My Pregnancy and Yoga- the love affair continues.

Pregnancy is a funny time. As each baby and person is unique it is expected that of course our experiences as women during pregnancy will also be individual. My pregnancy has been up and down, the down times I believe have been a result of nutritional deficiencies, particularly vitamin B, which is essential to feel good!

Ustrasana 28.5 weeks

Overall, the best way I can describe pregnancy is a period of ‘ripe-ness’. The body swells and ripens even before the baby is even a baby but a tiny little cluster of cells rapidly multiplying, the breasts take on a heaviness and the hips begin to spread there is a physical ripening. There is also an emotional ripening, my yoga teacher refers to it as a ‘maturation,’ there is a knowingness of what your body needs; rest, foods and what it doesn’t need. I have had a level of intuition about my own needs that I have never had before. Creativity, patience and space have all ripened through my pregnancy so far.

So here I am in my 31st  week of my first pregnancy reflecting on the role of my yoga throughout the past 31 weeks, I have often referred to my knowledge of yoga as my pregnancy toolbox.

To begin with that intuition took over and I stepped back from my practice for the first 15 or so weeks of my pregnancy. In the first trimester our bodies create a ‘nest’ and perfect little environment for a baby to grow. We want to baby to implant and implant well. Often during this early period women are sick and are filled with a heavy tiredness unlike any tiredness felt before. It is time to be inward, restful and eat as well as can be managed; this can be difficult if all you desire is simple carbohydrates and fruit!

I practiced only light asana/postures with a focus on creating space through the pelvis, my body felt heavy and my regular more rigorous practice fell away in place of sleep and rest. I often went to my ‘yoga toolbox’ as my digestion suffered terribly during the first trimester- progesterone is a powerful hormone! I used asana to relieve gas and bloating, savasana and pranayama to help soothe the anxiety that plagued me early in the first trimester.

Pasvakonasana 29.5 weeks

Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science was a big part of my first trimester, each morning I practiced abhyanga or self massage as another way of dealing with my anxiety. I also lovingly prepared kitchari for myself when my digestion was very congested, and my agni, or digestive flame was very low due to the hard work my body was under.

Kitchari is a mung dahl, rice dish made with low amount of spice and lots of ghee* making it very nutritious and easy to digest. Kitchari is often the only thing eaten during an Ayurvedic cleanse and it is a wonderful thing to eat when you are wanting to give the body extra rest as it is so easily digested.  (If anyone would like my pregnancy kitchari recipe I would be happy to share 🙂

Pregnancy has increased my understanding of the science of Ayurveda deeply, there are other blog posts touching on Ayurveda but the science is built around the three doshas which are constitutions or mind/body types. (a quick google search of dosha or ayurveda will explain more)

Pregnancy is an increased Kapha time for me, the increase in fluid and weight, the love of sleep and food- these are all qualities of Kapha the earthy dosha. I am generally a predominantly Pitta or fire dosha (mind you , this is still present in the heartburn!) I love the slower paced nurturing kapha that has increased in me, the daily kitchen rituals and heavy slumbers. Women often notice an increase in mucous during pregnancy- this is due to the increase in estrogen which stimulates the mucous membranes but also the increase in fluid during the kapha time.  Our dosha is determined by our parents dosha’s at the time of conception and I can’t help but wonder how my husband and I’s constitutions will determine our baby’s.

Sirsasana nearly 28 weeks

Back to the yoga, second trimester the time on the mat was spent learning how to negotiate the new body, not only was my usually pear sized uterus now the size of a small soccer ball, I had 40% more blood! Lots of passive inversions to help with the circulation: viparita karani, adho mukkha svanasana. On the mat I felt relatively awkward, heavy and weak but as the baby grew and put more pressure on my body asana became more important to protect my spine and keep my strength.

Just a note on the second trimester, I was under the misguided impression that at 13 weeks the ‘babymoon’ of the second trimester starts. I didn’t feel like I could get through a day without a nap until week 17! As I said in the beginning pregnancy is such an individual experience some women never get the second trimester energy burst, mine didn’t really show up until the third and some women feel energetic and productive throughout their whole pregnancies.

So where is my practice at now? My practice is at its strongest since I fell pregnant. My teacher says yoga is not a work out, it is a work in, when I long to participate in my nightly kitchen ritual and prepare a delicious meal but can’t summon the energy after a long day on my feet at work, I practice yoga. This is the wonderful thing about practicing in a restorative way- it restores. Or when my feet are swollen or my back aches- I know exactly what to do to ease and soothe. Pregnancy is an uncomfortable time, but not a time for martyrdom I feel I can make myself more comfortable. If I become concerned about my baby’s movements I know lying over the bolster will get it moving. Or if there is a tiny elbow or knee in a less than ideal position I can coax baby to move through asana and creating space.

