Some Special Yoga, Asanas & Exercises during Pregnancy
It is a mistaken belief that pregnancy is an ordeal through which the woman emerges only after losing her physical beauty, her charms, her contours and her curves. A well-balanced diet, regular exercise, can make her preserve her charms and the post pregnancy exercise and dietary regimes can turn her into a new woman.
During pregnancy, many changes in the body occur: the body becomes heavy and fat, the stomach or lower abdomen gets rather protruded. All these changes do disturb the lady’s equilibrium because some of her muscles had to work under stress. Owing to various reasons of comfort and convenience most of the pregnant ladies develop wrong gait and stance which put further load on their muscles. First of all, they must learn how to walk or carry themselves without putting least burden upon their body.
The Exercise Related to Equilibrium
Right equilibrium of the body means carrying it without putting any extra burden on your muscles and bones. Owing to the extra pressure on the spine due to the heavier portion of the stomach an unwanted arch at the back is developed which overstretches the tendons and muscles at the back and the sides. As the baby develops in the womb, the abdomen of the expectant mother progressively bulges forward. This bulge creates tension in the muscles of the back and waist. It is tension that is responsible for the usual bolt-upright appearance which also causes a backache. In order to lessen the tension, the baby should repeatedly try to constrict her hip muscles towards inside. Moreover, she must also learn the right way of standing or sitting. Given below are the pictorial illustrations of doing so rightly.
Since most of the time, the pregnant lady keeps sitting she must know how to sit properly. Never allow your legs to hang in the air. They ought to be given a support by providing adequately high footrest if, while sitting on the chair her legs are left hanging.
Now do the following exercise to improve your stance.
(a) Lie flat on the floor and bending the legs from the knees plant your feet firmly on the floor. Now constricting your back and abdomen muscles gradually try to make your back fully touch the floor. Count 5 to 10 and then relax your body.
Now raising your head and shoulders a bit, constrict again your stomach muscles and try to touch your left toe with your right hand. Then reserve the exercise and try to touch your right toe with the left hand. Repeat it for about 5 to 10 times.
Now sit on the floor with both the legs stretched and turn your feet from ankles as much upwards as possible. Repeat it for 8 to 10 times. Now rotate your feet in a circular motion. Do it for 8 to 10 times. This exercise reduces swelling on the feet and the cramps in the muscles.
(b) Exercises for Strengthening the Abdomen: With knees slightly apart, kneel down and place your palms on the floor, assuming an all-fours position. Now maintaining your balance and keeping the back straight, raise the right arm and the left leg till they are level with your back. Return to the initial position. Perform the same movement with the left arm and the right leg. Repeat ten times for each side alternately.
(c) Exercise for Strengthening the Back Muscles: With face up, lie on the floor. Then gradually bending the legs at the knees, try to bring the feet nearer the torso. Press down with one foot so as to raise the back off the floor. Maintain this position for six seconds. Return to the initial position. Now do the same with the other foot. Now press down with both feet simultaneously so as to raise the back off the floor. Maintain this position for six seconds. Return to the initial position. Repeat the whole sequence ten times. In case you feel it putting the strain on you, relax a bit and then perform this exercise.
(d) Exercise to Provide Relief in the Backache: Lie down flat with face up, on the floor. Bend the legs at the knees. Now raise the back off the floor, with arms extended forwards and reach for the knees. Keeping the back thus raised, impart a rotatory motion to the hips. Keep this up for six seconds, without lowering the back. Now bring yourself down very gently to the initial position. Giving pauses if you deem necessary to repeat the entire sequence of movements ten times.
(e) Another Exercise for Relieving Backache: Kneel down on the floor, and bend forward, assuming an all-fours position as in (b). Supporting yourself on the palms placed directly beneath the shoulders, and on the toes of the feet, raise the knees of the floor. Raise the back, keeping the head down. Don’t let the back sag down. Maintain this position for six seconds. Return to the all fours position. Repeat the sequence of movements five to six times without unduly exerting your body.
There is also another way of doing this exercise. Sit on a flat chair with a straight upright back. Place the palms on the knees. Now push the elbows outwards, without shifting the palms. This will put the abdominal muscles under tension. Maintain the tension for six seconds, then relax slowly. Repeat it ten times.
Note: It is not necessary to do all of these exercises. The pregnant lady should choose the exercise she is able to perform without any trouble. The point is not doing a lot of exercises; do a few selected ones but REGULARLY.
(f) Exercise for Controlling Excessive Bulging of the Abdomen as also for Reliving Backache: Backache is the most common complaint of the pregnant women, especially in the lower regions of the spine. Some of them develop this complaint after delivery. The exercise given below would prove greatly beneficial in such cases. Initially perform these exercise for five times a day and then their frequency could be raised to 20 a day-again if you don’t feel any strain. The moment you feel tired, stop them forthwith.
