Prenatal Yoga for Bed Rest
So you're on bed rest. That's the pits, especially at a time when you'd love to be out preparing for baby or moving your body. If you're my yoga student, I'm going to miss seeing you in class (but it's ok, because I'll see you at Mom & Me soon enough)!
You can still practice SOME* yoga, although perhaps not a physical practice and not with us in class. It might sound a bit hokey (but that's ok, because I'm a yoga teacher and I'm allowed to sound a bit out there), but you can spend some time sending out good vibes to baby. Let them know they are in a very safe place with lots of people looking out for you two, and ask baby to stay in for a little while longer. You can focus on your breathing... sometimes when things get crazy and you can hear your heartbeat in your ears it is good to think:
Inhale: "Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in."
Exhale: "Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out."
Do this over and over again. If someone forwards you an email about something scary, delete it and then do this breath.
Try Ovarian Breath:
Imagine there is a long, golden cord wrapped around your hips and pulling into the center of the earth. That is holding you steady, just like baby's umbilical cord is holding them steady.
Now imagine that little flecks of light are rising up your spine as you inhale. Once start to exhale, allow that light to pour over your face, your heart, and back into your baby. Continue breathing in this way, never holding or restricting the breath.
There is a bit of science behind this... baby's endocrine system picks up on hormones from your endocrine system (and vice versa) so working towards the calmest state possible can have real results.
Actual physical movements*
- Ankle circles (each direction)
- Ankle extensions (push heel, ball, toe, curl your toes like you're grabbing something, and then pull the foot back to starting position)
- Wrist circles (interlace all fingers and make figure eight shapes with your wrists) go both directions
- Slow baby ab hugs. Slowly tighten your belly muscles inwards to hug your baby, then slowly release. Take several seconds for each.
- Arm stretches (using a belt, like a bathrobe belt, hold your arms overhead like the Y in YMCA with the belt between them. Move the belt forwards in front of you, then back behind you. It will kind of look like jumping rope).
- Keep the belt and do tricep stretches. Same grip, but now one hand is overhead and the other is by your low back. Your thumbs will face one another along the belt. Switch sides.
- Butterfly pose (sitting with soles of the feet together and knees open)
- Roll a tennis ball over any tense muscles you can reach, or put it into a sock and use that as a handle. Consider the hands, feet, calves, upper back, and really anywhere you can reach. You might be surprised to learn what is sore.
- Hands and knees, gentle "cat/cow" postures or just stay on hands and knees a bit
- side-lying leg lifts or stretches
*please, for the love of Pete, double check any physical activity with your provider. Bed rest can mean a number of things and can be prescribed for many reasons. Make sure you are doing what is best for YOU and YOUR babe. Take this list to your provider and verify that each and every action is ok before you try to perform it. Your provider may have additional exercises, too.
If your friends want to bring you things, say YES and TELL THEM what to bring you. Here is a fun list of things you may not have considered...
More than MuuMuus
Pregnant mama: "Going to a wedding next week... have to buy a dress."
"Oh, where are you shopping?"
If visions of tablecloths and tents dance in your mind when considering formal wear, let me help to allay your fears. Find gratitude that you are pregnant now rather than in the hideous 1980's, when maternity fashion involved oodles of pleats,
<--- "Pay no attention to the belly behind the curtain!"
While I fully believe that the sari is the best fashion choice of all time because it easily adapts from day to day and a muumuu might be the most comfortable choice, I rarely see women wearing either of these frocks at prenatal yoga (nor do I see them out and about). What I have seen and heard about are some great ideas and resources that will help you avoid the camping section and keep a few extra dollars in your pocket.
The hairband button hole trick: early on in pregnancy (and longer for low-rise pants) most women find an easy way to extend their favorite jeans and other pants with a button closure involves a sturdy hair tie. Simply loop the hair tie through the hole, then through itself, and hook it over the button. Sturdy is the key word here.
