25 Ways To Prepare For Labor (Physically and Mentally) – Part 1

Labor is a mysterious and profound experience, usually ranging somewhere on the “marathon” scale from hours to days in length (although some labors will actually end up being quite short. I know of a couple who named their daughter “Octavia”, as labor lasted 8… minutes !).

In general however, preparing for labor, means preparing for a sort of marathon by building physical and mental endurance, and by giving ourselves resources and tools, almost like a toolbox, that we can come back to when the time comes, to help us cope with the intense and awe-inspiring event that is childbirth.

As our bodies progress through the birthing experience, much of our rational brain “turns off”, and some of the most important tools available to us become:

1. BREATHING
2. MOVEMENT
3. BODY AWARENESS

I’ve rounded up what ended up being the 25 most useful resources in both of my birthing experiences in helping me to develop this awareness in preparation for labor.

Often times, the welcomed side-effect of these exercises is to make pregnancy a bit more “comfortable”, too !

*There are many proven techniques that you can also look into and study, such as HypnoBirthing, Lamaze, The Bradley Method and Bonapace Method to name a few. Also, having a doula at your side can play an important role when it comes to pain management.
* As always, please consult with a licensed physician before beginning any new exercise program. The exercises and suggestions provided here are in no way intended as a substitute for medical consultation.

25 Ways To Prepare For Labor (Physically and Mentally) - Part 1

25 Ways To Prepare For Labor (Physically and Mentally) - Part 1

#1: BREATHING EXERCISES

Why:
– Without a doubt, abdominal breathing is probably the most important tool available to us during labor to help cope with the intensity and the waves of contractions.
Oxygenates the muscles, thus keeping them more relaxed.
– Helps to focus and anchor the mind.
Calms the nervous system.
– Can help reduce feelings of tension and stress.

Perineum Breathing in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Perineum Breathing

How to:
– Here are 4 breathing techniques to help develop abdominal breathing, that can be practiced throughout pregnancy, as well as during labor.

1. Hand on belly breath exercise
2. Ujjayi (or Ocean Breath)
3. “Elevator”, or 3-part breathing
4. Perineum breathing

Note: There is no right or wrong way to breathe. We learn these techniques, like guides, that we can adapt to our comfort and preference. The key is to feel the breath fluid and natural, and even “relaxed” when possible.

“Deep abdominal breathing is calming and reassuring. It’s impossible to feel fear or tension while breathing deeply, slowly, rhythmically.” – Childbirth Educator, Liza Janda

 

#2: YOGA BALL HIP CIRCLES

Why:
– Can help release tension in the pelvis, lower back and abdominal muscles.
– Bring mobility to the pelvis,
which can help ease labor and facilitate baby’s descent through the birth canal.
Develop a breath/movement connectionStaying connected to your breath while moving is one of the great lessons of yoga. It not only keeps us rooted in the present moment, but promotes focus and overall well-being.
– During labor, staying connected to the breath while moving can prove to be an essential tool in making the experience more manageable.

yogaball-hip-circles in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Yoga Ball Hip Circles

How to:
Abridged explanation:
– Sitting on a yoga ball, slowly and gently start to move the pelvis in a circular motion, side-front-other side-and back, drawing a circle in space with your hips and lower back, letting yourself go to more ample then more subtle circles.
Breath remains steady, full and connected to the circular motion.
– Circle in the other direction.
Feet are firmly rooted on the ground, and knees are about 90 degrees bent.
– Hands on the thighs with shoulders relaxed.

For a detailed explanation of Yoga Ball Hip Circles click here.

 

#3: PERINEUM “MASSAGE”

Why:
Can help to ready the body and mind for the very real sense of burning that may occur during the infamous “ring of fire”, especially for first-time moms.
May reduce or prevent tearing to the perineum during birth, as well as the need for an episiotomy.
– Promotes pelvic floor awareness.
– If your partner’s the one lending a hand, this can even become a daily moment to share in the final weeks before the arrival of your new baby.