(i) Frame yourself inside a doorway about 2.5 to 3 feet wide with the buttocks against one side of the door frame. Keep the ankles 4 inches apart. Press against the frame with the back. These up the muscles of the buttocks and the abdomen which will have the effect of bending the legs a little at the knees, and of inclining the pelvis forwards.
Having done so, press against the door frame behind you with the nape, and push against the frame of the door facing you with the palms. Now straighten the legs at the knees. Then relax your body muscles and take a break. In case you feel thirsty, wait for some time to normalize your breath and then have some lukewarm drink. Having fortified yourself, do it a few more times without straining yourself unduly.
(ii) Lie flat on the floor with your face up. Let the soles of the feet rest flat on the floor with legs comfortably bent at the knees. Raise our leg, grasp the knee and pull it as near to the chest as you possibly can, hold on to this position for 5 seconds, then regain the initial position. Repeat it with the other leg and alternately do this exercise for about 10 times. In doing all these exercises make sure that there is no pressure building up on your abdomen. This is important.
(iii) Again lie flat on the floor with your face up. As in the earlier exercise bend your legs from the knees to let your soul rest flat on the floor, bend the arms at the elbows and place them under the head. Now tighten the muscles of the waist and the abdomen in such a way that the lower part of the back presses firmly on the floor. Hold on your body in this position for five seconds or so and then relax the muscles of your entire body. Repeat for 4 to 5 times the whole sequence of the exercise.
(iv) Lie on the floor in the same way as you did in the earlier exercise. Bend the knees and let the soles of the feet rest flat on the floor. Raise the legs, grasp both the knees with your hands and pull them as near to the chest as you can. Hold the position for five seconds and resume the initial position. Straighten the legs and repeat the movements for about 4 to 5 times.
Note: As is the medical fact, the cartilage between the bones in the joints and the tendons attaching the muscles to the bones tend to soften after the delivery. Strengthening the muscles will help maintain the elasticity and strength of these connective tissues, and minimize the softening. Most of the above-described exercises have been devised to strengthen the muscles that are involved, thus reducing the possibility of the consequent pain.
The expectant mother must start performing these exercise just as soon as she learns that side is pregnant. She would, of course, be well advised to observe moderation in the matter, taking care that the quantum or the pace of the exercise should not cause fatigue of any kind. The benefits of these exercises with become apparent in the later stages of pregnancy when the abdomen begins to sag forward.
(g) Breathing Exercise: Breathing exercises are also very essential during the period of pregnancy.
(i) Sit comfortably on the floor in the normal squatting pose i.e. with your knees bent and one foot kept over one high and the other under it. Now keep your hands softly on your stomach and heave a deep sigh while distending your Stomach as much as possible. Now exhale and pull in your stomach. Repeat the process at least five to 6 times a day.
(ii) Normally during the period of pregnancy, the lady is prone to get tired very soon. Hence give sufficient pauses between each exercise and do Yogasan-the Shavasan-described under the subheading ahead.
SOME SPECIAL YOGA-ASANAS AND EXERCISES
No strenuous Asana of exercise should be performed during the pregnancy. Given below are only those Asana or exercise which concentrate more on improving the breathing style of the pregnant lady. The breathing exercises given below are based on the Yoga-discipline.
Two processes are absolutely essential to life, the absorption of air by the inhalation of oxygen, and its expulsion by the exhaling of carbon dioxide. We should bear in mind that the human body is constantly at work, even when it appears to be resting. All the bodily systems: circulatory, respiratory, digestive, endocrine and nervous are constantly in operation. Such operations cause continuous wear and tear of the body tissues involved. Hence Pranayam is the only breathing exercise which helps one recoup the lost energy without exerting the body physically. Given here is only that technique of pranayama which we can all do without any difficulty.
(i) This can also be termed as Rhythmic Breathing. It has two variations :
(a) during the first, inhalation takes place exactly the same way as exhalation.
(b) during the second, though the two processes take the same amount of time, there is a pause between exhalation and inhalation, equal to half of the time they separately take.
For this type of breathing it is important to concentrate mentally on becoming used to the rhythms. In India, many Yogis develop the habit of timing their heartbeat according to their breathing, although this regimen may vary from person to person. The important point is to adapt the breathing to one’s own particular rhythm. This should be done after a moment of relaxation to check the heart beats. The pulse should be taken while we count from 1 to 6. The calculation should be repeated until the rhythm is firmly fixed in the mind practicing this type of breathing. Then even the control of nerves can be achieved.
When performing the first variation of the breathing pattern, sit cross-legged, holding the chest, neck, and head in a straight vertical line, with hands on knees. If the pregnant lady finds sitting crossed-legs a difficult posture, they may perform this exercise lying on their back. Inhale softly, mentally counting 6 heartbeats, then slowly exhale through the nostril, again counting to 6. Repeat the exercise at least several times.
