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If you ask an expecting mother what is making her most anxious these days, chances are she will tell you her impending labor. Many consider labor the tumultuous culmination of pregnancy and the first step into parenthood. Labor and delivery are incredibly taxing on the body and mind. Although your body is built for delivery, it may not always feel that way.
Yoga can be a proactive tool in preparing you for labor. Yoga can help build your resiliency as you learn to stay calm under pressure and listen to your body's natural cues. You also address the physical task of labor and delivery. First and foremost, yoga targets the major muscles groups used during labor: the pelvic floor, hips, and core. These muscles tend to tighten up and weaken as we move through everyday life. In order for them to work effectively during labor, you must lengthen and strengthen them. Certain poses can alleviate back pain, relieve pressure, and prevent tearing. Finally, you are building stamina that will help you endure for hours on end. Below are some of our favorite yoga poses that you can use to prepare and call on for some relief during labor.
1. Cat-Cow Pose
You can use the Cow pose to stretch, strengthen the abdominal muscles, and relieve back pain; this will be especially helpful if you have back labor. First, get down on all fours with your knees directly under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Start by facing the floor with your spine in a neutral position. As you inhale, move into Cow pose by dropping your stomach towards the floor while lifting your chest and chin. Hold that position for a moment. You should feel your shoulder blades coming together. Make sure to keep your shoulders down and not shrug them up towards your ears. Now exhale and move into Cat position by bringing your stomach up and rounding your back towards the ceiling. Let your head hang so you can feel the stretch through your neck and upper back. You can repeat the process as you inhale into the cow pose and exhale into the cat pose for maximum stretch and relief.
2. Deep Squat
Squatting is a popular laboring position as it takes the pressure off of the back and allows gravity to help move the baby along. The Deep Squat pose enables our pelvic floor muscles to relax and lengthen. An added bonus of this pose is that it starts to gradually stretch the perineum, reducing the risk of tearing during labor. Start with your feet flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart. Slowly begin to bend your legs into a squat, so your knees are pointing upwards instead of forwards. It is crucial to keep your heels firmly planted. As you sink into a deep position, slide your elbows to the inside of your knees. Engage your core to keep your torso and head upright. As you become more comfortable in Deep Squat, you can use your elbows to push in the inside of your knees slowly. This action helps stretch your inner thighs, hips, and pelvic area.
3. Puppy Pose
Puppy pose is a mix of two famous yoga poses – child's pose and downward dog. The puppy pose is an excellent choice for relieving back cramps. This position also opens the hips and lengthens the pelvic floor muscles you will use to push. Start in a tabletop position on all fours. Slowly slide your hands forward while keeping your hips pushed back over your knees. The further you go, the more of a stretch you will feel along your spine. As this pose becomes easier for you, work on getting your forehead to touch the ground. You can also sit back with your bottom between your feet for an added stretch throughout the hips. Take a few deep breathes while holding this position. Finally, exhale back into your starting position.
4. Side Lunge Stretch
Side lunges are an easy way to strengthen the hip abductors you will be calling on to push during delivery. It can also stretch out the groin. To begin, start with your feet spread out under you, just past shoulder-width apart. Slowly, push your hips back as you lean to one side and bend that corresponding knee as if you were squatting. Do not overextend and lean past your knee. Make sure you push through the foot and not put excess pressure on your knee. Maintain a sturdy position. You can set your hands on the floor or utilize a yoga block for balance. The key is to make sure you are getting a deep stretch without twisting your knee to do so. Hold this position and then exhale back to the center. Inhale and repeat on the other side. Move back and forth from your two sides, calling on the hinging of your hips to push you back to a neutral position.
Many women swear by 'Birth Ball,' a ball exercise done to prepare for normal labor. The ball exercises improve posture and alleviate back pain, helps with stretching, and the comfort and bounce of the ball add a little fun! You can find a complete kit on the 'Thebirthball.com'website. You can also find gym balls on AMAZONand other marketplaces.