The big event: (not that big event). If you have a wedding, baby shower, movie premier, or cocktail party to attend, you may not want to purchase a dress you'll wear only once, particularly at maternity prices. There are a few places where you can borrow maternity wear for a month (or many) and pay much less than the cost of the item. Borrow for your Bump is one place you can find some good options. They also offer some other pieces for rental and offer a range of sizes. When your body changes daily, you don't want to buy a new outfit for only two weeks.
Foldover skirt or pant: particularly useful for prenatal yoga, many pants and some skirts come with a little extra band of fabric on top that folds over. I'm not sure what the original purpose is for these features, but they come in handy as the lycra stays up around any territory it needs. Borrow this from your pre-pregnancy wardrobe, or head to your favorite big box store to buy one or two pairs.
Belly band: many stores offer this quasi-tube top designed to be worn under your shirt and over your pants. It creates a layering look that covers your skin and can help hold up pants that are a little beyond the hair tie trick. These are also useful after baby is born if you are breastfeeding in public and you need to lift your shirt. You can keep your tummy covered and warm while feeding.
Nursing bra top: the belly isn't the only thing taking up more real estate, and purchasing new bras might seem like a ridiculous additional expense when you'll just have to buy more later! Nursing bras and tops are designed for a larger bust and will also come in handy after baby is born. If you're feeling uncomfortable, especially if your middle and upper back are bothering you, The Ladies might need a little more support.
"We think you look FABULOUS!"
There comes a time for every pregnant woman when the urge to relieve pressure on sore joints and swollen ankles outweighs any trepidation of wandering out in a swim suit.
For your sake I hope this happens earlier in your pregnancy rather than later, because the only thing I recommend more strongly than prenatal yoga for the healthy pregnant mama, is getting into the water. Why? Because it feels great and helps your body get stronger without adding stress
Why swimming makes you feel better:
- You don't weigh any less in water (trust me, I took many science courses in college) but your joints will not be bearing as much weight because the water will support you.
- Everyone is graceful under water. Even if it seems your body is rebelling against you on land, you will be
- You can float on your back and stretch in new ways.
- Baby will move off of your bladder.
- The water is cool.
- You are unable to text in the pool.
You will drink even more water:
- With most of your body beneath the surface of the water, the hydrostatic pressure on your blood vessels increases, making your body naturally want to shed more water (aka pee). This is great for mild swelling, because as the water moves from your blood vessels into your bladder, it pulls more water from your swollen tissues to replace blood volume.
- I'm not saying you should pee in the pool/lake/ocean, I'm just saying that not everyone would notice if you did.
If someone says something nasty to you, or even looks at you with questioning eyes, think of the following:
- They are still evolving. They are currently in the mean troll phase of life and you should pity the fool.
- They are naturally curious because no one teaches anyone anything about sex ed anymore and they want to know what has happened in your life. Offer some education.
- Hear me SCREAMING from across the room/beach YOU LOOK FABULOUS, MAMA! Because I think you look amazing, all the time, no reservations, no exclusions.
One of the things that terrifies me most about possibly becoming a mother one day is my intense love affair with sleep. I am not a doctor, midwife, or labor doula because I simply cannot imagine happiness in a life that includes fewer than eight consecutive hours of sleep per night. In fact, I had to take a break from writing this post just so I could take a nap.
It's in my genes, too. My mother is an Olympic Napper, or would be if they ever opened the event. After large meals we frequently take spontaneous family floor naps.
You probably have your own weakness, too. Perhaps yours also stands between you and your idea of the "perfect mother" like your maniacal obsession with clean countertops, your propensity for jet-setting, or your insistence on watching the Late, Late, Late Show. I have good news for you: so long as your weakness doesn't involve ritual sacrifice, you're very likely going to be a great mother. Especially if you know what that weakness is.
Steps to Being a Great Mother Even with a Weakness:
1. Identify your weakness(es). Determine which areas of your life appear to be inconsistent with motherhood and you're not willing to compromise. There should be one or two, or possibly three. More than three and you'll need to whittle your list.
