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!



I get by with a l’il help from my friends!

I owe a lot to a lot of people for the lifestyle I live and enjoy. For one, I am so grateful for the friends I’ve made here in Austin and everywhere else, who continue to encourage, support, admire, inspire and be inspired by the things I do and the things we share in common. I move to Austin a very different person. Since I moved, I realized that the way to enjoy and embrace the city is to do what it does best, – the outdoors. And so I started running, biking, swimming and now onto other forms of running such as trail running and yes, even yoga!

Through running I met fabulous people – people who not only share my love for an active lifestyle but much more. People who are interesting to me, have interesting things to say. And then it’s a beautiful cycle. I meet great people through running or something, they become my good friends and then they become partners in my new adventures! I went to a lovely Hatha yoga class with my buddies Emily (who I met through theatre, another common interest) and Itisha, after which we had a wonderful lunch downtown in Austin, at Whole Foods and just chit-chatted for some time.

One of the best stories I have about getting by with help from my friends is how I got into triathlons last year! I was goaded into it by my friends Cha and Sha. Cha would join me for informal training and Sha gifted me a bunch of tri gear to get me started/motivated. I eventually signed up with a training group, during which I made some great acquaintances. In the end, I was so nervous about the open water swim during my first race – Cha signed up to do the race with me without training! Another friend Amit, another seasoned triathlete, diligently coached my open water swim fears away! And finally, I got so much support and encouragement from all these friends who’ve done it before.

And the more I do, the more people I meet that add something to my life. Which is great, I feel like I keep growing, keep learning about myself, about people around me. Moreover, some of my old friends, motivated by what I’ve been doing have also turned to something new for their lives – running, biking or something. I get notes, emails and facebook posts about how they were ‘inspired’ by me, which I find humbling to say the least! Me and inspire anyone else??

And sometimes I’ll get inspired to try something new from an oldest friend. My college buddy Sasha, who I have known for over 15 years and met a year ago in India told me she swears by yoga. At that time I was into running and being very ‘active’ about all that I did so I didn’t pay much attention. I couldn’t imagine sitting around in a pose, not sweating and it being ‘exercise’. But then what she said somehow stuck with me and eventually I decided to give it a shot. And it’s been fantastic. I know now why people love it. It’s great – it stretches and relaxes, it builds and strengthens, it challenges your mind and endurance, depending on type of yoga. What I love about yoga now is not only how it makes me feel after a good class but also during. A lot of course depends on the particular poses in the class. For instance, the first Vinyasa class I took – I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought it moved faster than I could handle. However, the second time around, I had an idea of the poses and was able to follow through much easier. I was also able to push and challenge myself during some of the poses.

A bunch of friends had been doing yoga and in talking to them, I first thought about it and pondered for a while. Finally cleared up clutter in my schedule to give it a shot and there’s no looking back! Thank god for the friends I have and the life I lead! Namaste!

Some yoga, some running!

I’ve finally given in to this yoga fad. I mean yoga. I tried it once at the UT gym before we went to London and the first class was bliss. I really felt good right after. My limbs felt stretched and back felt so good. I almost wanted to go right back in and do it again. So I went back after the London trip. I hadn’t run for 2 weeks since the race. We’d walk a lot on London but I never got the chance to go running which is a tragedy cos I could have gotten bragging rights like I did when I ran in Rio and SP. Anyway, came back and went to 2 hatha yoga classes. From my Vedanta classes, as I recall Hatha Yoga was the lesser mortal’s path to the divine. Among the four yoga paths, (Bhakti, Karma, Raja or combo), Hatha was the path of cleansing your mind through bodily endurance and eventually realizing oneness with everything. So in my mind, somehow erroneously I’d thought Hatha was self-denial and torture. Perhaps it is, I don’t know. But it didn’t occur to me then that the path to endurance has to be through some form of self-denial or self-discipline. I know that now.

So I must say I was turned off by the word Hatha Yoga in that I thought it might be difficult. Then I read the description on the UT website “This mellow form of yoga focuses on simple poses that flow from one to the other at a very comfortable pace. Participants are encouraged to go at their own pace, taking time to focus on the breathing and meditation in their practice. This yoga is ideal for winding down at the end of a tough day.” That doesn’t sound hard does it? It was actually pretty awesome. Went in on a Saturday morning after a long flight back from London the day before and boy did it help me stretch out those creaky limbs. I went back the next day and I actually felt my muscles feeling a bit sore.

Sunday I also went to run with my running buddy Sue. That was not so good. It was hot and humid and I hadn’t run since the race so I was in bad shape. We did St. Eds which is hilly and rocky too. Eventually in the last mile of the 5 miles it mercifully began to rain and cooled down so I felt better running instead of panting like a dog.

Joe sent an email last week asking if I was done after Nueces or still ‘wanted to play’. I didn’t think I was done but definitely am not thinking of another race. So I went back on Tuesday, after the t-storm. Walnut Creek was muddy as hell but I felt pretty ok running. I’m definitely building up, it feels like it.

Went to a vinyasa yoga class on Wednesday. This seemed to be a faster version of the Hatha class. So more in between a core class and yoga. What I like about yoga is the emphasis on breathing, recovering using relaxation.

B thinks its my new thang. Probably is, we’ll see. I really feel much calmer after class. Everytime I walk out of the gym, it makes me think of everything that’s good and happy. So yes, I don’t really mind this new thang. With how busy life is, stress and all, I’ll take the calm, even its only for an hour in class.