Perineum Massage (10 Steps to Prepare the Perineum for Birth) - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Perineum Massage (10 Steps to Prepare the Perineum for Birth)

How to:
– Here is a detailed and illustrated 10-Step Guide to Perineum “Massage”.
Start around week 34 or 35, a few minutes a day.
*Note: Generally speaking, these are not what are referred to as “fun” to do. 😉

 

#4: VISIT AN OSTEOPATH

Why:
– The gentle work of an osteopath can help to find and recreate balance in the body, by “undoing” tensions that may have built up in the muscles, tissues and ligaments over time or simply during the pregnancy.
A mobile and aligned, or “balanced” pelvis can participate in easing labor by facilitating baby’s descent through the birth canal. (See more on “Balance”, one of the 3 Principles in Pregnancy by Spinning Babies.

Visit an osteopath in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– Locate directories for osteopaths that treat pregnant women in your region.

 

#5: POSITIVE AFFIRMATION PHRASES

Why:
– Especially during my second pregnancy, I realized how important it is to nourish oneself with positive thoughts. Labor is a voyage into the unknown, and to be strong and prepared mentally, nourishing ourself with positivity can help to build this strength.

Positive Birth Affirmations in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– I was so lucky to have found these beautiful positive affirmation phrases, that I listened to every night before going to bed in the final (long 🙂 ) weeks of my second pregnancy.

Truly beautiful and so full of light! (and the music is so soothing!):

Posted on youtube by Indigo Midwifery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSXc-a_AH2k

Thank you to Indigo Midwifery for posting such a beautiful tool for mamas-to-be!

 

#6: THE “YOU MUST BE LIKE THE BEAST” ..!

Why:
– This yoga-inspired exercise helps us tune into our natural, spontaneous, even animal self, (the Beast 🙂 !) by bringing us to connect to our bodies and to the way it intuitively feels like moving. – Our bodies may choose various movements or positions intuitively during labor to help us cope with the waves of contractions. This exercise helps to nourish that intuition.
– A way to release tension in the body.
– Develops the breath/movement connection.
– Moving can help to make labor more manageable.
Baby gets used to mama’s movements.

25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
The “You Must Be Like The Beast!”

How to:
Abridged explanation:
Integrate cat/cow and lateral movements of the spine until you aren’t doing specific or technical positions anymore, but simply letting your body move in space how it wishes to.
– Keep the breath flowing, and observe how breath and movement are connected.
Try ample and subtle movements, letting the body go to what it feels like doing. Make it your own thing, kind of like a dance.

If your body ends up doing this kind of a “Beast-like dance” during labor, it may be a way to cope with your contractions. In any case, it feels great 🙂 !

For a detailed description of the “You Must Be Like The Beast”..! click here.

 

 

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#7: PRACTICE MAKING SOUNDS – Vocal Toning

Why:
– There is a good chance we’ll use sounds during labor, as they can play an important part in pain management. –“Practicing” in advance helps us become familiar with our voice and range.
– Vocal toning helps focus the mind and promotes deep relaxation.
– Physiologically, the vocal cords are connected to the diaphragm (the beautiful umbrella-shaped muscle in our torso that expands the rib cage to let air fill the lungs), which is connected to the perineum. (see Perineum Breathing)
– Toning the vocal cords develops this connection.
– Using low vocalizations during labor can lessen the sensation of pain during contractions.

Vocal Toning in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Practice low “mmm”, “ah”, “hah” and “ooo” sounds, even if it feels a bit silly 🙂

How to:
– Find a comfortable position.
– Begin by practicing sighing sounds.
– Practice low humming, as well as low vowel sounds, such as “ah”, “hah”, “ooo”.
– Here is a video I discovered during my first pregnancy that helped me practice vocal toning in the perspective of childbirth:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt8bWVecWEQ

(In this video, the woman demonstrating is lying flat on her back, I would recommend a supported “supine” position (like in the drawing above) for 3rd trimester comfort and to promote optimal circulation.)

*Note: You may look, sound or feel a bit silly doing this, but it’s worth it!

For more information on vocal toning, I found this article by Better Childbirth Outcomes to be very helpful.

 

#8: MEDITATION (through breath awareness)

Why:
– Strengthens our ability to focus and stabilize the mind.
Calms the nervous system.
– Builds inner calm and confidence.
– Brings the attention back to the present moment. –*Bringing the attention to the breath brings the attention back to the present moment, an indispensable tool for helping to remain rooted through emotions and sensations that arise during childbirth.
Elevates levels of endorphins. (endorphins are powerful and natural pain-relieving hormones produced by our bodies)
– Enhances levels of DHEA. (a hormone produced by the body with many benefits such as enhancing the immune system and balancing brain chemistry)
– Can help to regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

Meditation in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
“Inhaling.. Exhaling..”

