Yoga for Pregnancy

Ninety-Two Safe, Gentle Stretches Appropriate for Pregnant Women & New Mothers

Sandra Jordan

St. Martin's Griffin

Chapter 1
The proper positioning of the pelvis is the key to correct posture. The placement of the pelvis determines the curves of the spine. When the pelvis is correctly placed, the supporting structures above it will move into balance. All in all it is an awareness of good posture which will bring the whole body into alignment.
A normal back has four curves. They form an S shape. The lower back and neck are concave curves - they curve inward toward the front of the body. The tailbone area and the upper back are convex curves - they curve outward away from the back of the body.
The normal curves of the back insure proper spacing between the vertebrae of the back. Nerves branch out from the spinal cord and exit between the vertebrae. If the curves become excessive or flattened, compression of the nerves which pass between the vertebrae may result.
Pregnancy tends to cause compression in the lower back. This compression is due to the weight of the growing uterus and the subsequent lack of abdominal muscle control. As a result, correct posture is distorted. This creates an excessive lower back curve. Reclining pelvic tilting poses will help alleviate this compression. The accompanying lower back pain will be relieved by lengthening the lower back muscles.
Pelvic tilting on hands and knees (Cat Stretch p. 4) may also relieve back pain and sciatica. The emphasis is on working the abdominal muscles against gravity. This hands and knees position may also be used in labor to relieve backache.
Hints And Cautions
Pelvic tilting poses may be performed during all three trimesters of pregnancy. However back-lying pelvic tilts should be limited to the first trimester.
After the fourth or fifth month a pregnant woman lying on her back may become uncomfortable, dizzy, or evennauseous. This is due to the weight of the uterus pressing down on a vein called the vena cava. The vena cava brings blood back to the heart from the legs and pelvis. When it is compressed, blood volume to the heart decreases, blood pressure drops, and blood flow to the mother's brain and the placenta is lessened. This causes temporary oxygen deprivation to mother and child. If this should happen, the mother would become light-headed. To stop the dizziness, she would need to roll onto her side and sit up.
The vena cava syndrome is most pronounced in the last trimester of pregnancy. Therefore, all back-lying poses are to be discontinued after the fifth month.
It is important to prevent straining the abdominal muscles during pregnancy. They are already being overstretched by the growing uterus. To avoid overworking these muscles when sitting up, roll onto one side, and use your hands to push yourself up to a sitting position.
Basic Standing Posture
Stand erect with feet slightly apart and outer edges of feet parallel to each other. Distribute weight of body evenly over arches of feet.
Completely straighten legs by tightening front thigh muscles.
To create horizontal alignment of pelvis, lift up front hipbones and move tailbone down toward floor.
Lift breastbone up and slightly forward. Drop shoulders and relax arms. Lengthen back of neck and look directly forward. Ankles, hips, shoulders, and ears should be in line. Adjust standing position as pregnancy progresses.
Standing correctly improves posture and relieves lower back strain by balancing muscles and aligning vertebrae.
Reclining Pelvic Tilt
Lie on back on mat. Bend knees and place feet flat on mat. Feet are apart, parallel, and a comfortable distance from buttocks. Knees may relax inward until they touch. Extend arms at sides with palms facing upward.
Breathe in, lift chest, and allow lower back to arch and lift slightly off floor.
Breathe out, press feet firmly, and flatten lower back to floor. Tighten buttock muscles and let tailbone lift slightly off of floor.
Repeat pelvic tilt 5 to 10 times. Inhale and release lower back, exhale and press lower back to lengthen spinal muscles. When finished roll onto one side and sit up.
This pose relieves tension in lower back muscles.
Bridge Pose
Lie on back, bend knees, and place feet flat on mat. Feet are apart, parallel, and a comfortable distance from buttocks. With palms down, stretch arms alongside body.
Exhale, press lower back firmly to floor. Inhale and tighten buttocks. On next exhalation, press down with arms and feet, lift hips off floor, and raise tailbone upward. Lengthen lower back while lifting. Breathe normally and hold. Roll down and relax.
Repeat 2 or 3 times. Curl tailbone off floor first, lift pelvis higher than abdomen, and squeeze knees together. Release, gently lowering upper back to floor first. Roll onto one side and push up to a sitting position.
This pose relieves lower back pain by strengthening abdominal and buttock muscles.
Cat Stretch
Kneel on floor. Position knees directly under hips and a few inches apart. Place hands in line with shoulders, fingers facing forward. Look straight ahead.
While inhaling, look up, lift buttocks, and descend lower back slightly.
While exhaling, look down, tuck buttocks under, lift back, and allow upper back to round upward.
Repeat 5 times. Inhale and release back downward. Exhale and lift back upward. Keep arms straight. Release, sit back on heels, widen legs, stretch spine forward between legs, and rest forehead on floor.
This pose releases lower back tension, and is excellent during back labor.
Cat Stretch With Leg Lift
Kneel on floor. Position knees directly under hips and a few inches apart. Place hands in line with shoulders, fingers facing forward.
While inhaling, look up, lift buttocks, tilt top of front pelvis downward, and allow lower back to descend slightly. While exhaling, look down, tuck buttocks under, lift back, and allow upper back to round upward.
Return to neutral position on hands and knees. Look forward and maintain natural spinal curves.
Extend left leg on floor, turn toes under to stretch calf muscles. Lift leg off floor, hold, and alternately point and flex foot. Lower leg and repeat with right leg.
This pose strengthens back, buttock, hamstring, calf and shin muscles.
Lower Back Stretch To Wall
Stand with back to wall and position feet a few inches from wall. Separate feet, bend knees slightly, and rest hands on thighs. Feet are parallel to each other and knees face straight ahead.
Inhale and lengthen spine. Exhale, tuck tailbone under, and flatten lower back to wall. Breathe normally and maintain stretch of lower back against wall.
Use this resting pose frequently when back is tired. Hands may rest on wall, or interlock underneath abdomen, for support in last trimester. To strengthen thigh muscles, bend knees, lower buttocks until thighs are almost parallel to floor, and press lower back to wall.
To release, straighten legs, and stand in upright position.
This pose relieves lower back fatigue and strengthens legs.
YOGA FOR PREGNANCY. Copyright © 1987 by Sandra Jordan. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.