch behind
Lumbar backward bends (Urdhva mukha svanasana, Ustrasana, Natarajasana, Bhujangasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana, etc.), since tension of the abdominal muscles occurs
Open lung twist on inspiration are useful for the spine and are harmless to the abdominal cavity
Closed twists on exhalation, during which the abdominal cavity and pelvic organs are clamped
Postures for the opening of the hip joints (however, exclude those where there is a strong opening of the pelvis or muscle tension)
It is permissible to perform deep asanas on the opening of the hip joints (Baddhakonasana, Ardha padmasana, Padmasan, etc.) in full version only if before the pregnancy you have mastered them at an advanced level, otherwise, there is a risk of provoking dislocations in the sacroiliac joint or sprain of the ligaments, which are softened by the hormone of pregnancy - relaxin
Tilts to straight or soft/slightly bent knees from the position of the foot at the width of the pelvis or slightly wider
Tilts to straight or soft/slightly bent knees from the position of the foot together
Balance posture on the legs, not suggesting deep opening of the pelvis, tension of the abdominal muscles or stretchings of the posterior surface of the legs (Vrikshasana, Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana 1-2 with a bent knee, Virabhadrasana 3 with hands on the wall). Not for long! With a long performance there is a rush of blood to the limbs and “stealing” blood from the uterus.
Balance postures on the legs with a deep deflection, abdominal tension or opening of the pelvis (Natarajasana, Virabhadrasana 3 with arms outstretched, Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana 1-2 with straightened leg).
Asanas for strengthening hands (Gomukhasana for hands, Garudasana for hands, etc.)
Balance asanas on hands (Ashtavakrasana, Eka Pad Kaundinianasana, Kukutasana, Bhujapidasana, etc.)
Asanas, in which the muscles of the press are strained (Urdhva Chaturanga Dandasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, Shirshasana, Navasana, Ardha Navasana, etc.)
Asanas on the belly (Dhanurasana, Shalabhasana and etc.).
Asanas where you should keep legs hip-distance apart (Vajrasana, Viraыana, Gomukhasana, Garudasana for the feet, various variants of twists, where the legs are crossed, etc.)
Jumping, broad lunges, deep outlets in asanas
Adapted upside-down asanas (Viparita Karani mudra with a bolster under the sacrum with feet on the wall)
Classic inverted asanas (Salamba Sarvangasana, Halasana, Carnapidasana, etc.)
Soothing pranayama (full yogic breathing, adapted version of Ujjayi-pranayama, Nadi Shodhana, Bhramari)
Energetic pranayama, in which the muscles of the abdominal cavity are actively involved (Bhastrika, Kapalbhati)
In pranayama, the child’s training for hypoxia in childbirth: stepped breathing (breath in - one-second delay - another breath in - one-second delay and so on until filling of lungs volume with air, further calm exhalation without any stops; by the same scheme we change the inhalation and exhalation – calm breath and a stepped exhalation) or a deep long exhalation in any soothing pranayama
Delays in breathing, abdominal lock, Uddiyana Bandha and all techniques based on their performance (Agnisara Kriya, etc.)
All efforts and twists are done on inspiration
All efforts and twists are done on exhalation
Also, when practicing Hatha Yoga during pregnancy, it is important to observe the following points:
• When sitting on the yoga rug, put something soft under the pelvis, for example, a blanket or bolster. The height of the elevation should be such that the knees and thighs are in the same plane with the pelvis. Knees should not stick upward, causing a rounding of the spine.
• Standing on all fours (in a cat’s pose), be sure to control the position of the knees and elbows. Under the knees, it is also desirable to put a blanket. Watch that there is no inflection in the elbows. For this, the elbows themselves must not look back, but on the sides. So you avoid a completely unnecessary strain on the joints.
• It is very important to learn how to properly lie on your back and get up from the positions on your back (both during practice of hatha yoga, and in everyday life). We lay down and get up only through the side, in no way straining the muscles of the press.
• Shavasana should also be adapted for a pregnant woman. You can stay in shavasana, both lying on your back (especially in I-II trimesters, in the III trimester it is also permissible provided that the woman feels comfortable), and lying on the side. If you choose a position on the back, you should put a bolster under the hips, so that the loin is more tightly pressed to the floor. You should divorce the knees in different directions, as in Baddha Konasana (butterfly posture).
If you lie on your side, you need to put the bolster between the knees to remove pressure on the crotch area, and also to avoid skewing one of the hip joints. It is recommended to hold this position not only in shavasana after practice, but also during night sleep, especially in late pregnancy.
However, whatever position you choose, in any case, you should put something soft under your head and cover yourself with a blanket in order to restore strength as comfortably and efficiently as possible. The desirable time for shavasana after practice during pregnancy is at least 10 minutes.
“Before the pregnancy, I practiced yoga for a year every day. Classes were held at home under the lectures of the OUM.RU club. During pregnancy I felt very well, so I did not reduce the level of complexity and continued to practice yoga. Video lecture by Ekaterina Androsova “Yoga for Women” was especially loved practice for me. I excluded only twists, asanas on my stomach and inverted asanas of it. Regular yoga classes helped me not to gain a lot of excess weight (9 kg) during pregnancy and prepare my abdominal muscles for successful childbirth. Already on the eleventh day after childbirth I did not have a postnatal tummy, and three months later I had a perfect tucked up belly. This was the fastest recovery after childbirth, despite the fact that it was my third childbirth. Already a month after the childbirth I returned to yoga in a gentle mode (yoga during menstruation), and after three - I practiced at full capacity”.