How to:
Many meditation techniques exist, this is a breath awareness meditation:

1. Find a comfortable position.
2. Close the eyes, and bring your awareness to your breathing.

Notice the movement of expansion in the body as you inhale, and of release in the body when you exhale. As best you can, stay present to both the inhale and the exhale. It can help to use words, or mantras, as guides, for example:

3. Inhale, say to yourself: “Inhaling”, or “Expansion”, or “Nourish”,

4. Exhale, saying to yourself: “Exhaling” or “Release”, or “Cleanse”.

When thoughts arise and grab your attention, observe them as you need to, (you can even name them, saying for example “thoughts”), then let them pass and follow the breath once more.

It is normal to have many thoughts arise. It may even seem like a continuous stream of the thoughts when you first begin. Meditation will help to make the lapse of time, or “space”, between thoughts become longer.

Observe how the thoughts are like clouds, they come and they go, and that your presence is like the blue and infinite sky behind them, immense and limitless.

We actually are limitless!

Between 5-15 minutes.

Note: If you don’t already have a special place to meditate, try… the bath! One of my favorites! 😉

 

#9: WELCOMING WHAT IS THERE (ie: fear!)

Why:
– Many women experience feelings of fear during pregnancy and labor. (fear of pain, fear of the unknown, etc.)
– This exercise is one of many to learn how to cope with feelings of fear.
– Builds the understanding that it is normal to experience these feelings.
Builds the confidence in ourself that we are prepared and have the tools necessary to deal with emotions that arise.
– As with meditation, this exercise helps us connect to the ever-present space that is in each of us, a safe place that is deeply rooted in the present moment (fear lives in the future!) that we can always come back to.
Calming effect, can help fear feel less “overpowering”.

Welcoming fear in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Greeting what is supposed to be a scary creature 🙂

How to:
– When emotions such as fear present themselves, begin by following the breath, using breath awareness. (exercise in #8).
– Then, try to “welcome” the feeling of fear as best you can, acknowledging it’s presence.
– You can even “greet” it, for example, “Hello fear, it’s ok, I see you are there, and that you are a part of what I’m feeling right now.” (but you are not me, nor are you all that I feel!).
– Also, speak about your fears with supportive people you trust.Simply expressing your feelings often has the effect of making them feel less overpowering.
Inform yourself about that which scares you.  “Knowing is half the battle” is especially true when it comes to fear. Fear definitely has a way of getting bigger when it’s left “in the dark”.
Practice techniques that calm the body and mind, such as breathing, meditation, relaxation or yoga.
– Use mantras, for example:

“Inhale courage,
Exhale fear and doubt”

Inhale courage,
Exhale that which does not serve me”
“Inhale I acknowledge my fear,
Exhale I let it go”

– If your feelings are overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional health care provider.

 

#10: STANDING SACRAL RELEASE by Spinning Babies

Why:
– This lesser-known exercise relieves tension in the pelvis and lower back, thus helping to create balance in the body in preparation for birth.
– Can improve fetal positioning and pelvic alignment, which can help to ease labor and to facilitate baby’s descent through the birth canal.
– Creates more comfort during pregnancy, by reducing heartburn and even snoring.
– A way to connect with your partner. – this exercise requires a partner, practicing with your partner can be a way to connect.

25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Standing Sacral Release

How to:
-“The Standing Sacral Release is a simple, highly-recommended technique done with a very light touch to release the fascia around the pelvis and the pelvic and respiratory diaphragms.” (Spinning Babies)

http://spinningbabies.com/learn-more/techniques/other-techniques/standing-sacral-release/

 

#11: RELAX WHAT DOESN’T NEED TO BE “WORKING”

Why:
– An excellent tool to use for helping to cope with contractions.
Trains in focusing the mind.
– Develops body awareness.
Relieves stress.
– Helps to calm the mind by bringing the attention back to the present moment.

Relax what doesn't need to be "working" in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– You know how sometimes when you’re working hard on something, you realize at one point that you’re tensing up other parts of the body, say the forehead, jaw or shoulders, as if these parts of the body want to “work” with you? (Nice of them, but no thanks 😉 !)
– As you sit or stand, bring your attention to different parts of the body, for example, your mouth. Notice if there is any tension there, and try to relax your mouth. Move your attention to another part of the body, for example the shoulders and jaw, and see if there is any tension there. Then, try to relax them.
Breath remains full.
Closing the eyes can help to focus the mind and become more aware of the subtle sensations in the body.

