Pregnancy Yoga Pointers

Pregnancy Yoga Pointers

New to the Prenatal class scene and looking for the low-down on how to get the most out of your class with your little womb buddy on board? Consider below a guide if you’re a practicing yogi newly pregnant who’d like to stick with your beloved regular yoga class (there will come a time when a proper prenatal class will be the only option, trust me!) or if you’re new to the yoga and pregnancy scene entirely, where a prenatal yoga class will be the safest starting point for you.

Keep a fertile baby garden
From the moment you see the double line on the stick it’s nice to keep things welcoming and open in the abdominal region. Even if you are still physically able to engage in twists because you’re early in pregnancy, a soft open lower abdomen sets the energetic tone for your pregnancy, acknowledging your wee ones pregnancy. It also helps you adjust your pregnancy more easily as you’ve done some prep work to accommodate the changes that are on the way. So refrain from deep abdominal twists and forward folds.

Decrease angles and depth as pregnancy progresses
The more your baby grows means more pressure on your muscles, joints, circulation, digestion, and breathing, to mention a few. The added pressure on your body will mean it’s likely some part of you (hips, low back and upper back are most common culprits) will ache regularly. Gentle, circular, fluid motion to maintain mobility and strength will get you through the pre and postnatal period. You’ll build your pre pregnancy strength and flexility once the beautiful hazy baby days are over, and your body will remember so don’t stress it!

Props = Friends
Balance, range of motion and pre pregnancy injuries mean you should not be afraid to use all the amazing yoga support on offer. You can still have a wonderful yoga practice without your hands touching the floor. Embrace your goddess shape and get creative with props that enable you and bub to find the sweet spot that will more readily encourage you to maintain safe and stable alignment and slip into your rest and digest zone, revitalising you for pregnant life beyond the mat. In addition to the yoga standards of props, blankets, bolsters, straps etc., chairs, walls, and kitchen counters will all come in handy as you bloom.

Work in a comfortable stretch – zone
Pregnancy hormones do some amazing work in preparation for childbirth — but don’t exploit this hormonal advantage into your yoga practice. Over-stretching during pregnancy can cause permanent ligament, joint and alignment damage after childbirth or breastfeeding. To keep your body safe for life, work within a moderate zone of “feeling” into the stretch and be especially mindful of this is you were hyper-flexible prior to pregnancy. You can return to the deeper yummy feels when you are a few months clear of childbirth or breastfeeding.

Adjust yourself
I offer suggestions and prompts, mainly verbal and possibly physical if warranted. However don’t let my advice stop you from taking the best out there, your own. As your body evolves with the pregnancy you’ll discover ways to make your body feel better. Trusting your own sensations and instincts during your practice will be great practice for the mothering journey that lies ahead.

Om Mammas

Om Mammas

Stop! when there is pain
Niggly aches and pains are common, sharp, searing pain is not. If this ever happens during a posture, come out as slowly as possible and let your teacher know. If may simply mean you need to chill out or an appropriate alternative can be found.

Take a break
Do not feel that every posture offered in a prenatal class is required in order for you getting a well-rounded practice. If you feel tired and need a time out or just want to use the tranquility of class to catch your breath, feel free to either take a milder version of the posture (half dog instead of full for example) or any restorative posture your beautiful mamma heart desires (child’s, seated, side lying) until you feel ready to rejoin the practice.

But don’t forget to embrace your strength
While it’s great to chill out, and you’re more apt to feel that way in the first and third trimesters, don’t be afraid to stay strong! With the exception of specific pregnancy-induced problems (which you should always tell your teacher about) there is no reason your amazing body that is making a human and preparing to bring it earth-side can endure a bit of an appropriate challenge on a regular basis throughout pregnancy. Aim to maintain strength and endurance by committing to the strengthening postures (lunges and squats for example). It will serve you well for labour, birth (both surgical and vaginal) and the postnatal recovery period.

