Yoga in the first trimester

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Yoga in Pregnancy and Beyond – The First Trimester

 

In this article, we will focus on the first trimester. Later articles will look at the second, third and fourth trimesters, and tackle other common ailments and issues encountered in pregnancy.

This is a remarkable and potentially transformative time in a woman’s life. Alongside the visible signs of the changes in a woman’s body, she experiences a heady cocktail of oestrogen, progesterone, relaxin, oxytocin, endorphins and prolactin.

Essential for maintaining pregnancy and stimulating the healthy development of the baby, progesterone and oestrogen play numerous other roles in pregnancy. However, these essential hormones are often responsible for mood swings and morning sickness; which often ease as mothers enter the second trimester. Sufficient rest in the first trimester can help alleviate these usually harmless complaints.

Relaxin softens the muscles, ligaments and joints in preparation for birth. This softening creates increased flexibility in the hips and pelvis: over-stretching can result in joint instability, leading to discomfort and pain. The softening also affects other areas of the body. Caution is advised against over-extending in all poses; encourage gentle stretching with an emphasis on creating stability in stillness, freedom and ease in movement.

Some of the simplest practices can be the most powerful at a time when many women are beginning to examine their emotional and spiritual health in more depth, even as they encounter new physical challenges.

  • Simple breath awareness: you no doubt have your own version of this practice and as long as there is no breath retention, you can do this. Simply watching our breath can encourage deeper, slower, more rhythmic breathing resulting in better oxygenation, more efficient digestion as a result of the massaging effect of the movement of the diaphragm, and steadying of the heart rate. Breath awareness may also help women to navigate bouts of nausea and allow them to feel refreshed after any vomiting
  • Nadi Sodhana Pranayama (no breath retention): this calming, balancing breath may enable women to manage mood swings with grace and can be safely practised throughout pregnancy;
  • Tiryaka Tadasana (swaying palm tree pose, no breath retention): women can remain on the soles of their feet or lift onto the toes if they feel adequately balanced – see pictures. Inhale to the centre line, exhale to lengthen and open one side of the body. The gentle stretch to the abdomen helps to lift the ribcage, creating length in the rectus abdominal muscles (so may also help prevent diastasis recti), and helping to alleviate heartburn and indigestion by reducing compression of the stomach;Tiryaki Tadasana PG
  • The Golden Triangle: assuming no other ailments, this enable a woman to maintain a stable, aligned pelvis throughout pregnancy. Even long standing practitioners are well-advised to ensure that in wide-leg poses, the space between their knees is no wider than the space from hip to knee, or elbow to fingertips – see pictures.
  • Deep relaxation: during the first trimester, most mothers will still be comfortable resting supine, and may safely do so. Use your own tried and tested relaxations, explore the Yoga Nidra Network for free downloads or visit your own trusted source;
  • Many women will begin to explore their emotional and spiritual landscapes during pregnancy, I encourage you to create a list of pregnancy specific resources you can explore. I have included below a few websites and a poem to get you started. And I urge you to read Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin – more on her later in the series.

If you have a particular question about yoga for pregnancy, please don’t hesitate to post it in the comments section or get in touch directly.

Resources

positivebirthmovement.org

twincitiesmidwifery.wordpress.com

inamay.com

natalhypnotherapy.co.uk

Chant of the Pregnant Goddess
by Jana McCarthy (found at twincitiesmidwifery)
I am the mother of the moon
sister of the stars
child of the light in your eyes.
I am powerful.
The geometry of my shape shifts
from gently curved lines
to expanding circles:
earth, moon, sun.
I am powerful.
I am strong.
The tempo of my vibration quickens,
increasing from
butterfly wings, to floundering fish,
to beating drum,
erupting volcano,
the rhythm as old and constant as
the cycles of the sun
and the turn of the tides.

I am powerful.
I am strong.
I am beautiful.

I hold the hope of my ancestors
the knowledge of my time
the fate of my future.

I am powerful.
I am strong.
I am beautiful.
I am mother.

OMx

Golden Triangle PG

 

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Brighter than ever…

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Post Natal Depression affects at least 10-15% of mothers…You are not alone…

If you are not sure what PND looks like, you can read more about the signs and symptoms here: PANDAS 

I experienced PND with both my sons…there were days when I felt that I had hollow bones… I would carry on my days in a drifting state of automatic mothering, smiling when expected, tending to the needs of my children, doing the essentials but I felt numb, hollow, so tired I sometimes didn’t know how I would put one foot in front of the other to leave the house…

PND left me feeling exhausted, anciently old before my time, I ached and I cried and I barely existed beyond the “good mother” persona I hid behind…

Looking back, I was in fact a good mother… My sons saved me… I knew they needed me and so I would drag myself out of bed, force myself to walk in the fresh air, idle in the park as they played, sit and chat at groups so they had social contact… Some days I would not even make it home before the tears would flow, the exhaustion overwhelming, the claustrophobic loneliness crushing my chest, and I would drop my head and sing quietly to my sons to get us to the front door, and once inside I would sob quietly and try to hide my anguish from my children…