Note: This is an excellent exercise to practice in moments that require extra or unexpected physical and mental efforts in your day-to-day life (ie: having to carry more bags than you thought while running errands, forgetting something in your home and having to go back up the stairs to get it (and being 8 1/2 months pregnant 🙂 ), being stuck in traffic, having a headache, dealing with your toddler’s tantrum, stubbing your finger, etc.). Each time an extra physical or mental effort presents itself, focus on the body, and attempt to release any tension in the body that doesn’t need to be there.

“Breathing, I find relaxation where I can.”

Contractions are indeed an extra physical and mental effort, and finding any source of relaxation in the body while having one can be an invaluable tool in dealing with the pain.

 

#12: PRENATAL YOGA

Why:
– Increases muscular strength and stamina in preparation for labor.
Reduces stress and anxiety.
– Can help you connect with your baby.
– Improves sleep and helps to make pregnancy more “comfortable”.
– A moment when mama takes care of mama (as well as baby 🙂 ).

Prenatal Yoga in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– Find a school you love, this is also a lovely way to meet up with other mamas-to-be!
– There are also many quality videos online.
– You can also have a look at my 10 Late-Pregnancy Yoga-Inspired Exercises.

 

…Continued here in Part 2..


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 1 and 4. ? I believe in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→


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For Part 2, click here





10 Little Things That Saved Me During The Last Weeks Of Pregnancy


Here are some personal things that helped me survive those last few, long.. long… weeks of pregnancy:) ! (overdue anyone?)

Kind of silly but also practical late-pregnancy survival guide !

Continue reading

10 Late-Pregnancy Yoga-Inspired Exercises

Here are a few yoga-inspired exercises that I used to help me stay comfortable as best I could during my late-pregnancy, and to invite my body to open up for birth.

As always, while doing these exercises (or any really!), don’t forget to breathe, and if ever you feel as though your breath becomes constricted, short, or blocked all together, ease out of the pose, and find a version that suits you better at that moment, (which sometimes means not doing it at all!), or modify the pose with some of the suggestions given here.

The key is to feel the breath throughout your body at all times (which helps in calming the nervous system, and focusing the mind).

And of course, breathing will be our best friend throughout labor and the birthing of the baby. 🙂

If at any moment you feel dizzy or just don’t enjoy being in the pose, don’t do it! Come out of the pose and don’t ever push yourself, just not worth it!

We’re there to take care of ourselves and in so doing to take care of the beautiful life that is growing in our body.
10 Late-Pregnancy Yoga-Inspired Exercises. Prenatal yoga for 3rd trimester.

Have faith that your body knows what to do. Believe in yourself, so entirely and so completely!

 

#1: HAND ON BELLY BREATH EXERCISE

1. Breathe “into” the hands.

Sitting or lying down comfortably, bring one hand on the belly, and one hand on the heart.

Notice yourself bringing your breath and attention to these parts of the body, there where your hands are.

2. Move one hand or both hands to another part of the body.

Once again, slowly breathe into your hands, thus « breathing into » a different part of the body.

*By training our mind to bring its awareness to different parts of the body, we develop what can be a powerful tool during labor to help « dissipate » the sensations of pain that may arise.
*Belly breathing can prove very helpful in coping with the pain and the waves of contractions, you can practice this exercise with both hands on the belly.
*Breath remains fluid and natural.

 

#2: THE “YOU MUST BE LIKE THE BEAST” ..!

When I took my prenatal class, the wonderful lady teaching it didn’t speak English as her first language, but was teaching to Anglophones.

As she was talking to us about labor and how it is a journey into our animal and instinctual nature into which we must let ourselves go, she was getting more and more enthusiastic and ended up telling us all with complete conviction that during labor:

” You must be like the Beast!”

This exercise is inspired by her enthusiasm 🙂 and is meant to help us tune into our natural, spontaneous, even animal self. (the Beast!)

It’s a way to connect to our bodies and to the way it intuitively feels like moving, yet another useful tool in keeping pregnancy “comfortable” and in helping with labor.

1. Find table position (on all fours), placing the hands shoulder-width apart and the knees aligned with the hips.

Spread out the fingers and palms and feel them pressing into the ground.