Respect each posture, session and day as it comes
One day you’ll be flying high, feeling like the energetic rush will never end (very common after coming out of the first trimester) while the next day you will feel encumbered, heavy and just unambitious. One day you’ll feel wobbly and awkward as you adjust to your changing shape and the next you’ll feel solid, confident and stable in your skin. Take each day as it comes, incorporate the truth of what is happening for you into an appropriate yoga session, and marvel at the amazing job you are doing every day as your little soul prepares to come forth mamma.

Give’n Props some Props!

Give’n Props some Props!

In our prenatal yoga classes I ask mammas to load up with as many props as they can. As everyone settles in with their goodies arranged we begin, and as we progress without fail a mamma declares, “gee I really need some of these!” My emphatic response is always, “Yes you do!” Pregnant or not, here’s why we all deserve a little help from our prop friends.

yoga equipmentKeep your yoga groove on
If you want to have an appropriate and responsive home practice, you need to get yourself some props, stat. I know there is still the odd soul who thinks not needing a block elevates the supposed complexity of a yoga practice, but let’s get real about our bodies and what they need from time to time. In my travels it has been extremely rare to see a yogi who can effortlessly sit cross-legged without a little support from a blanket to keep a natural spinal curve and open pelvis. Body proportions(and changes therein, meaning both expanding and shrinking), illness & injury all deserve respect so we can enjoy our bodies and practice for the long haul.

Safety before cirque de soleil
No one should contort the body into inappropriately strained, squishy, or stressed shapes for a posture’s sake. There are a million variations of any pose, and using a block, strap or bolster to keep your body in that just right “sthira sukham” zone is the real way to yoga for the vast majority of us who do not have gymnastic or dance backgrounds. Long term misalignment caused by lack of support leads to permanent injury and/or pain; so check your Yoga Journal cover shoot superstar ego at the door and be nice to yourself.

Explore your creative side
Those nights when I can’t be asked to stand on my feet any longer as I’ve had another full one of hide and seek and other shenanigans the little dragon has cooked up I look happily to my bolsters and ease my aching limbs over, around and on top. The extra support feels luscious and heavenly, acquainting me with some kinder, gentler me time. Though my passion for yoga was initially sparked with my love for vinyasa, I am a mamma who has had a change of heart with the bliss a restorative practice brings. Props are a necessity to let go and go deep; many of us would benefit from a slower, more supported practice once or twice a week.

Mix up your seating situation
I’ve been grooving on Katy Bowman for over a year now, enjoying her podcasts and adding her books to my long list of must-reads. Katy is a big proponent of getting more varied, or “nutritious movement” into our days. New flash: hanging out on the sofa all night isn’t really doing your body any favours. She recommends reducing your bum’s time on furniture, but if you want a bit of comfort while you experiment with new seating arrangements, bolsters and blocks can help with the transi

So what do you need?
At minimum every yogi should, in addition to a mat of course, own at least 2 bolsters of different shapes, a strap, two blocks, a firm thick-ish blanket, and a nicely weighted eye pillow.(those things are brilliant for insomniacs, trust) Check out the larger yoga studios in your area to get started with your purchases or ask your yoga teacher for a recommendation. Here in Oz I am a big fan of Stretch Now equipment, because it is durable and pretty so it can hang out in your lounge room un-offensively. Mandukha offerings always have me salivating – that would be my go-to if I were on the other side of the blue ball.

If you haven’t purchased your props yet, make the investment! You will open the door on so many lovely yoga adventures that I look forward to sharing with you in the weeks ahead.
X ~A

Why Private Yoga Sessions?

Why Private Yoga Sessions?

In case you didn’t hear, everyone’s in love with yoga. Walk around any suburb in any major centre practically anywhere in the world and you’re sure to find a yoga studio. Check out the news agents and shops full of ample yoga mags, books, gear and accoutrements. And then online: tremendous online yoga sites like yogaglo, my yoga online and yoga today all offer fantastic classes led by inspirational and renowned teachers.

