Savasana during pregnancy

Savasana for the prenatal practice: Part One

It seems like savasana is one of the favorite asanas and if anyone could use a mini-nap it’s an expecting mama that just finished up a prenatal yoga practice! However, most pregnant women find it uncomfortable to lie on their backs for a long traditional savasana pose. This is because back-lying can put pressure on the inferior vena cava which is the large vein that returns blood back to the mother’s heart and brain.

So how can a mama find a comfortable position for savasana? Props! Specifically bolsters. Soft but supportive, they come in a variety of sizes and shapes so there are many options to choose from. For part one we will set up the side-lying savasana.
You will need:

1 or 2 Pranayama bolsters
1 or 2 blankets

For this version, I prefer the smaller pranayama bolster. It’s the perfect length for supporting the knees and ankles and its slim profile makes it easier to adjust, especially when you’re working around a baby-belly.
Choose the side that is most comfortable for you. Be sure to roll down through your side and get back up through your side, using the strength of your arms to help lower you down and push you back up (as opposed to rolling back, like through the sit-up position) more on why this is important here. Place the bolster between your legs.

The key to setting this up properly is making sure the bolster is between your knees AND your ankles so that the body is in greater alignment from the hips all the way to the feet. This can help eliminate lower back pain due to poor alignment of the legs.

For more support and to align the upper body with the lower body, use a blanket under your belly (as opposed to letting the weight of the baby pull your center down toward the mat). And finally, use a blanket or another pranayama bolster to support your head, keeping the neck and spine in alignment with the rest of your properly aligned body. Tah Dah! Super-comfy savasana for the pregnant yogi.

*Do* do this at home! It’s also a great way to sleep… All night, supported and in good alignment? Yes, please!

You can read more about prenatal yoga on the website or connect with Utah Prenatal Yoga on Instagram and Facebook.

The NEW Cat-Cow

If you’ve ever been to the internet, you know there is a lot. When it comes to prenatal yoga there is an abundance of posts (blogs, pins, instagrams) that suggest that the “Cat-Cow” is a great exercise for pregnant women. I’m going to get crazy and go against the internet here…

IMG_1922

In the years that I’ve been teaching prenatal yoga I have also touted this as a great option for mamas. In an effort to offer the best and most up-to-date information to my students I continually seek out new information, training and education about pregnancy, anatomy and alignment. During one of my last teacher trainings one of the (very educated and experienced) teachers in my class created a great discussion about how the traditional cat-cow was actually very poor alignment for the neck and spine. I spent several months thinking about it, trying out new options, bouncing ideas off my peers and mentors and testing it out with my pregnant yoga students. I’ve finally arrived at a NEW way of doing the cat-cow.

IMG_1920

Here’s the scoop (hehe)… In the traditional “cow” position there is way too much strain as the neck pulls back and the spine shifts into a highly exaggerated curve. Additionally, this excessive arch in the back pushes the belly forward more than is reasonable for an expecting mama. Overstretching the belly can lead to a separation of the Linea Alba and possibly Diastasis Recti. When I started “shape shifting” this pose I realized I would NEVER asked a pregnant woman to do the actions of the traditional cat cow if they were sitting in a chair, standing up etc.

The traditional “cat” position has some issues too. The rounding in the upper back and neck puts pressure on the spine in the opposite direction of the way it’s meant to carry our weight load. The force needed to draw the mid and lower back up in to an arch requires far more abdominal engagement than is appropriate for the pregnant belly. And, to where are they going to draw in the belly as they arch the back? The space is occupied! One of my favorite mentors, a highly respected PT, calls this type of movement “over-efforting”. Indeed. It’s possible that this extreme engagement of the core can also lead to separation of the abdominal tissue as well.

Don’t throw out the cat-cow with the bath water, there is a solution! The New Cat-Cow. My intention for teaching this movement has always been to increase mobility in the pelvis and the hips. This can still be achieved, I think more effectively, by keeping the neck and shoulders in a neutral position while the hips take the lead on the movement. The opening, releasing, stretching and mobility is still there, but the unnecessary actions in the neck and shoulders are eliminated.

IMG_1919

Give it a try. If you’ve been doing the old cat-cow it will take some getting used to. The response and feedback I’ve received from my students is overwhelmingly in favor of the New Cat Cow. I hear things like “it feels so much better”, “I didn’t like the way it felt when I arched my back the old way, it cut off my breath”, “the new way doesn’t stretch my belly out so much” and “I get more movement in my hips because I’m not messing around with my neck”.
There you have it. When you see those posts that show pictures of mamas in the extreme (old) version of cat-cow, just… don’t. If you already did, it’s ok! You can change your approach now. Remember I said that I TAUGHT the old cat-cow for years in my prenatal yoga classes? Rather than stress out over that, I remind myself of the wise words from Maya Angelou: When we know better, we do better.
Om!
Alicia

What are graduates saying about the Teacher Training?

Some of the Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training graduates talk about their experience…

“The teacher training with Utah Prenatal Yoga was above and beyond what I expected. The training was a good balance between hands on teaching/learning and classroom (type) learning. It was an artfully constructed training into the world of yoga and motherhood for anyone, mother or not. I would definitely recommend this training to anyone.”
Ashley Detrick RYT-200, RPYT

“I absolutely loved the prenatal yoga teacher training!! I am a practicing midwife here in Utah and I wanted some more information on how yoga could specifically be helpful for my pregnant mama clients. I learned much more than I was expecting and feel so much more confidence in truly helping these women have a stronger, healthier and more joyful pregnancy, birth and recovery!! I especially love how Alicia helped us to bring the focus on to WHY we practice the way that we do, what is best practice and how to incorporate heart language and theming into our unique teaching styles!”
Hannah Dunford, LDEM, CPM

“I would 100% recommend the Utah Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training. I’ve been teaching yoga for 10+ years and walked away with so much understanding and insight into the world of prenatal yoga. Practicing yoga is invaluable during pregnancy and I feel so lucky to be able to share what I have learned with my yoga students!”
Gygi Koster, RYT-200, RPYT