A Labour of Love
A Labour of Love
by Brigid Godwin
As the name suggests labour is undoubtedly one of the most intensely physical, emotional and spiritual experiences of a women’s life. As you would prepare for any event that was certain to demand a lot of stamina, preparing your body for the birth of your baby will give you an enormous advantage.
Staying active during labour has well documented benefits. Women who are able to move freely during labour are able to move intuitively often adopting different positions as the labour progresses. These positions can involve swaying or circling the hips during the uterine ‘surges’ which makes them more comfortable and at the same time creating space for the baby to move down and through the pelvis. Baby is an active participant in its birth and as the mum moves her body this helps her baby as it turns and wriggles it’s way through opening of the pelvis. If mum is able to move freely this also allows the joints in the pelvis to open in an unrestricted way creating more space for the baby. Being upright puts a more even pressure on the muscles in the perineum and this can help reduce the likelihood of tissue damage. The all-fours position is also great. It is a very grounding position, allows lots of free movement, takes the weight off the lower back and eases the pressure on the nerves that feed the uterus making things more comfortable. Allowing the wisdom of her body to guide her, often the most comfortable position for mum is the one that is most beneficial for a smooth labour.
The following poses can help to build strength and stamina during pregnancy so you can not only carry your baby more lightly as s/he gets bigger but also have the strength to stay as active as possible through labour.
Marjariasana / Bitilasana or Cat/Cow
Method: On all fours take knees apart and hands a little in front of the shoulders. If you have pain in your wrists then place forearms on the floor. Inhaling lift your tailbone, slightly dip your back and raise your chest and head. Exhaling tuck the tailbone under and bow your head arching your back. Move between these 2 poses 5 – 10 times. Benefits: These poses help to strengthen the postural muscles in the front and back of your torso and help to free up your spine.
Vyaghrasana - Tiger
Method: Exhaling lift your right knee towards your chest and bow your head towards your knee being careful not to compress your baby area. Inhale lift and straighten your leg straight behind you and raise your head looking forwards. Repeat 5-10 times on each side. Benefits: This practice strengthens and tones the spine, abdominals and the legs.
Method: Place your left elbow on the floor, bend and lift your right knee. Keeping the knee bent take the knee in big circles going one way about 5 times and then the other. Rest when you’ve done both directions then repeat on the left. Benefits: These hip circles bring mobility to the hip joints and strength to the thighs and buttocks which can help to support the pelvis and the pelvic floor.
Virabhadrasana 1 - Warrior 1
Method: From all fours, bring your hands back towards your knees, lift your knees off the floor. Engage your pelvic floor muscles and stand up. Step your right foot forward about 3 ft and turn your left foot in so your hips are squared to the front. If you have Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) then only take a small step forwards. Inhaling bend your front knee and raise your arms above your head. If you have high blood pressure (HBP) then keep your hands on your hips. Exhaling straighten the knee bringing your arms down to the start position. Repeat 5 – 10 times on each side or you can simply hold the bent knee position for 5 breaths. Benefits: Strengthens legs, spine and arms.
Parsvotonasana - Flank Stretch
Method: Step your right foot forward about 2 - 3 ft and rest your hands on the seat or the back of a chair so your back is flat and your arms are beside your ears. If you have PGP then keep your feet parallel. If you have HBP then don’t bring your head below your heart. Stay for 5 – 10 breaths. To come out bend your front knee, drop your arms, stand up then change sides. Benefits: This is a restful pose. It stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles, opens the rib cage and allows more room for breath and baby.
Utkata Konasana – Goddess Pose
Method: Stand with your feet about 3 ft apart, toes angled out. If you have PGP keep the feet only hips width apart and parallel. Inhaling reach your arms up and look up. Exhaling bend your knees so they point over your feet and sweep your arms down under baby. Inhale sweep them back up as you straighten your legs. Repeat 5 – 15 times. Benefits: Great for building stamina especially if you increase the amount of repetitions gradually over time. Squats are also great for helping tone the pelvic floor.
Prasarita Padotanasan - Wide Legged Forward Bend
Method: Bend forward resting your hands on a block, a chair seat or perhaps the floor. If you have PGP or HBP then repeat the modified version of Flank Stretch with feet parallel and hands on a chair. Benefits: This is a restful pose. It stretches the inner thighs and backs of the legs.
Abhaya Mudra in Virasana
Method: Kneel with blocks under your bottom and perhaps a blanket under your knees. Bring your left hand under baby facing upwards and your right hand up to your right shoulder facing forwards. Benefits: This is called Abhaya mudra. It is the gesture of ‘fearlessness’. It is thought to bring peace, protection and freedom from fear. Hold for a couple of minutes breathing deep and slow and allow yourself to absorb these qualities.
Sivasana – Relaxation
Lie on your left side with a cushion between your knees or a bolster under your top knee to keep your pelvis aligned and your lower back straight. Take 5 – 10 minutes to enjoy this quiet time with your baby and rest your body and mind.
Images by Jane Lancashire. You can find out more about Brigid or purchase her DVD ‘Pregnancy Yoga Flow and Postnatal Recovery’ from www.unityyoga.co.uk