If you’ve been on the yoga train for awhile, or are thinking of hopping aboard, I’d suggest you consider adding something else to the yoga smorgasbord: private sessions. These are a perfect addition to your practice, whether you have been yoga-ing for years or days, are injured or fit as a fiddle, would like to mix up your practice or explore aspects that I may touch upon in class only briefly. Image

Here’s why I recommend private sessions:

  • I can really get to know you, your body and how it works
    During a typical class I am gazing throughout the class at a variety of people and am ensuring there are no major alignment or obvious physical issues. One on ones allow us to check in with how certain postures, alignments and practices affect you, and inform how I monitor you in class in future.
  • Adjusting adjustments
    As a student, I love adjustments from the teacher. As a teacher there’s a vast spectrum of people’s preferences adjustment and pressure-wise. It takes time for me to provide regular hands-on adjustments, as I need to attune and read each body. During a private session we can talk about this constructively. When you’re back in the weekly sessions, I can confidently adjust knowing we’ve had this dialogue, and you can relax and enjoy.
  • To go deeper and address your life
    Find yourself wanting to pipe up and ask a question about a certain posture, practice or concern in class but feel a bit intimidated? Though I do encourage open discussion during and after class, sometimes discussing and exploring during a one-on-one session just makes more sense. In one-on-ones we can explore postures, breath, meditation and relaxation that may assist you with current circumstances like stress, insomnia, injury, conception and pregnancy.
  • Specific Cross-Training for sporty peeps
    Training for a marathon or other big sporting event? I’m your woman. A sporadic practitioner before then, I became yoga-fied when I completed my first, and let’s face it probably last, marathon back in 2004. I’m convinced it’s the reason I ran an injury-free respectable time and also why I recovered so quickly. Yoga’s an excellent way to lift your game and support your body during other pursuits.
  • To add a new flavour
    Have you had the same home practice for months or years? Looking for some variations or new meditation or relaxation practices? As a vinyasa teacher I believe variety revitalises a dwindling practice. If you’re just getting started, we can determine your faves and work from there, establishing a sequence or two that can be the base of a flourishing home practice.

For those unable to attend weekly classes, buying a block of one-on-ones is the answer. With me coming to you, we can make sure you get your yoga Rx regularly. It’s a worthwhile investment in your physical and psychological health that cannot be replicated by logging on to a yoga class site.

So you can experience these benefits, I’m offering a special to students attending Sevenergy during the winter months. Stay tuned to this space, I will be making an announcement early next week!!

Oh, and p.s. I’m playing with the look of this site – would love your feedback! Happy Yoga-ing luvlies! xo

 

Staying in your lane

The other day I drove to a meeting and ended up stuck in traffic where I: one, was supremely grateful for the great tunes they were playing on triplej, and two, thanked my lucky stars that a daily commute is not part of my life.

While I and fellow travellers crept along the freeway at breakneck speed averaging 25 kilometres an hour I noticed a few drivers who decided where they were going was more important than the hundreds of other drivers stuck in a mid-morning jam along with them.

Mostly to my amusement I saw the odd driver duck out of the freeway lane and try to get ahead a few hundred metres by cheekily jutting over to a merging lane if it wasn’t all ready occupied. So a few people in a really big hurry got ahead by about a minutes’ worth of travel time. Which I guess more power to them, but really, wouldn’t it just be nice to give your neck and blood pressure a break and wait while respecting everyone else? Even if there was somewhere that you “needed” to be, would the world keep turning if you showed up 20 minutes late?

Alas, there will always be people determined to get to where they want to be and willing to endanger themselves, and sometimes others, to create the illusion they are “getting ahead.” It reminded me of what I like to call sticky-beak-itis that we can all be prone to in yoga class. Admit it, you’ve raised your eyebrow a time or two maybe admiring someone’s asana practice, or felt a twinge of jealousy seeing someone’s strength, or even smugness in noticing another student hasn’t quite gotten to where you’re at in this or that posture.

