Pregnancy update: yoga is my best friend

I had started with yoga not so long ago, probably sometime in the middle of 2012 to supplement running and weight training. I instantly loved it and it made me think of my best friend from college, Sasha who is a yoga fiend and is quite traditional about it. Anyway, after I got pregnant of course I was all about getting to find a prenatal yoga class as it became obvious that regular yoga classes weren’t cut out for me.

A lot of times I get asked, are you still running. And I shake my head, no. Not with any regret mind you. Basically all the weight I’ve gained is sitting right around my uterus. Yeah it’s probably my baby and all the stuff around him. So I find my belly quite heavy and uncomfortable . When the belly was smaller, I ran till about 19 weeks after which I decided it just wasn’t worth it. You see the uterus is held together with these muscles called round ligament and mine would ache like crazy after/during a run, sometimes even after an extensive walk. And I had never read anywhere that running is good for your baby or pregnancy. Yes, exercise in general is a must and you can/should continue unless risks are posed and you don’t feel good about it. I just didn’t feel good running and I know how running made me feel good before I got pregnant. So I stopped.

Instead I supplemented with yoga, LOTS of yoga and some swimming when I can make the time. Both of these made me feel great, unlike post-run when my tummy hurt. The midwife made it clear I needed to exercise about 5 times a week especially if I was keen on having a normal childbirth. Which I am so I got my ass off the couch even on days I felt exhausted. First success was finding the prenatal class. Once I had gone to a few classes I realized prenatal yoga wasn’t that different from a hatha or a flow/mellow class. A few poses were missing, inversions distinctly and full torso twists. But overall, all the exercises that come recommended for a healthy child birth will be an integral part of any yoga (prenatal or not) class. These include the cat/cow poses, the warrior standing poses, bricks and back bends, lots and lots of squats – prayer and yogi squats, downward dogs, child pose, the triangle pose etc. Luckily these are poses I’ve been doing ever since I began yoga, which albeit is not very long ago and I regret not starting earlier. But ever since I started, it’s only made me feel amazing during and after. The poses I mentioned above focus on all the right muscles – the pelvic muscles, upper legs, back etc. – that you need to focus on for a healthy pregnancy and child birth.

My buddy Kanika who is also pregnant and I exchange daily (nay hourly) tips, and everything to do with pregnancy and our journeys to becoming mothers. Kanika who is extremely keen on a natural birth introduced me to the book by Bradley of the famous Bradley method of natural child birth. I’d like to have one but I am not sure I can handle it yet. However I would still like to be aware of the tools I’d need to do so. So I got the book on Kanika’s recommendation as I’m too lazy and cheap to sign up for the classes (no less than 8 weeks!). Anyway, the book has a bunch of exercises to prepare for natural birth and lo, they’re ALL yoga poses. From sitting in padmasan or simple sitting pose (which the book calls tailor pose!) to squats to cat/cow etc. Nothing new there. Moreover, every experience  I read online about women having a positive birth experience, they sang eulogies to their prenatal yoga classes and practice.

So natural or not, pregnant or not, yoga is great great great. But it’s even better for pregnancy. There’s lower chance of straining especially if you have some practice from before and know how to slow down the pace of your practice to suit your body. It really helps with back aches and tight hips – a couple of pigeons or double pigeons will stretch out those hips and IT band issues like I have. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to get to a class. I’ve been doing some form of a 30 minute class at home nearly everyday, ever since I decided I wanted to be prepared for birth and stay healthy/fit.

There are tons of yoga videos online but I would recommend finding those suited to prenatal yoga. For instance, Lara Datta has a great routine and I’ve done this one quite a few times. It’s not un-challenging but very easy pace. There are some which are more strenuous – like one where this lady who clearly is an alpha yogi – does a bunch of the usual poses but she makes you hold them longer and does back to back standing poses which can be hard (like a warrior right after a bunch of squats). But I do those on days I feel relatively more energetic. Anyway she has a series of 3 classes online all of which are challenging but great. I would just recommend doing it at your own pace than trying to keep up with the crazy yogi lady. And finally this is a class I found today, it’s a very easy paced video, is quite technical in the way it progresses. This also has a series of 3 videos and I haven’t done them all yet. And no prenatal class is complete without kegels so that’s a good sign for a good yoga routine. Even if you don’t find it in a routine, it’s easy to add in while doing any of the sitting poses like simple sitting or butterfly sitting. I like to mix up the routines to get the feeling like I am actually going to a new class. I wish there were more full class length videos online and I know I can always buy dvds but I’d get bored of the same routine.

In any case, if you find yourself reading this and you may want to become or are pregnant I highly recommend yoga. It never feels bad – in fact if it does you should stop – like some other forms of exercise (Bikram yoga is included here – I like yoga for how it makes me feel and I can’t ever imagine feeling good at 105F heat). In fact many weight routines do incorporate many yoga poses too. And the best part about yoga is that it just keeps getting better with time. You get more flexible and the same poses can generate so much more incremental benefit over time. If there’s anything India should be proud of it’s definitely yoga!