I loved them… and kept them close, without breastfeeding and bed-sharing, I believe my own PND would have been deeper…being connected, feeling & responding to the

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natural and all-consuming needs of my children was what kept me from spiraling deeper into the darkness… For me, the physical closeness of mothering – the family bed, nursing my sons and carrying them in slings – was the rock that allowed me to cling to reality… If you are trying to support a mother with PND, I beg you to find ways that do not remove her children from her care, she needs to feel she can focus on herself and her children… Do her dishes, fold her laundry, clean her loo… Invite her for a cup of tea and just give her a space in which to exist…

My husband took up the slack… I cooked, and cared for our children, but he did almost everything else in those months when I had nothing else to give… He tolerated the heavier work load, the lack of conversation, the loss of my affection and often just quietly held me whilst I silently cried my sorrow…

Why was I depressed? … I wanted my children… I loved them deeply from the moment I knew the new life was in my womb… I enjoyed being a mother… I just felt sad, tired, scared and overwhelmingly alone…

PND is indiscriminate and powerful… It does not just grab weak women… It is stealthy and insidious and it has a firm grip… It can last a few weeks or echo in your life for years… It does pass… And even so, there are good moments and glorious days…

PND cast deep shadows but for me, they were the balance to the brightest sunshine… My children have brought me the more delightful joy, and I cannot believe how blessed I am even now… There was a time when I did not believe I would ever have a child, but that is another story…

Beyond letting my children’s needs carry me, I found my way through with my yoga practice… Many days it was no more than chanting mantras as lullabies or spending the time it took to have a wee focusing on my breath (yes, door wide open & small people clamouring for my attention…)

Micro-practice was what pulled me back into myself when I felt I was drifting… child’s pose with my toddler tucked up underneath me, savasana with my baby on my belly, alternate nostril breathing whilst breastfeeding at 2am…and 3.30am..and 5am…

Yoga never did make me a perfect mother, it still does not guarantee me a life free of anxiety or doubt… I choose to practice & offer yoga for joyful motherhood because even when the joy is only glimpsed fleetingly through the gloom, it is worth it…

I believe that my children and I are here now because of yoga… If that deepening dark is pulling you into the shadows, I offer you yoga to bring the sunshine breaking through the clouds… The light will return, and when it does, it will be brighter than ever…

OMx

 

 

Every fibre of my being…

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Every fibre of my being…

I am thankful for my body ⭐_____________________⭐

Every fibre of my being, every curve,
the public face, my sacred space,
the line of my lips, the swing of my hips, every fold, each brow furrow,
my since-spent youth,
my gently advancing age,
the maiden I was,
the mother I am,
the crone within I am destined to become,
the wild woman woven into and through them all,
memory embodied, future unfolding,
the stories held told or waiting to tell in every cell…
I am thankful for it all

Whole Self Awareness

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This is a short guided meditation or relaxation, it can be a respite from your busy day or the quiet beginning to your asana practice when you arrive on your mat…Let it be what you need it to be!

This can be done seated or in Savasana. You are encouraged to release any concern about falling asleep if you lie down – after all, perhaps a little more sleep is what you most need…The practice may take you a few moments or more – take what time you can spare.  The idea is to connect to your body, your breath, your thoughts and emotions…This is about being able to use your awareness of what your body needs so that you can develop your personal practice accordingly…day to day, each time you come to sitting or to your mat…connect, acknowledge, practice…

Begin by settling yourself, allow yourself time to get comfortable…If lying in Savasana, check for a feeling of symmetry and balance around the centre line of your spine… If your lower back aches, consider supporting the knees over a bolster or rolled blanket…Let your palms rest facing the sky or place your hands softly in Yoni Mudra over your lower abdomen…

Yoni Mudra

Yoni Mudra

Bring awareness to your body….How does it feel right now? Let go of expectation about a bad back, a dodgy knee…Let your mind seek out the sensations that are present right now…Release any temptation to label them as good or bad…You are simply noticing what you feel and where you feel it…You can scan up or down through the body, or you might like to allow your mind to be drawn to the stronger sensations and work your way to the more subtle…

Slowly draw your attention from a general physical awareness to awareness of your breath…For now, simply watch, there is no need to change or consciously control your breathing in any way…Feel the physical movements and sensations of your breath…Rise and fall…Expansion and contraction…The ebb and flow of your breath…Feel its depth, its rhythm…

As you watch your breath, feel its natural flow and rhythm slow and deepen…Feel the rhythm become more wavelike in your body…Even watching the breath can allow us to breathe more freely and deeply…as we do so, our heart rate and blood pressure become slower and steadier…our diaphragm moves more deeply to massage the organs and lymph tissue in the abdomen and the pelvis, encouraging smooth digestion and improving pelvic health…As the diaphragm moves more deeply, our psoas muscles in the lower back join in the movement and can begin to receive better blood flow helping to release stiffness and aching…The adrenals sit on top of our kidneys and also tune into the deeper movement as they are connected to the movement of the diaphragm by the connective fascia of the body…so the kidneys are stimulated and massaged and the adrenals are soothed by healthy movement and blood flow, less likely now to react to small challenges as they respond to the soothing rhythm of your breath…Even simple breath awareness can immediately begin to deepen your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing…

rest is the hardest thing

Let your breath continue its soothing rhythm now…

Allow your mind to begin to notice the thoughts and emotions that arise…Each time you notice a thought or emotion, let go of it, notice the next exhalation and the next thought or emotion…Imagine that your thoughts and emotions are like butterflies, you notice them, but you do not try to catch them, simply watch them fluttering away…

Even the act of noticing you have been distracted and caught up in a thought or emotion is an act of mindfulness…Do not berate yourself for feeling distracted, simply find the next exhalation and being the process of observing again….

