Prenatal Yoga Provides Sweet Relief from Head to Toe
In 2009, I was hit by a truck. . . literally. I was 28 years old, healthy, happy, and had high hopes and huge aspirations for the future. Everything changed suddenly that day when my pelvis was smashed and fractured in 3 places, my knee crunched (requiring surgical repair and a lot of metal to put it back together) and I suffered many other injuries from head to toe. Ouch!
While I was incredibly grateful to be alive, I soon began to face many harsh realizations as my surgeon, other doctors, nurses, and then physiotherapists, etc. explained to me the limits I would face due to my injuries. I soon began to grieve the loss of some of my most favourite things in life… downhill skiing, dancing, running, kickboxing, etc. And no one was able to tell me if it would be possible for me to have a baby.
But there was one thing I could still do! My beloved yoga. I had a devoted practice all through my twenties and so even after the accident, I w as still able to draw on pranayama (intentional breathing) for pain relief and began therapeutic yoga as soon as I could. I was on my mat even before I could walk again! I swear it is what brought me back onto my feet and alleviated my pain the most out of all the therapies my body was being treated with.
After two years of recovery, I met a doctor who finally gave me the go-ahead to try to have a baby. He said, “Trying to stop a woman who wants to have a baby is like trying to stop a speeding steam train. I say go for it and do whatever it takes to make it through.” My son was conceived exactly one month later and what I did to make it through was a whole lot of prenatal yoga!
Prenatal yoga helped me survive my pregnancy physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and socially. This is why I now am very driven and passionate about sharing the many benefits of prenatal yoga with other expecting mamas! I truly believe in the benefits, as I have experienced them myself.
From head to toe, prenatal yoga can soothe, lessen, and release all sorts of ailments and aches.
Let’s start from the toes and work our way up!
Feet: In our prenatal yoga session, we incorporate lovely self-foot massage, reflexology massage balls, and movements and stretches to bring relief to aching, swelling, expanding feet. Opportunities to be off of those hard-working feet while resting in comfortable restorative poses through our opening meditation and closing savasana also gives those tootsies a well-deserved, end-of-day rest!
Legs: Gentle and strength-building yoga asanas (poses) stretch the muscles in the legs to help with cramping, restlessness and increased blood flow. Strengthening the major muscles in the legs (and back/arms/shoulders) also helps with carrying a baby around–in the tummy and then in the arms/car-seat/wraps!
Pelvic floor and transverse abdominals: Some pelvic floor awareness and gently focused exercises are invaluable for many reasons! For general pelvic stability (especially as relaxin begins to flow and loosen the pelvis), for awareness and strength with a vaginal birth, and for the many benefits of post-partum pelvic floor strengthening.
Digestion and internal organs: The invigorating movements throughout the asana class bring gently increased flow within the digestive system, easing common ailments like constipation, heartburn, and indigestion. The opportunity to fully relax at the beginning and end of the session brings your nervous system into a parasympathetic mode, which allows for the body to fully surrender into a state of rest, digest, and repair.
Back: Gentle prenatal hatha yoga provides for fluid and safe ways to release back aches (from lower to upper). We also use massage balls to give wonderful release to any especially “ache-y” or tight areas. Backache is an especially common area for psychosomatic symptoms to manifest in the body and so at times, the rest, comfort, and warm support that a shared class brings can help to ease held tension from stress. Prenatal yoga also brings a nice opportunity to bring awareness to changes in posture throughout pregnancy–as baby (and breasts) get bigger and weigh the body forward, it is nice to have a yoga class reminder to stay up and aligned.
Neck and Shoulders: The neck and shoulders receive soothing TLC in each and every class. This is also a very common area for tension to be held; and so, through fluid movements following the breath, a lot of lovely release and softening can be found. It can be important to bring regular release to upper shoulder and neck tension as a common ailment in pregnancy is carpal tunnel, which actually begins up top and radiates down into the wrists. Which brings us to…
Arms and Hands: Stretching and releasing the arms and wrists feels wonderful and there are nice yogic movements we do regularly in our class that can easily be brought into daily life. Strengthening arm muscles, again, is also extremely valuable during this time– in preparation for holding, lifting, nursing, and before you know it, playing!
Head: Breathing, resting, moving, meditating, softening, and all of the sweet peace found in a prenatal yoga class, allow for tiny muscles and bones in the head to relax and ease as well as increasing oxygen and blood flow to the brain. This, and in combination with all of the above, may lessen or ease any tension in the jaw, around the eyes, and reduce headaches.
As beautiful little heads and tiny little toes are growing inside your body, it is more important than ever to take care of your own beautiful body from head to toe.
Prenatal yoga not only provides relief from physical symptoms but is also a wonderful way to feel socially connected with other women–who are also growing humans! Our class is a warm place to truly feel understood and share this experience every week. Women also often share that emotionally, the overall experiences of pregnancy can feel overwhelming at times, and through yoga, there are opportunities to feel tender with yourself, or to release some pent up heat, and through this come to feel balance and calm after the journey of an hour-long class. Finally, throughout a class, there are sweet opportunities to closely connect with the spirit of your growing baby– which for me was one of the most truly profound benefits of my own prenatal yoga practice.