But how does comparing yourself to others actually serve you? Some might say a little bit of healthy competition is a motivator, but why compete with someone who has a different history, body and set of life circumstances than you? It reminds me of something that a fitness educator said to me years ago: There will always be someone “worse” than you and someone “better” than you. Instead of getting caught in the comparison game, the drishti, or focus as we say in yoga, should reside within and on yourself. This focus, though sustained, should be soft, pliable and realistic.

Pushing your practice too far beyond comfortable limits on a given day, and especially on a regular basis, can cause injury or permanent damage. If you are not attuned to how your body is feeling in a given moment because you’re sticky-beaking it before speeding into the wrong yoga lane, you can’t respond to its’ needs appropriately.

So use your yoga practice as a time to develop compassion and reverence for what your body does and how it feels, instead of keeping up with the yoga Joneses. The majority of us don’t practice yoga for the modelling gigs over at Yoga Journal. We come to feel better, have functionality in our bodies and stability in our minds. Devote your energy to that, and watch your yoga practice flourish.

The next time you’re in class, see if you can keep your focus on yourself; yep, stay in your own lane. Observe what really feels right for you, and respect that by modifying your practice to work with any limitations or goals. Of course it is natural to check out what is going on in our surroundings, but true depth comes with self-observation.

Broadly speaking, poke yourself in the backside the next time you feel those familiar twinges off the mat. So your friend just moved into a bigger house, your colleague just got an incredible promotion, a Facebook acquaintance just posted a pic with Ryan Gosling. Sop comparing, and instead assess and be grateful for all you’ve been blessed with.

I believe we all have a unique path that is ours alone. It is easier to find it if you’re not wasting energy measuring your achievements against anyone else. Instead, respect where you feel the natural zing, joy and ease in whatever you are doing in each moment and keep your focus there.

Out of curiosity, when was the last time you were figuratively doing a sneaky lane change, and what did you do to soothe the symptoms?

The Bottom Line

So the low back is still a bit sore; I’ve had to take it very slow to get back to recovery but it has been a blessing. I was making my way from sofa to floor with darling on board when I lost my footing and smacked my sacrum hard. A few vertebrae were compacted and the pain ensued though it was bearable, considering we had a back yard that was going to quickly fill up with guests.

The day after my legs tingled and I could barely grab sweetness from her cot; I was desperate for any bit of relief that thankfully my chiropractor helped with. She advised I would be at least four weeks before the back was completely resettled. It’s been longer and I still wake with low back pain and I have become acutely aware of tightness in my groin and psoas. All chain reactions to the initial trauma of the impact.

New opportunities arise when we are hit with a setback. My return to intense, short gym sessions have been put on hold to make sure my back is fully recovered. In its place I’ve become acquainted with a yoga practice that is responding precisely to my needs. I’ve had to take it slow, feel it out day by day, and pull back more often than not. Giving me more time for meditation, quiet, and of course an appreciation for a healthy pain-free body.

It’s nice to witness true discomfort. It has allowed me to create some sequences that I believe will work in this region of the body that so many people are affected by. And it has given me a strong reminder of what it is when a student approaches me in the future and mentions low back pain, or any pain for that matter. It can be easy to forget what that really means if we don’t experience discomfort regularly, so I’m thankful for the reminder.

Lastly, I’ve been introduced to a new style of yoga: Yin. I’ve been a couple times to a class put on by the lovely Fiona Galloway of YogaBlu. I was so inspired by how incredible I felt, in both mind and body, after the class that I purchased Bernie Clark’s book, Complete Guide to Yin Yoga. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

So yeah, I’m grateful for this. Though I’m a little off my original plan it’s an interesting detour. I’m still growing and learning, which is for me the bottom line.

What’s your bottom line? When things have gone astray from what you may have envisaged what remains important to you? And if at first you tell yourself it’s not there, do you see it if you look a bit deeper?