By Luminary Ashley Holly McEachern
“A woman in birth is at once her most powerful, and most vulnerable.” - Marcie Macari
It’s been noted throughout the years that a regular prenatal yoga practice can have a powerful impact on both mom and baby throughout pregnancy. Whether you are hoping to improve sleep, strength and the flexibility required for labour or are striving to reduce stress, anxiety, lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and breathing restrictions, prenatal yoga just might be the remedy you are looking for.
Bask in the gentle rest and relaxation that comes with this short and sweet pregnancy-friendly restorative yoga sequence, designed to relieve lower back pain, ease tension, and release stress and anxiety. Spend as little or as much time as your body desires in each of these shapes. Listen deeply to your inner wisdom to determine when it is time to crawl out of your fort and slip into the following posture. Avoid any poses that trigger pain, discomfort, dizziness or shortness of breath.
Required for this sequence: 2 bolsters, 2 blocks, 1 optional blanket
Note on props: If bolsters and blocks are not available, you can use pillows or rolled up blankets instead.
Adi Shaki, Adi Shaki, Adi Shakti, Namo Namo
Sarab Shakti, Sarab Shakti, Sarab Shakti, Namo Namo
Pritham Bhagvati, Pritham Bhagvati, Pritham Bhagvati
Kundalini Mata Shakti, Mata Shakti, Namo Namo
I bow to (or call on) the primal power
I bow to (or call on) the all encompassing power and energy
I bow to (or call on) that through which God creates
I bow to (or call on) the creative power of the Kundalini, the Divine Mother Power.
Why : Seated meditation is a powerful place to connect with your baby, and find stability and groundedness, while focusing on your mantra or breath. This is particularly useful when the mind and body feel busy and out of control. In the Kundalini tradition, chanting the Adi Shakti mantra invokes the power and strength of the divine feminine and creative force. It is said to connect to the highest manifestation of the mother.
How to: Settle your sitting bones onto your mat, elevating your hips with a prop if you like. Draw your soles of your feet together and find a comfortable distance between your inner knees from left to right, and your heels and pelvis from front to back. Place blocks beneath your knees to limit the depth of this stretch. Place a bolster lengthwise in front of your body as you begin to descend your head forward, setting your forehead on the bolster. Surrender to the inward gaze towards your baby and your belly.
Why : This posture stimulates your kidney meridian line, which is directly connected to your bladder. This may help resolve those frequent trips to the washroom, which can be one of the most irritating aspects of pregnancy.
How To: Consider placing extra padding, such as a blanket beneath your ankle and knee joints before you come to kneel on the floor. Draw your big toes towards one another, open your knees wide enough to create space for your growing belly, and release your torso down towards a block or bolster, ensuring that your belly is not squished to the floor. Soften your arms overhead and rest.
Why : With ample propping, supported child’s pose can be a very relaxing, calming and destressing shape for moms-to-be. This pose offers a moderate stretch to the hips, thighs and those swelling ankles. It is also a perfect place to connect with the baby in your belly.
How To: Place two bolsters belly length apart on your yoga mat. Carefully, rest your pelvis or the top of your thighs on one bolster, allowing your belly to rest in the open space, and place your elbows or your chest on the second bolster. Lift your heart and gaze towards the sky and enjoy this gentle backbend.
Why : Pregnant women rarely get to be face-down. The use of props to create a ‘hole’ for the belly, offering a refreshing alternative to typical backbends. This can tone the spine and softly and safely compress the lower back, all while stimulating the kidney and bladder energy lines.
How To: This variation of reclining bound angle pose is ideal for women who still feel comfortable on their backs whilst pregnant. Set up by placing 1-2 bolsters lengthwise along the back of your yoga mat, and setting one block on either side of your mat. Sit at the edge (not on) the bolster(s) and draw the soles of your feet together. Externally rotate your thighs resting them on the blocks (at any height you prefer). Descend your spine to your bolsters, open your arms to either side, and allow your palms to face up. For further support, place a folded blanket under your head as a pillow.
Why: While stimulating the kidneys and bladder, this pose also opens your heart chakra offering a surge of joy while increasing circulation. You may feel a subtle stretch in your thighs, groin and knees, as well as a reduction in stress, pregnancy blues and cramping.
How To : Lie down on your left side with a blanket or soft bolster beneath your head and another bolster between your legs. Extend or bend your left arm until it finds a comfortable resting place and hold for up to 10 minutes.
Why :This pregnancy-friendly savasana prevents nerve pain from lying on your back. The pose may relieve fatigue and stress, all whilst inspiring total rest and relaxation. If you happen to fall asleep here, embrace the unanticipated nap for as long as you need.
How To: Find a comfortable cross-legged seat on a cushion or your yoga mat. Soften your gaze down the ridge of your nose, turning your palms to face down on your thighs and lengthen your spine. Try slow, deep inhales and exhales.
Why : Research on infant development concludes that prenatal meditation positively impacts the health and temperament of your baby.
Bio: Ashley Holly McEachern is a yoga teacher, a writer, mom-to-be and a globetrotter. She has traveled over 20 countries as a graduate student in International Development, a charity worker, a political and not-so-political journalist, a yoga teacher, a spirit seeker and a lover of all things Mother Nature has to offer. For more information on adapting your yoga practice for pregnancy, visit www.ashleyholly.com .