(Note: At any time, if this position becomes uncomfortable on the wrists you can press onto the base of the fingers, palms lifted off the ground, or you can also work on closed fists.)

2. Start by doing a few cat/cows

Inhale cow, exhale cat.

3. Then move the spine laterally

Bring the hips and the tip of the head to the right, then to the left (creating “half-moon” shapes with your spine).

Then take a moment to close the eyes. Notice how this brings your awareness into the body.

4. From there, start to let yourself move with a bit less “technique”

Integrate cat/cow and lateral movements until you start to feel that you aren’t really doing specific positions anymore, but that you’re simply letting your body move in space how it wishes to.

Keep noticing the presence of the hands, knees and lower legs on the ground. See how it feels to let the elbows bend and the hips move front and back. You can also move your head softly if you like.

Keep the breath flowing, and see if you can observe how breath and movement are connected.

Then try amplifying the movements by making them “bigger”, and then try making them more gentle, subtle and “smaller”, letting the body go with what it feels like doing. Make it your own thing, kind of like a dance.

If your body ends up doing this kind of a “Beast-like dance” during labor, it may be a way to cope with your contractions.

In any case, it feels great!

 

#3: KEGEL

rest_belly

Kegels exercise the perineum.  The perineum is made up of the musculature and tissues surrounding and including the space between the anus and the vagina up to the urethra.

Keeping this part of the body toned is essential in global well-being, to support the abdominal organs, and to give a sense of lightness, and even life to the body, kind of like an uplifted feeling.

During pregnancy, Kegel exercises, along with Perineum Massage, help to prepare the pelvic floor for birth, as well as aid in postnatal recovery.

Here are 6 Kegel exercises for the health and maintenance of the perineum that you can do all throughout your pregnancy and within a few days after birth.

 

#4: SQUAT WITH KEGEL

I’m in one right now! Just kidding.

Squats are powerful. I find that by bringing us near to the earth, they have a grounding, rooting effect, helping us to connect to our primal nature. Part of many cultures, this position is used for working, relaxing, cooking and even going to the loo ! (and it’s also used by toddlers world-wide:)!)

A wonderful hip opener, it also helps to maintain the health of the pelvic floor.

By adding Kegel work to our squat, we’re helping to tone the perineum, all the while opening the hips and creating space in the pelvis, making this a wonderful birth preparation tool, as well as a way to maintain overall functionality of the body, especially for pregnant mamas.

* Don’t do this full squat if you have placenta previa or if your cervix is fragile or if it’s uncomfortable. Instead, try working sitting on the yoga ball with legs straddled (feet flat on the floor, as in the yoga ball hip circles)
* During late-pregnancy it can be a good idea to place some support under your bum, with a pillow, bolster or block so as not to put too much pressure on the pelvic floor
* Always make sure the knees are aligned with the toes, avoid letting them roll inwards
* See if you can keep a smooth and steady breath all along
* Heels should be supported, so if they don’t touch the ground in your squat, place a rolled blanket underneath them.

 

#5: DOWNWARD DOG

So simple, so wonderful a pose and so fantastic to do all the way through pregnancy! I found especially so in late-pregnancy, both times.

Generally, in prenatal yoga, while we do want to maintain good alignment and thus protect joints and ligaments, we also want to find a way to tune into what the body needs, and sometimes that can mean modifying the poses.

So in Downward Dog it’s the same thing.

See how it feels to move the hips, or bend the knees and ankles a few times. Then try keeping the pose without movement.

Make it yours.

As well as getting the blood and energy to circulate, Downward Dog is a natural pick me up!

During late-pregnancy this pose can help to create space around the uterus and thus more space for baby and mama’s organs, hopefully bringing more comfort to mama.

Keep the breath flowing, staying anywhere between 3 and 5 breaths.

*Downward Dog is contraindicated if you’ve had a procedure to turn baby around from a breech to head down position, if you have very high or very low blood pressure or if you’re suffering from reflux
*If you’re not comfortable with your hands positioned directly on the ground, try placing them on a table, counter top, or chair instead, a stable surface that’s a bit higher and that can still give you the experience of opening in the back body and of creating space in and around the belly.

 

If you’re wondering about fetal repositioning, Spinning Babies have loads of incredible information on the subject, amazing guys!

