As a prenatal yoga teacher, every so often I get asked how to activate or engage the core during pregnancy. Although not the easier to do, it IS possible to find some core engagement during pregnancy especially if that is important to you. And, no, we are not doing this with deep crunches and sit-ups. Core engagement in pregnancy can be done subtly and with breath. The good news is that when we can find some core stability in pregnancy, this can help with balance while pregnant and support recovery during the postpartum period. Below is an easy way to engage the core when or if you are interested.
Not pregnant? No worries. This method works for anyone whether you are pregnant or not...and at any age. Even kids can have fun with this one! Enjoy, and let me know how it goes.
This type of breathing automatically engages the core and draws your baby (or abdominal wall) in towards you. There is no need to strain, push and pull to get there. Have fun with this one!
The second and third trimesters are ripe with rapid change as your baby is growing bigger and taking up more residence in your body. Just as you are getting used to your growing belly and declining nausea and exhaustion, in comes another aspect of pregnancy - indigestion and heartburn. While popping Tums and diet changes can help temporarily, there is a new kid in town.
"Anti-heartburn pose" also known as anahatasana (heart pose) is my "go to" when working with parents who experience heartburn or stomach discomfort. This pose provides physical space in the body creating room for the ribs lift up and out taking some pressure off of organs that are moving into new positions to make room for a growing uterus and baby. It's also a tremendous stretch for the front of the chest, shoulders and down the arms.
Anti-heartburn pose in 2 ways
Position 1: The first way to come into this pose includes the floor and something soft for under your knees. Come into a table top position (all 4's), then walk your hands forward while keeping your knees and hips in line. (Think a dog stretching in the sun.) Lower your forward as far as it is comfortable to the floor. You can even place a pillow or block under your forehead if your head does not touch the floor. Rest here and breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths.
Position 2: The second way changes your relationship to gravity a bit more. Sit in front of a couch or wall. Knees will be wider than hips with toes together. Walk your hands up the wall in a V shape or around the cushion of the couch (as seen in the photo below). Rest here and breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths.
Try it out next time you have stomach discomfort or heartburn. Reading this and you are not pregnant? No problem. Try this out for a deep stretch, to counter spinal flexion from sitting, or after a large meal. Let me know how it goes!
Nine Muses Yoga launches May 1st!
Nine Muses is my online platform of yoga courses and classes geared specifically for emerging and growing families. More info coming soon!
Have you ever had one of those days? Been up all night with a sick kid, another child doesn't want to go to school, the dog has thrown up on the rug, and breakfast is burnt. Frustration has started to build and build. You are ready to call it a day, and go back to bed....and it's only 9AM. Now what? You are at a cross roads. You could let your day be ruined....or....you could...try something different.
Try this breathing exercise to keep your cool as things are heating up.
It's called Sitali breath in the yoga tradition. This breath is designed to cool down the physical and emotional bodies to gain clarity, wisdom, and space. Whether it be becoming overheated from warmer outdoor temperatures, heated by frustration, anger or anxiety, or hormonal fluctuations this is a good one to keep in mind.
This week I want to explore the topic of miscarriage. Although difficult for us to wrap our minds around, approximately 10-20% of known pregnancies will end in miscarriage. This is a staggering number, and means that most likely you know someone who has experienced miscarriage at some point in their lives. Although most miscarriages occur in the first trimester (first 13 weeks of pregnancy), the effects are long-term and devastating to families. Community support and healing are key elements in being able to move forward in the grieving process. In addition to grieving, the physical aspects of the miscarriage can be confusing, painful, and debilitating. Many pregnancies require a D&C, which is a surgical procedure which in and of itself can be traumatic couple with the compounded trauma of loss.
In 2019, I experienced miscarriage at about 9 weeks. The process did not include a surgical procedure, but it did take many weeks to process resulting in low energy, blood loss, and soreness in the pelvic floor, legs, and belly. Both my physical and emotional bodies needed to be supported in the healing process. As with most things that overwhelm me, I turned to yoga.
I approached the yoga practice very differently. I found that time in my bed was just wanted I needed. The sheets and softness were soothing so I would end each day with a few restorative poses in bed. I would start in a supine butterfly pose (feet together, knees wide) with my hands on my belly and would breathe deeply. I would visualize healing and would take long, slow exhales to relax and release stress. Following this, I would tuck my legs towards my chest and allow my legs to be heavy. There was something very meaningful in this action - supine childs pose. I may follow this with rocking and breathing. Each pose I held until I felt I had benefited as much as I could. In subsequent weeks I added gentle supine twists and legs up a wall. Each evening I would let go more and get stronger in both body and mind.