Julia Skrynnikova, teacher,
Mother of Elizaveta, Danila and Svyatoslav
Of course, it is very important to make efforts and practice regularly during pregnancy. Nevertheless, you should not forget about the peculiarity and delicacy of this female state, as well as the necessary preparation for childbirth and postnatal recovery. Perinatal yoga can be a good alternative to your practice namely for this period. What is its peculiarity? The prefix “peri-” in Latin means “about/near”. Perinatal yoga is a system of exercises and breathing techniques, designed for women especially for periods "near the pregnancy", that is, the period of preparation for conception, directly period of bearing the child and postpartum recovery with participation of the baby in the practice. It is important to remember that this system is designed to support the body and energy of a woman during specific periods of her life (including during menstruation), but it cannot replace the full-fledged practice of hatha yoga when there is no need for it.
In the period of preparation for conception and pregnancy, this practice is very positive for maintaining the body and preparing it for childbirth, and also as a pledge of the most successful recovery of the female body after childbirth. Classes are usually built on the basis of adapted asanas and breathing techniques of classical Hatha Yoga, but they have the following important accents:
• Much attention is paid to working with the pelvis both in the direction of the counternutation and nutation in order to improve blood circulation in the small pelvis, aligning the correct, even position of the pelvis, eliminating distortions, improving pelvic biomechanics for further preparation for the childbirth process.
o Pelvic counternutation – movements and postures, suggesting the opening of the iliac bones and bringing together the sciatic bones (positions with legs hip-distance apart, or feet and toes outward: Upavishta konasana, Utthita Trikonasana, Vrikshasana, etc.)
o Pelvic nutation – movements and postures, suggesting the opening of the ischium bones and bringing together the ileal bones (position with feet toes inwards and heels outward: Prasarita Padottanasana, Adho Mukha Shvanasana, etc.)
• An important place in practice (especially for pregnant women) is for working with the perineum, training muscles and tissues before childbirth. Often combined with a special type of breathing (Ujjayi pranayama with hissing exhalation through the mouth).
• Practice is built on the basis of micro-movements, which allow you not to do the extreme positions in asanas, but also effectively work out the body.
• Practice actively includes soothing breathing techniques and mantra-singing to minimize the anxious conditions of a woman and the development of contact with her baby.
“During pregnancy, I studied materials from the Internet, where experienced teachers gave recommendations on yoga classes during pregnancy. Until the very last day of pregnancy, practice yoga supported my body in good shape and gave relaxation. I think that I would have had time to practice yoga on the day of birth, if they had not started at 4 o’clock in the morning”. Anna Solovey, musical director of the kindergarten, mother of Nadezhda
“Before my second pregnancy, I knew about yoga in theory, but did not practice it. My second daughter laid the foundation. I do not know, why I decided to go for yoga at all, given that the first child was 10 months old. I was just drawn by a magnet there. I practiced beginning from 15 weeks up to 38. To say that children are different (and I associate this with yoga by 90 percent) means to say nothing. Starting from the meeting in the maternity ward and ending with the absence of diapers. I practiced yoga 2-3 times a week. The second child is infinitely calm, I did not swaddle her at all, unlike the first. She did not scream, even in the first seconds after her birth. I clearly remember my question to the doctor: “Why my child does not cry?” She snuffled something to herself and that’s all. In the maternity ward, when she was on my belly, she opened her arms and hugged me. Just for the sake of this, practicing together was worth it. You can explain the differences in the behavior of children in any way, of course, but when you spend 9 months practicing together regularly, communicate, adjust, it will definitely leave a mark on your relationship from the first minute. I very much regret that in the first pregnancy I did not even think about conducting pregnancy in such a way”. Ksenia Smorgunova, a former chief accountant, mother of Arina and Polina
“Starting somewhere from the fifth month, every third day I fasted, namely during pregnancy I began to visit sauna regularly, besides that I went for yoga classes for pregnant women, where, I confess, the load was more intensive than on usual classes. It is interesting that during pregnancy I began to look much better than before. Of course, all these austerities were not for my beauty, but for the good development of my baby. The fact is that the toddler is facing a very difficult moment – birth – this is incredibly difficult. And during the whole pregnancy not only the mother is preparing for childbirth, but also her child. The bigger baby is, the weaker his muscles are, the harder it is to be born. When the mother is engaged in physical activity, her breathing and heart rhythm becomes quicker, the child experiences the same load, he also begins to actively behave, thereby developing physically, does not gain excess weight and volume. Specialized classes do not just teach how to breathe properly in childbirth, they train a child so that it was not a shock, violence for him.
Thus, the use of a special system of perinatal yoga during pregnancy is an effective tool for working with the physical and energy levels of a woman, taking into account her special situation. We will talk about the practice of postnatal yoga (yoga after childbirth) in more detail in section IV.