When pregnant with my son I wasn't quite sure when to start prenatal yoga and I had to trek to the other side of Brooklyn for a class that worked with my schedule. In just a few years am seeing more prenatal yoga classes being offered at my favorite yoga studios. One of those studios, Hosh Yoga has a wonderful teacher, Patricia Borelli. Today Patricia answers a few questions on practicing prenatal yoga.
MB: When is an ideal time in pregnancy to start prenatal yoga?
PB: As with everything in yoga, I would say it depends, and it is a very unique process for each woman. Some like to start prenatal yoga even while in the process of conception, to be on that energetic space, to start entering that universe. Some prefer to wait until the second trimester, when they feel more comfortable sharing the news.
Prenatal yoga benefits mother and child in a lot of ways, and from the very beginning, but technically it can be started anytime throughout pregnancy.
MB: What are the benefits?
PB: In the prenatal yoga session, the combination of physical poses (asana) and breath (pranayama) helps with the sensation of exhaustion of some phases of pregnancy, increases body awareness (and more awareness of the constant changes in the body), builds strength as a preparation for labor, provides tools for better breathing (which is progressively challenged with the restricted space for the lungs) and improves blood circulation, through specific sequences that protect and accommodate the pregnant body with all of its specificities and needs.
On a more subtle level, it provides a protected and peaceful environment, in which the mother can find tools to better deal with the emotional, physical and mental intensity of the period, through breath and meditation, so that she can be more centered, and with herself.
MB: What are a few poses that can safely be done at home?
PB: Very simple things can be very helpful, as long as they are done with a full presence of mind. I would really recommend the presence of a yoga instructor for all cases (or instructions from one who knows you well enough), but here is something simple that can be safely done at home.
Sitting in a comfortable position (crossed legged on a rug or on a pillow, with the back against the wall (having a little breath space between the lower back and the wall - keeping the natural curves of the spine, and with both seat bones firmly grounded on the floor/pillow). Hands on the knees or the belly, eyes closed. Bring all the attention into your breath, and observe it, as if someone else was breathing instead of you. Do just this for a few minutes, and as you focus on the breath you progressively let go of the constant imagery and thoughts of the mind and be present with the breath and the moment.
Keeping the focus of the breath, bring one hand to one side of the hips on the floor, and with the opposite arm up towards the ceiling, but keeping the shoulder not tense, you have a very gentle stretch to the side of the body. Be very gentle, the elbow of the hand that is on the floor barely bends, and your hand is close to you). You can feel this stretch and how it enhances your space for breath, specially in the upper side body. With an inhale you come to the center with both hands on the floor next to the hips, and exhaling move into the other side, taking another few breaths there.
You can also repeat the same thing again with the opposite crossing of the legs. When you are done, uncross the legs and place both feet on the floor, hips width apart, with bent knees, and hands on the floor next to you (release tension on the shoulders). Press the four corners of your feet against the floor for a few breaths and release, one of two times, to help bring you back from the centering technique.
Prenatal classes are on Friday at 5pm and are donation-based at Hosh Yoga
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