As part of my healing, it became important for me to trust the process and reconnect with myself. It is incredibly easy to blame our bodies for this process, but connection can find encouragement and wisdom in ourselves. I began to put a practice together to help others going through a similar experience. Part breath, part connection, and part movement all to support healing in our bodies, in our minds, and in our souls. We never forget the little person that was lost. We continue to hold them in our hearts and we move forward more connected and more understanding.
For more information on ways heal and nourish yourself following miscarriage, tune into the "On Health for Women" podcast with Aviva Romm. The March 8 episode "On How to Have a Safe, Empowered Miscarriage at Home: What Every Woman Needs to Know" is a good one.
Take care of yourself, and each other!
Those weeks after your baby is born is ROUGH! There are sleepless nights, changes in schedules, a general sense of overwhelm, and so much to take in. Getting active is probably the last thing on your mind. But....at some point as your baby starts to get more consistent sleep and you are getting in a regular shower, the thought of getting active again can come to mind. So, where do you start? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Take a Postnatal Yoga Class: I know I am biased as a postnatal yoga teacher, however, taking a postnatal class can help you build a better connection to yourself. This style class provides you time to check in with yourself physically, provides strengthening exercises, eases tension, and supports relaxation. No postnatal yoga class in your area? Slow flow and gentle yoga are great options.
Go For a Walk: Walking is a gentle way to add in some cardio, as well as take things at your own pace. Walking builds strength and when done outdoors can provide some time to connect with your natural world and get some fresh air.
Pilates: There are a lot of options for Pilates including online classes on YouTube and local classes at area studios. Start slow or for short 10 or 15 minute periods and add on as you strengthen. Pilates is a fabulous way to rebuild core strength and support the spine. As the spine has gone through significant changes in pregnancy this may help reduce back and shoulder pain.
Exercise with Baby: Take a Baby & Me yoga class at a local studio or online, or just include your baby in stretches and exercise at home or wherever you are. You get time to be active, and also bond with your baby all at once.
Often times getting active after your baby is born takes a fair amount of patience as you rebuild connections and get stronger, as well as some creativity to find what what works for you. Whatever you do, have fun with it!
Has wrist pain seriously impacted your yoga practice? Have you stopped practicing because you have wrist pain? I am here to tell you that there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. But first, I want you to do one thing for me. If you suspect a clinical issue, please contact your doctor and have yourself check out. Once cleared for practice, you are most welcomed to try the following tips!
First of all, where we feel the pain isn't always where the pain originates. I have found that when we start to bring more awareness to the shoulder and how the shoulder is moving, there may be more information we learn about how the elbow, wrist, hand and fingers are (or aren't) working together. Many of my students also have hormonal considerations that may result in laxity of the joints or fluid retention. This would most certainly have an impact on how the wrist may function, as well as the sensations that accompany. A yoga therapist, someone with training in yoga therapy (hello, I'm here for you), or a PT may be able to provide exercises to test range of motion. In the meantime, check out the tips below to see how they can help you.
Blocks - Blocks are one of my favorite props. They can bring the floor up to you to reduce load on your wrists and arms. When in Tabletop position add blocks under your hands or under forearms. This can also be done in cat/cow, downward dog, and many poses that originate from Tabletop.
Weights - Small hand-weights are a fabulous way to get lift from the floor and they can help reposition the shoulder in relation to the wrist. Position the weights vertically and wrap finders around them resting the palm of the hand on the handle. You can also use this in Tabletop positions, Plank, and Downward Dog.
Wrist Exercises - Moving fingers and the wrist itself may be helpful especially when discomfort comes from working at at computer or driving. Rolling wrists in circles in both directions, flicking fingers (pretend you are flicking water off the tips), and shaking out hands can be great. One of my favorites is to interlace hands, then draw figure 8's with your hands in both directions. Then, interlace with opposite thumb on top and try again. Get ready to hear some creaks and cracks coming from your wrists and fingers!
Bend Knees in Downward Dog - A slight bend to the knees in downward dog can take the pressure off the shoulders and arms. This may help alleviate pinching that creates pain in the wrist. When bending knees the "load" or weight shifts back into the hips and can help a lot. Try it out to see!
Have a great time trying these out, and I'll see you next time! Valerie
As a yoga teacher who works with prenatal students, one symptom of pregnancy stands out above the rest. Low back pain. It's understandable. Babies are growing at a rapid rate and by about 24 or 26 weeks Mamas are feeling it!
Here's a tip to help relieve back pain fast. Good news, you can do this just about anywhere and anytime. AND you don't have to be a yoga practitioner to do it.
This one is the absolute best in the business! (see below for visual)
Let me know how it goes! And visit often for tips and tricks for before, during and after pregnancy. :-)
Hi, I'm Valerie Kacian! I am a mom of three and a yoga teacher. I am also a writer who doesn't write enough. This is my way of giving you the answers you are looking for and also to keep in touch with my first baby, writing.