This is the yoga that saved my life (or at least my back) this pregnancy, so I'm sharing it in hopes that it can help someone else, too.
I'm not a yoga expert, by any means. I've taken a few classes, but I'm not sure I'm using all the right terms here, or if my positions are technically correct. What I do know is that doing these stretches every night before bed helps me relax and fall asleep faster with so much less pain. (I mentioned in my last post about this pregnancy that I've dealt with some pretty bad back pain.) I also try to start my morning with at least a couple of these stretches, which has an amazing way of calming and energizing me at the same time.
I'm sharing just 7 simple yoga-inspired stretches, so they're easy to remember, and you can do them all in about 5 minutes. If you want to spend more time, you can take as long as you like on each stretch, or go back and repeat any or all of the stretches.
But first, here are a few tips that have helped me make the most of my routine:
Tips for Stretching
Don't count to 10. Instead, concentrate on inhaling and exhaling deeply, and count your breaths. It helps me to close my eyes and breath through my nose. I try to hold each stretch for at least 3 slow breaths, or sometimes longer.
Observe every sensation. Think about where you feel the stretch, and this will help calm your mind, too. Are your joints aching? Try straightening your spine and relaxing your body as much as possible. You should feel a gentle, deep stretch, not burning or aching. If it hurts, stop right away, or adjust your position.
Stretch on a soft surface like carpet, or on a yoga mat or blanket if you have a hard floor. You can even sit on a pillow if you need extra cushioning.
Experiment. You don't have to be a yoga expert, and you don't have to do these positions exactly the same way every time. You might want to roll your shoulders or neck, or move your arms around more. If it helps you relax and relieves some of your stress and pain, then it's working. I'd definitely suggest Googling images of prenatal yoga poses or YouTube videos with simple routines you can try at home. A class is great if you can get out of the house for one! I took a class at my local hospital during my other pregnancies and loved it.
But I've also learned not to wait until I can make it to a class or turn on a half-hour-long video. I still try to do that when I can, but spending just 5 or 10 minutes a day has made a huge difference. If you try out this routine, let me know how it goes! Happy stretching!
7 Simple Yoga Stretches for Pregnancy
#1: Stand/Salute the Sun
In yoga, "sun salutation" can be an entire sequence of poses, but for our purposes, simply stand with your hands together at your heart and inhale deeply. Then reach up with your arms and face as you exhale, like you're looking up at sun. Repeat for 3 or more breaths.
#2: Lunge/Warrior Pose
As you reach up to "salute the sun," step out with one leg (making sure your knee doesn't extend over your toes), and stretch your arms out horizontally. Relax your shoulders, straighten your spine over your hips, and sit back into your tailbone. Feel the stretch as you inhale and exhale deeply. Hold for 3 or more breaths, then switch legs and repeat.
#3: Down Dog
From warrior pose, reach down over your knee to touch the ground with both hands, then step back with that leg so that both feet are behind you. (Sometimes I have to get on my hands and knees first, and then push up to this pose.) Let your head hang between your arms, and push your tailbone back and up, so that your wrists aren't supporting your entire weight. You should feel a stretch from your lower back through your backside and legs. Breath slowly and deeply, then try slightly bending each knee in rhythm with your breaths, for as long as it's comfortable.
#4: Cat Stretch
Bend both knees so that you're in a crawling position on the floor. As you inhale, let your belly drop and look up. As you exhale, pull your belly up toward your spine and tuck your chin to your chest. Repeat with slow, deep breaths at least 3 times. You can also try stretching your hips by drawing a big letter "o" with your tailbone.
#5: Child's Pose
Still in crawling position, spread your knees and drop your chest toward the floor. You can fold your arms and rest your forehead there, or stretch your arms out in front of you and tuck your chin. Relax your body and feel the stretch. Breath deeply and hold for at least 3 breaths or as long as it's comfortable.
#6: Seated Side Stretch
Sit up and stretch your legs out in front of you. Bring one foot in toward and bend over the leg that's still outstretched. Inhale and exhale slowly for 3 or more breaths, then switch and stretch the opposite side.
Sit with both feet tucked in and relax your body. You can hold your hands at your heart or rest them on your knees. Try to keep your mind clear as you breath deeply and slowly.