Let yourself rest…

When you are ready, you may like to take a few consciously deeper breaths and make some small movements in hands and feet to feel that your body is awake and that you are ready to return to your day or begin your practice.

OMx

Relax, kids…

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There are many books and audio CDs and downloads for children’s yoga…The truth is, that your engagement with your child in a calming, meditation practice will inspire them more than any fancy packaging or clever marketing…If you demonstrate that you find meditation calming, if you can model how to relax, you will be providing your children with an invaluable tool…

You could begin by making a mala (traditionally, these are 108 beads, with a guru bead or tassel) – mala beads are usually strung in multiples of 9 and usually made of natural materials…for a quick craft with your children, use any thread, and use pasta, wooden beads, or plastic beads (or if you have extra time, you could even make your own fimo or air drying clay beads)…the guru bead is the point where you stop passing the beads through your fingers and go back the other way so use something larger or with a strikingly different texture, just let it add to the tactile experience of using the mala…

Mala beads for children

Mala traditionally have 108 beads

Once you have a mala…sit quietly with your child, mala in hand and get comfortable…Talk them through closing their eyes…breathing softly in and out through their nose…ask them to see how their toes, feet, legs, fingers, hands, arms, body, back, head feel today…tell them to ask their bodies to feel soft and relaxed…Once you feel they are calm, ask them to open their eyes and for the first time, simply pull the beads one by one through between their thumb and forefinger…Then ask them to keep doing this forward and back, bead by bead without crossing the guru bead (but don’t worry if they do!)…

Now, once they are comfortable sitting quietly and feeling each bead pass through their fingers, encourage them to choose a simple word to repeat with each bead – my sons both love to use Om, and we also chant Om mani padme hum often as a lullaby…Sometimes they might choose love, peace, joy…it can be any word that instils a sense of happiness and rest for them today…

Try it yourself, you can chant out loud, or in your head, you can whisper or sing out…Try it with your kids…Have fun with it and relax…

OMx

These arms of mine…

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LucidYogaLucy

Anxiety is not a word we often associate with children, except in the context of separation anxiety, which thankfully is more recognised than ever…it opens the conversation on anxiety in our young children, beyond their babyhood and into the preschool & school ages, preceding the classic teenage angst…

All too often, anxiety in children is passed over as a needy, clingy, negative trait and not considered as a valid emotion in our vulnerable little souls…

How often have you just wanted to wrap your arms around them…?

Our young children are now more physically capable, often running, jumping, climbing with gusto and able to pierce eardrums and shake the walls with their exuberant verbal expression…but then we move to leave them at nursery or with a caregiver or with school and they turn inward and cling to our legs and beg not to be left…

They are still too small…

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Yoga Yourself Happy

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The time for reflection is not yet over, the darkness lingers and there is still time to dream….

And yet the New Year beckons and we are drawn to beginnings…

Every day is an invitation to renew ourselves, to make changes…big or small…to create a shift, find a new rhythm, live to our fullest potential…

Yoga is not a quick fix, no miracle cure, you’ll do the work and the rewards will help you find happiness if you are still searching…it cannot undo mistakes, but it can help you recognise why you made them and let you leave them in the past as you move forward…Yoga invites you to be gentle, patient and compassionate with yourself…make time for change, allow yourself space for growth…make 2015 the year you want it to be…Rumi urged us not to be satisfied with the stories if others and their successes, but to unfold our own myths…

Try these new year ideas and cultivate your contentment…

1. Sit in silence for 3 minutes a day – I’m not asking you to meditate, just to sit quietly…notice your breath, or gaze softly ahead and notice all the sights and sounds where you are right now…
2. Whenever you want to make a choice, state your intention, communicate clearly…take a moment to feel your breath moving in your body…check your inhale creates movement into your abdomen and that you feel it soften as you exhale…if you can’t breathe freely and deeply, consider adding for more time to be ready and only speak or choose when you feel connected to your breath…
3. Aim for a short but committed yoga practice every day…choose a few poses that you really feel the benefit of in your body and come back to them every day…

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If you’re stuck for home practice ideas, why not check out #YogaYourselfHappy on Instagram with Zoe, Maribel and me…we’re going to lead a practice through January to create health and happiness through simple, safe practices to help you feel stronger & more supple and improve your stamina…we will also look at how yoga can improve your mood and help you feel happier…It will be a slow, considered build up to honour the shift into the light as the year turns…join us and see what yoga can do for you…

Come and play…

OMx