Yoga is an incredible boon to a woman in early and active labor. Consciously breathing and moving your body can help you feel more comfortable, focus your mind, and help the baby shift positions and move lower into your pelvis. Moving around can also increase your sense of control and may decrease or prevent the need for analgesia (drugs for pain relief). A few beneficial yogic practices are:
Tune into your breath and deepen the inhalation and exhalation to calm your system. Perform this practice sitting cross-legged on your bottom or lying on your side with pillows between your knees and under your head for support.
SUKHASANA, or EASY POSE
This is a base pose for this and many more of the breathing and meditation practices that you will be doing throughout all trimesters.
- Sit on your buttocks on the floor. You may wish to use a blanket to elevate your hips for increased comfort. If you use a blanket, choose a thick one and fold in half so it is about two to six inches high. Then sit on your buttocks on the blanket.
- Widen your legs, and bend your knees so that you can slip each foot beneath the opposite knee as you fold your legs in toward your torso.
- Make sure the pelvis is in a neutral position, neither tilted forward nor backward.
- Take a deep breath and feel your spine lengthen as you sit tall and relax your feet, legs, shoulders, and arms.
- Rest your hands on your thighs.
Now that you are comfortable in Sukhasana, or just sitting cross-legged or in a chair, we will move into the breathing practice. With this practice, you will explore gentle breath awareness, then bring your attention to extended exhale breathing, which has a calming and relaxing effect on your mind and body.
Extended exhale breathing can be done before bed, if you awake in the middle of the night, or any time you feel agitated and wish to become more tranquil. Pranayama [breath] exercises are typically done in a seated position, but in pregnancy, your comfort is paramount and all pregnant women can bend the rules as needed.
CAKRAVAKASANA (RUDDY GOOSE POSE)
Slowly move in and out of this pose to encourage the baby to move and shift its position if necessary. It also just feels wonderful.
- Start on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips or slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- On an inhalation, gently lift your chest and your head away from your belly, lifting your heart center.
- On an exhalation, pull your belly toward your spine as you round your lower back and bring your buttocks toward your heels.
- Do this three to four more times, gently linking breath and movement, and gently rocking back and forth.
UPAVISHTA KONASANA (WIDE ANGLE POSE)
- Sit directly on the floor or elevate your buttocks by sitting on a folded blanket. Spread your legs out in front of you and then spread them wide.
- Flex the feet and engage the leg muscles by pressing the backs of the legs down.
- Inhale as you lengthen the spine upwards and lift your arms by your ears.
- Exhale, lower your arms, and gently walk your hands in front of you.
- Inhale and bring your torso back up.
- Repeat 3 times.
- The third time you walk your hands forward, rest your head and arms on a bolster for several breaths.
- When you are ready to come out of the pose, press your hands into the floor and use the strength of your arms to bring yourself back to the starting position.
These three asanas also facilitate maximum comfort and effectiveness in labor and allow access to a woman’s back for massage to relieve pain.
Excerpted from Yoga Mama, Yoga Baby: Ayurveda and Yoga for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth by Margo Shapiro Bachman, MA. Copyright © by Margo Shapiro Bachman. Published by Sounds True. Drawings by Richard Wehrman.
Margo Shapiro Bachman, MA, is a nationally certified Ayurvedic practitioner and certified yoga teacher who holds her master’s in education. She has studied Western herbal medicine and yoga for over 20 years and received extensive Ayurvedic training with Dr. David Frawley, Dr. Vasant Lad, and Maya Tiwari. Her private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico, focuses on women’s health. See margoshapirobachman.com