 

#6: PARSVAKONASANA (Extended Side Angle Pose) WITH ELBOW ON FRONT THIGH

I have a tendency to say Hallelujah when I get into this pose. I just love Parsvakonasana. I think that this is my personal Warrior Pose as I always feel strong and vibrant in it.

A wonderful side body stretch, it also allows for deep breathing into the lungs and ribs.

This pose can help us to become attuned with the positioning of the sacrum, a tool we can use throughout our yoga practice as well as pregnancy (keeping the mobility of the sacrum can prove useful and even vital in facilitating delivery).

*Tip: Try doing a couple of very gentle and very subtle pelvic tilts in your Parsvakonasana, helping yourself by placing the back of your hand on the sacrum (triangular-shaped bone at the base of the spine).

Then softly aim at aligning the sacrum « vertically »with the rest of the body, not tucked in, and not sticking out.

Because it creates space in the pelvis, any work on mobilizing the sacrum can prove beneficial for pregnancy comfort and for easing labor.

*Keep the back leg strong and back foot rooted
*The front knee doesn’t bend too far over the heel, and if this is the case, move the front foot forward a little. This will protect your knee! Avoid letting it roll inwards
*If you are uncomfortable working with your elbow on the front thigh (this could be the case if you are in late, late-pregnancy 🙂 !) try placing the hand on the thigh instead
*Breathe into the entire body, all the way to the tips of the fingers and toes, tasting the stretch, such a welcome one in our pregnant bodies!

 

#7: SITTING ON THE YOGA BALL, HIP CIRCLES

In late-pregnancy, this is one of the exercises that I found to be so helpful and useful! You’ll need a yoga ball, fit for your height (more air if you’re tall, less if you’re small!).

1. Sit on the ball

Hands on the thighs with your shoulders nice and relaxed, let the pelvis release and find some comfort there.

*Feet are firmly rooted on the ground, and that your knees are about 90 degrees bent.

2. Slowly and gently start to move the pelvis in a circular motion

Side-front-other side-and back, drawing a circle in space with your hips and lower back.yogaball-hip-circles

Letting yourself go, gently begin to amplify the movement,

and then play with more subtle, smaller circles.

Again, see how your breath remains steady, full and connected to the circular motion. Then try doing some circles in the other direction.

This gets movement going in the hips and in the pelvic floor, a wonderful way to feel healthy all throughout pregnancy and to help your body prepare for labor and delivery.

*Keeping the body consciously moving during contractions can help a great deal in coping with the pain.

 

#8: PELVIC TILTS

– a true winner for helping with lower back problems that arise throughout pregnancy.

I focused on these way more during my second pregnancy and had a great lower back up until the end. (I did have a small episode of lower back problems around 6 months, that seemed to be resolved through pelvic tilts and keeping moving (ie walking and biking)).

These can be done in many positions: sitting, lying down, standing and even while walking.

1. Start with your back against the wall

In a “sitting position” against the wall, the ankles and knees are aligned (don’t let the knees go past forward over the ankles, and if this does occur, simply walk the feet front a bit more).

*The knees are aligned with the hips and feet, don’t let them roll in or out – if needed, try using a block in between the thighs to help maintain proper alignment throughout the exercise.

Already, just being here against the wall (and breathing fully!), is a great exercise to tone the quads and the bum!

2. Move your sacrum

To do pelvic tilts, start to move your sacrum (the triangular-shaped bone at the bottom of the spine), as well as your lower back and bum towards the front, essentially scooping and tucking them in,

then, move the sacrum and lower back toward the back as though to stick out the bum a little, keeping the upper back relaxed and pressed against the wall. Back and forth, back and forth.

Do 15 to 40 repetitions, breathing all the while.

*You should not only feel your thighs find some heat, but also the lower back and the lower abdomen. It’s also a bit of a massage for the lower back (mmm!). And a wonderful leg toner!
*Can be used all throughout pregnancy to ease back pain.

 

#9: SIDE-LYING LEG FAN

I discovered this one during my second pregnancy. It became one of my go-to exercises, especially in late, late-pregnancy 🙂 to help me get some movement going in my legs, hips and lower back.

1. Lie on your left side

Lay your head on your left arm or a pillow if you like. Place the right hand on the floor in front of you to stabilize the torso, keeping your back in line with the head. The left knee is slightly bent.

2. Like a fan

Let the right knee bend towards the sky then lift the foot, with a gentle, gentle kick. Then let the leg return gracefully ( !! ) towards the ground.