For the second variation, the posture is the same, but once one has inhaled and counted 1 to 6, the breath should be held from 1 to 3, before exhaling and counting from 1 to 6 again. Remain without breathing to a count of 3, then start to inhale again and so on.
The pregnant lady should concentrate particularly on acquiring a rhythmic breathing pattern without starting to prolong the duration of inhalation and exhalation. Only after long practice will she be able to count up to 16 beats instead of 6. By practicing this type of breathing, one is eventually able to communicate soothing rhythmic vibrations to the whole body. Once rhythmic breathing has become almost automatic, the lady will feet that each inhalation is filling her with calmness and each exhalation is transmitting it to the tiniest fiber of the body, like a current passing through each of her cells. The lady should consciously absorb this wave of calmness with each breath taken. Gradually the lady shall find her whole body itself becoming rhythmic and harmonious. This shall not only be beneficial to her but to the fetus also. Since during the pregnancy the lady is prone to feel exhausted and dawdled at short intervals, this breathing exercise will fill her with new calm and composure. She would then experience genuine rest-even better than that given by sleep because it is acquired rather consciously. She would feel ineffable relaxation with winkles of worries softening. Then she would also be able to sleep better. This breathing exercise should be continued during the entire term of pregnancy.
(ii) The Leg-Left Exercise: Up to five to six months of pregnancy, this ‘leg-left’ exercise can be practiced without any difficulty. It would be of great advantage for the lady during the delivery time. The technique is as follows :
First lie flat on the back on the floor. Now spread your arms sideways in line with your shoulders and while exhaling raise both the legs together till they are perpendicular to your trunk. Keep the knees stiff and unbent and the toes pointed towards the sky. Remain in this position for 10-15 seconds. Then exhaling move both the legs sideways, first to the right down to the floor.
Now keep the back and the shoulders firmly pressed against the floor and the knees tight. Now turn the legs together sideways to the left. Hold the sideways positions for 20 seconds each and then come up finally in perpendicular position. Now slide down the legs gently to the floor and relax in Shavasana (see ahead).
(iii) Chair-Exercise: Take a low chair or stool and sit on it bending yourself with your elbow resting on your knees. Now constrict your pelvic muscles, count 5 and then relax them. Your effort should be akin to that made in trying to resist your urge to pass stool or urine. Then you would feel as if the insides of your pelvic region is rising high. Do not at least 8 to 10 times. This exercise can be done any time.
This classic, simple yet difficult exercise is to be performed at the end of every exercise session. Since it ensures complete relaxation of the body and spirit, after doing it no other exercise should be performed. This asana is called Shavasan or the corpse-Posture because it initiates the dead body or corpse and provides relaxation to the muscles and the mind. The technique of it is as follows :
Lie flat on your back, keeping your body totally relaxed and unversioned. Keep the hands at a little distance from the thighs, with palm upwards. Let the feet lie apart at about one to one half-a-feet. Keep your eyes closed. Now take a deep breath and then breathe slowly, evenly and rhythmically so as not to disturb your body’s composure. Inhalations should be equal and uniform. There should be no effort to increase the volume of respiration. A rhythmic breathing is all that is required. Now concentrate on your respiration and relax completely. Keep the jaws loose and not detached. Let there be no movement either of the pupils of the eye or of the tongue.
In the beginning, you may fall asleep but when by practice you in immerse into deep relaxation, you would feel your body and mind grown still, detached and completely relaxed. In Shavasana, the main effort is of the concentration of the mind. Select mentally any part of your body, preferably starting from your feet, and by auto-suggestion start feeling as though your feet have become senseless or dead. Then come to the shins, to knees, to thighs etc. up to your head. By the time you would reach up to your head in your mental concentration you would be in a sort of rejuvenating stupor. It is by autosuggestion that one is able to acquire complete relaxation. Repeat constantly in your mind: ‘I relax my feet and they are relaxed; I relax my legs and they are relaxed’ etc., concentrating on each of your external body parts one by one. The head brain may come up the last. This way, one by one, you relax your entire body.
Benefits of Shavasana during Pregnancy
Shavasana removes all fatigue caused by other asanas and induces a tranquility-feeling, a calmness of mind. It makes one feel one’s mind to be akin to a deep and still pool of clean water, having not even a suggestion of a nipple. Mentally dive deep into this pool and emerge refreshed and relaxed.
Steady, smooth, even, uniform and undisturbed respiration soothes nerves, muscles and becalms brain. It reduces high blood pressure, a common complaint during pregnancy in most of the cases, tension, and fatigue. The whole nervous system gets toned up resulting in increasing feeling a sort of beatitude.