Circle of life
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- Published 9.01.06
Pregnancy is a celebration of life, not an ailment. No other period in a woman’s life exposes her to so many intense physical, mental, emotional and spiritual experiences. It is important to be conscious of these rapid changes. Yogic awareness is of immense help at this time and is being recommended all over the world.
Since changes happen so rapidly to the mother and baby, periodic guidance from the doctor and an experienced yoga teacher, who can modify a yogic practice to suit a particular mother’s needs, will help.
Some asanas can, however, be done safely by all expectant mothers. We list a few below. A word of caution. Please consult your doctor regularly and read the dos and don’ts carefully before you start. If you are already doing yoga, you will reap the benefits now. If not, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to experience the power of yoga as far as the quality of your life is concerned.
Sit comfortably with legs apart and arms outstretched. Interlock the fingers and imagine that you are holding the handle of a grinding stone. As you bend forward, exhale steadily and keeping the elbows locked, try to make a circular motion so that the hands pass over the toes. As you swing backwards in the circular motion, keep the elbows locked and tilt back, trying to move the body around the waist. Do five rounds clockwise, rest for a while and then do five rounds anti-clockwise. Rest for some time.
Separating the legs wider, placing a thick cushion under the buttocks and bending the knees slightly as you move forward will help in the later months.
This asana tones up the nerves in the pelvis and abdomen and regulates hormonal flows. It will be very useful in the first two trimesters but may be a bit difficult to do later on. An excellent practice for post-natal recovery, once the doctor says that you are ready to start exercising again.
This asana can be safely practised during the first six months.
Position yourself on all fours on a firm mat ? arms and thighs parallel, palms flat on the floor as shown, toes pointing away from the body, knees together or separated as you find comfortable. This is the starting position.
In the more advanced stages of pregnancy, you will need to separate the knees sufficiently to allow for comfort and to be careful not to contract the stomach too abruptly.
As you inhale, raise the head and lower the spine downwards (pic 1), but do not unlock the elbows or allow the body to move back and forth. Next, as you exhale, allow the head to go down, push the shoulders and back upwards like a cat, contract the abdomen and pull in the buttocks (pic 2). This completes one round. Attempt six more rounds but work within your capacity.
A wonderful way to rest for a while or sleep peacefully, particularly in the second and third trimester. This asana stimulates digestion, helps in constipation, relieves pain in the legs and backache ? symptoms that most would-be mothers have to face. In the third trimester, this is probably the only way you will be able to lie down comfortably.
Lie on the side, with the fingers interlocked under the head as shown. Bend the left leg and bring the left knee as close to the rib cage as you can. The right leg remains straight. Turn the arms so that the left elbow comes to rest on the left knee (or as close to it as possible) and rest the head on the right forearm. If you need cushions or pillows to make yourself more comfortable, please use as many as you need. Relax in this posture for as long as you wish, and then change sides. Quality rest is wonderful for you and the growing baby.
Preliminary Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
Sit in any comfortable sitting posture, with a backrest and with legs outstretched, if necessary. Your torso should be relaxed but upright. Relax the body, close your eyes and breathe in an effortless way for a while. Place the left hand on the knee in Jnana or Chin Mudra. Touch the centre of your eyebrows lightly with the index and middle fingers of your right hand and use the ring finger to open/close the left nostril and the thumb to open/close the right nostril. This is the base position. The eyes should remain closed throughout the practice.
Close the right nostril with the thumb and breathe in and out five times steadily and gently through the left nostril. Next, open the right nostril with the thumb and close the left with the ring finger. Breathe in and out five times slowly through the right nostril. Finally, keeping the index and middle fingers in contact with the eyebrow centre, open both nostrils and breathe through them gently, five times. This is one round. Do five to 10 rounds more followed by palming and then open your eyes. The breathing should be silent, silky and relaxed.
Do not attempt yoga if:
• You are expecting more than one child, eg, twins.
• You have hypertension or a serious medical condition even before pregnancy.
• You have persistent vaginal bleeding.
What will help:
• Understanding and active support from your husband and family members
• Awareness of the steady physical, mental and emotional changes over the three trimesters
• Simple wholesome meals with adequate roughage
• Switching from animal to vegetable proteins
• Avoiding spicy, oily and overcooked foods, tobacco, narcotics and alcohol
• Having plenty of fluids, including green coconut and barley water
• Going for walks regularly in the open
• Avoiding too much forward bending in the first trimester, particularly when there is morning sickness
• Doing a few asanas from the Pawanmuktasana series daily, particularly those which help eliminate constipation and strengthen the abdominal area. From the second trimester, turning to one side or using cushions while doing these practices will help
• Using a support like a chair or cupboard when you do standing asanas, so that you don’t feel dizzy
• In the third trimester, if the doctor permits, sweeping and swabbing a small room daily in a squatting position
• Practising abdominal breathing slowly and deeply in your spare time
• Listening to soft instrumental music regularly, particularly in the evenings
• Chanting om or some other sadhana of your choice daily
• Learning Yoga Nidra from a competent teacher and doing it every day
• Making it a point to watch yourself, introspect and trust your intuition
• Communicating regularly with the baby physically, mentally and emotionally.