5-10 times.

It’s fun to do!

Repeat on the other side if you’re still comfortable lying on your right side.

*While pregnant, the muscles of the body are a bit more “relaxed” because of the pregnancy hormone relaxin that prepares and starts to open the pelvis for birth. This can give the sense that we’re actually more flexible than we really are – so generally speaking we can aim at working, say, at 75% of our range of motion, which can help to avoid overstretching the muscles, tendons or ligaments.

 

#10: DANCE!

Yes that’s right! Get up and start shaking it! (well you know, with care 🙂 !)

dance_233

In my « overdue » phase this time around I was having quite a few “omg this is taking forever” thoughts and I was also feeling a bit « stuck » in my big body as I couldn’t go out for as many walks with the cold winter we were having.

I heard an old-time funk musician on the radio talking about his Motown days, and an urge came upon me, to dance!

Really just get up and shake my bootie.

That evening, with my partner and toddler son watching (with a bit of fear in their eyes), I found a fantastic funk playlist (geared to Motown:) and I just danced, let what felt like my huge body move and boogie in space, feeling filled by the music and rhythm in my body and heart.

Honestly felt so good, so.. « freeing »! Ok, so it didn’t induce my labor, but who knows, it may have helped!

 

2 more things worth mentioning :)…

 

#11: REST

– because its’ its just as important as moving and mobilizing the body, rest! When you can, find a moment to lay down, by now the most comfy positions will likely be on your left side, or in a reclined position. (Use a bolster or as many pillows as needed to prop your knee(s), head, etc.)

rest_belly

For reclined positions, I use a cylindrical bolster like the ones used in a yoga class.

Here’s a breath awareness exercise you can do as you rest (if you’re not already sleeping 🙂 ):

1. Close the eyes, and bring your awareness to your breathing.

Notice the movement of expansion in the body as you inhale, and of release in the body when you exhale. As best you can, stay present to both the inhale and the exhale. It can help to actually use words, for example:

2. Inhale, say to yourself : “inhaling”, or “expansion”

3. Exhale, saying to yourself: “exhaling” or “release”.

When thoughts arise and grab your attention, observe them as you need to, (you can even name them, saying for example “thoughts”), then let them pass.

Observe how the thoughts are like clouds, they come and they go, and that your presence is like the blue and infinite sky behind them, immense and limitless.

We actually are limitless!

Even just 5-10 breaths like this can to wonders for calming the nervous system, and it also practices awareness to breath, an indispensable tool during labor.. and motherhood !

 

#12: WALKING!

It is said again and again, but such a lovely way to build stamina and keep your body mobile and healthy, pregnant or not.

When we go for a walk, we activate our circulation, we create mobility in the entire body, and we’re breathing fresh air.

Try breathing in connection with your steps, like a walking meditation, for example:

Inhale while counting 1-2-3 steps,

Exhale while counting 1-2-3-4 steps,

or whatever number of steps suits your rhythm (it can be inhale 1-2, exhale 1-2-3 steps if you’re walking more slowly, etc.)

You can also say to yourself the words, like a mantra, “Inhaling” and “Exhaling” as you go.

Note: Normally the exhale is longer, so add an extra step or two.

 

What a gift to feel our bodies move in those last weeks of pregnancy, even just a few minutes a day can feel so good and be so helpful.

One very important last thing to keep in mind : …you’re a total babe! 🙂


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 1 and 4. ? I believe in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→


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AWESOME PRENATAL YOGA BOOK:


Highly recommended, this book is a must-have for any prenatal yoga enthusiast (I use it all the time!). It provides detailed info and safe modifications for yoga practice throughout pregnancy and after birth. A must!!!


RECOMMENDED for at-home practice:
A BOLSTER

Oh my goodness I love my bolster! You may be used to the joy of using bolsters from your yoga practice in the studio. Having one at home is a treat! Bolsters are an essential part of my yoga practice at home. Because of their length, they can support the entire upper body in reclined poses, offering optimal relaxation. I use the cylindrical bolster by Halfmoon.


More from 10ThingsYogaMama:

Birth Affirmations For Dad – 10 Things I Wanted To Hear During Labor






Are you wondering about birth preparation?

In this work, I share the tips, tools and thoughts from my yoga and dance background that were helpful for me in preparation for birth and during labor, including pain management techniques, relaxation exercises and mental preparation tips.