My pregnancy intuition has led me to the mat, practicing and preparing for my natural birth- deep diaphragmatic breathing (I am breathing for two) harnessing my control over the diaphragm so it can aid me during contractions, hip opening, strengthening the leg muscles that lead up to the perineum as in preparation not only to birth, but to recover. I rarely have to think about which asana to practice my body leads me, although in this lifetime I haven’t given birth, we are ancient bodies that have evolved, my body knows what to do.

It is also a sacred, intimate time with my baby. When I’m inwards focusing in its little nest, when I have two hearts beating inside me, it’s a time that I dedicate fully to baby and me, really the only time I do get to dedicate to baby and me.

Namaste

xxx 

*ghee is a wonderful addition to a pregnancy diet. It is a ‘good fat’ excellent for babies brain development and building tissues. It also aids in constipation, heart burn/reflux and other pregnancy related digestive issues. 

Advertisements

Welcome Winter

 

The change in season always, always throws me into a flurry, usually I’m mourning the sudden ease that comes with getting out of bed in Summer or lamenting that didn’t go to the beach enough once Autumn arrives or get a chance to wear my favourite coat enough come Spring time.

As the seasons shift it honestly feels as though I may never swim again, ridiculous, I know, especially as my husband and I will be escaping to India during winter’s coldest part this year!  Come September, the anxiety of not being able to wear boots and a skirt (one of my favourite things) will soon come. 

It shouldn’t be like this, a change in season like all changes offers us a fresh start, a new beginning, renewal and a chance to live a different life for a while. This post is part celebration of Winter time’s glory, part survival guide from a Yoga and Ayurveda perspective. 

Food and Drink

My little habits change with the seasons in summer I love to drink water with torn mint leaves in it for its cooling and refreshing properties in winter this is swapped for warm water with a knob of fresh ginger for its cleansing and warming properties.

Ginger is imperative in winter, not only will you need it for endless cups of chai but, I like to use fresh ginger for all day hydration, a 20 cent sized piece in a mug with hot water, if you prefer dried ginger (bought as loose ginger tea if you are unsure of what I mean) is also good, much stronger in flavour and therefore warming and if you know which mind/body constitution you are in Ayurveda and are Pitta (fire) dosha, I would stick to the fresh stuff and reuse the same piece of ginger it becomes weaker the more you use it.

 If you feel you are fighting off a cold or flu try drawing a bath and adding 1/3 cup of dried ginger and 1/3 cup of baking soda and take a soak, watch your eyes though! 

Avoid cold drinks, drink even plain water warm (this helps remove more toxins from your system) and use warming spices such as cinnamon (perfect on porridge) cloves, turmeric and black pepper. Eat warming, slightly spicy foods such as curries and soups, we need more food in winter than we do in Summer, so try eating a larger than normal lunch and keep the evening meal the same size for better night time rest. 

I know we always say not to eat 2 to 3 hours before a yoga practice, you may find that in winter you need some nuts or dried fruit closer to your practice. (or even a cup of hot cacao or sweet milky, chai, unless you are Kapha (water) dosha as dairy is mucous producing and in winter we are trying to minimise mucous in Kapha.

Prepare meals mindfully, I particularly love meals in winter that take all day to cook such as slow cooked soups and curries that fill the house with warmth and delicious smells. Have a go at making chai- it is beautiful to look at and there is nothing quite like homemade chai!

Mornings

Sleep in a little later, in Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, it is said in winter to not rise before 7am. Winter is a time to be more withdrawn from the outside world, sleeping in is totally fine, I generally find that while in Summer it is easy to get up and practice yoga, I prefer to practice later in the day, usually after work. There is less chance of injury then, too much movement on freezing mornings can be dangerous for the body, a later afternoon or  evening practice can also be quite a nice way of flaming the digestive fire before the evening meal and warming up before winding down for the day.

If you a prone to stiff joints and for all round health, massage warm sesame oil all over your body in the mornings. Sesame Oil is known as the “king” of oils due to the levels of antioxidants present. I cover myself in sesame oil each day and leave it on but you can massage it in and leave for 20 or so minutes before showering. It is warming, grounding and fabulous for those sore parts. 

*with all oils always by cold pressed, organic oils not just sesame oil from the supermarket any health food store should be able to help. 

Yoga/Pranayama

I like to start winter practices with Surya Namaskar (sun salutes) or another type of vinyasa (flow) creating heat and opening up the heart, 6 x repetitions each side. While in Summer I would favour longer holdings and more cooling asana in winter I practice much more dynamically and leave time for a long savasana under a thick yoga blanket, make sure you rug up as it’s always surprising how fast and how much we cool down with the stillness of savasana. (any blanket is of course fine but the blankets found at most yoga schools are really snuggly available at yoga prop stores or  a little tip- camping stores). 

Practicing pranayama which builds heat and gets rid of mucous and toxins on the lungs is ideal in winter, practices such as Bhastrika or Kapalabhati creates energy as well as detoxifying the respiratory system especially if you know you are prone to coughs, colds and other Kapha disorders.  

Enjoy the opportunity to spend long days in front of the fire, relish in the cups of tea and wear skirts and boots as much as you can before the swimming season hits!

 

With warmth, Namaste xxx