2. Articulate ways others can help you (in writing). In my case, I would need people who are willing to come to my house to supervise mama nap time. I might also need someone to spend the night periodically/routinely to share the duties of night feedings. If you need someone who will help you learn how to travel with a newborn, or possibly babysit for a weekend now and again, it's good to know that now.
2.5. If your request sounds silly in writing like "someone must come to my house at 11:35 each night so that I can stay abreast of all of the celebrity antics," maybe sit with it for a week before you proceed to the next step. But if it will make all the difference in your life, perhaps sit down with someone neutral to have a conversation about your needs. Maybe there are solutions others can think of. If you decide it is still essential, proceed along.
3. Recruit your village. Are there people in your life who would be interested in helping in the ways you've outlined above? Now is a great time to ask them to get a sense of how much help you can get by cashing in favors. For instance, I have some friends who would likely do the nap thing, but maybe not so many who would do the overnight thing. Do you have friends who will clean your counters or help you stay caught up on the LLL Show even if it is now waaay past your bedtime?
4. Hire some village people. Maybe you think you want cute baby clothes or high-tech surveillance equipment, but in my case, neither of those things will help me much. A postpartum doula might willingly work with me to spend a night every week for six weeks for a not too unreasonable rate. Consider hiring a cleaning person to do an expert job once a week rather than cashing in every last favor for the sake of clean countertops.
Heed any inkling you have that something might stand between you and a mentally healthy postpartum period and address it now, preemptively rather than six weeks into misery.
Pregnant Women Are Hot
As someone who teaches two styles of yoga: prenatal and heated vinyasa, I've come to learn this particular fact quite well. A few weeks ago I inadvertently started heating my prenatal yoga class when I turned on the heater instead of the fan.
The class was not amused.
As a I child I remember countless times my mother told me about how she specifically planned my birth for January so that she wouldn't have to be pregnant in July. This never made a lot of sense to me, as I was literally four years old when she started sharing this particular tidbit. Now that I swaddle myself with pregnant women on a biweekly basis, I've started to realize that she shared with me because my mother is a Virgo. This means her mother must have shared with her JUST how fun it was to be pregnant in Cleveland with an August baby. Before air conditioning.
Having no babies of my own, I practiced my prenatal yoga teacher training with the aid of a microwaved bag of corn which I tucked into my shirt/pants. I believe this to be a close estimation of how it feels to be pregnant (temperature wise, at least). Imagine carrying your laptop in your pants after surfing the interwebs for an hour. This is how pregnant women feel all the time.
Keeping mama cool is so important, because in utero, baby cannot regulate his own temperature. He doesn't get to sweat, or say he's thirsty, or ask for a timeout from the 98 degree hot tub he lives in.
The most uncomfortable times to be pregnant include:
1. Being outside in the heat, especially in a car.
2. Anything that involves exertion (which is why swimming is the BEST). Yoga is a close second.
3. Cooking or being around cooking appliances.
5. All times in-between.
Things You Can Do for A Hot Pregnant Woman:
1. Do not tell her she looks hot (unless you are her partner and you are taking a calculated risk even then, my friend).
2. Offer a cool foot bath and foot massage with a cooling lotion, like aloe vera or a pregnancy approved minty foot rub.
3. Get her to a pool. Swimming, as long as the provider is on board, is cooling and relieves stress on the joints.
4. Cool the car before she gets in, if possible, and park in a shaded area.
5. Take care to keep the bedroom as cool as possible and offer her a cool washcloth to place on her forehead or neck. Sleeping in the basement never sounded so good.
6. Make sure she gets plenty of water to drink. Keeping her fluid levels up is crucial as she's sweating for two and trying to maintain an adequate level of amniotic fluid. Ask her provider if you're not sure how much she should be drinking.
When the going really gets tough, think about taking some time to go see a mid-day movie and bathe in the air conditioning, or try a frozen treat. Chocolate dipped frozen bananas are a personal favorite and are easy to make and relatively nutritious.
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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