For one, we've been preparing our living quarters - mopping floors, shining windows, scrubbing bathrooms, dusting bedrooms, organizing the garage, building shelves, unpacking and cleaning Avie's stored away infant items and making space for them in the house, gathering supplies for our home birth kit, purging our space of unnecessary items ... and the list goes on!
Not only are we prepping the house, but Eric and I recently attended the Yoga and Birth Preparation for Partners Workshop offered at Bliss Yoga Studio in Morgantown, WV. What a lovely way to bond as husband and wife, mother and father and birthing duo! The workshop infused us with excitement as we learned lots of ways to work together (mostly what he can do to assist me!) throughout our baby's birth. We missed our scheduled workshop last time because Avie surprised us and came at 36 weeks!
So, the house is being prepared. And Eric and I took our preparation course and continue to read our select books about pregnancy (his, The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin and mine, Birthing From Within by Pam England and Bob Horowitz; see links below for book info). What's left to prepare? My body, which is the one carrying this wiggly little soul and the one who will ultimately be responsible for birthing it.
On to the purpose of this post... to talk about walking and yoga for an active birth!
Since the start of pregnancy, I've been sharing my running-while-pregnant journey, which evolved into a walking-while-pregnant journey in the sixth month. Follow my journey by clicking on the links below:
- The Joy of Birth & Running Uphill: A Meditation to Bring Baby Into the World
- From Running to Walking While Pregnant: Month Six (Weeks 23-27)
- Running While Pregnant: Month Five (Weeks 18-22)
- Running While Pregnant: Month Four (Weeks 14-17)
- Running in the First Trimester: Gratitude & Playing the Edge
When I set the intention of running while pregnant, I never made it a goal to run until the very end. Instead, with each run, I honored how I felt and knew that if it stopped feeling OK, then I would stop running. And that's what I did.
Thus, walking and pre-natal, slow flow, yin, restorative and gentle vinyasa yoga have predominated as my top two forms of exercise in these final months. Both of these - yoga and walking - are among the top recommended exercises for expecting mothers. Even more, they both offer ample space for the spiritual and meditative work so paramount to create a calm, healthy, mindful pregnancy and a mindset to withstand and flow with the unpredictability and spontaneity of birth. Moreover, yoga and walking are preparing me, and can prepare you, for an active birth.
What is active birth? Janet Balaskas, founder of the Active Birth Centre and Active Birth Movement and author of the book Active Birth, describes it as:
- A way to prepare the body and mind to activate your physiology’s natural birth-giving abilities
- A celebration of the miraculous unfolding of the natural process of pregnancy and birth
- A philosophy and a movement that has empowered women to choose how and where they deliver their baby
- A common-sense, evidence-based approach that is supported by midwives and doctors, and taught in NHS hospitals and birth centres
"Active Birth has evolved as our understanding of the incredible process of birth has developed. But three ideas have been present since the beginning: encouraging mothers to use instinctive upright birthing positions; stimulating natural hormonal responses during labour; and empowering women to make their own choices about their births." (http://activebirthcentre.com/)
My first birth was active even though my physical activities differed from this pregnancy. I believe that running and the power yoga that I was doing while Avie was in the womb did help me to birth actively, but such intense physical exercise does not work for most, including me, this time around. Side note - I do not recommend hot yoga to any expectant mother, including myself, as I reflect back. Running, however, I view as a safe activity as long as your body feels OK with it.
Instead, I love waking up and busting into an improv, spontaneous prenatal flow, doing one midday while my son plays alongside me with his trucks and also in the evening (often done in bed!). Closing my eyes and tapping into my inner wisdom and guide while visualizing myself using these yoga flows as a means to cope with labor are EMPOWERING and bring a sense of courage and grit to the birthing process.
In addition to yoga, as mentioned above, is the walking. For the first half of my first labor with Avie, I walked, and it helped tremendously in managing my restlessness and progressively stronger contractions during the 20 hours it took for him to make his way into the world. Active birthing heralds upright positions (standing, squatting and kneeling/hands and knees) as the most effective and natural way to encourage the descent of baby during labor. Walking, is, indeed, one of those active, upright positions.
The moderate exercise that yoga and walking provide has lots of benefits for pregnant mothers. These include developing stamina, strength, balance and coordination; maintaining healthy weight gain; calming the nervous system; increasing circulation; decreasing the risk for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and a breech baby; and helping to combat fatigue, nausea, moodiness and constipation. On another note, walking outside, in nature, no matter the weather or temperature, hones my connection to Mother Earth. Breathing in her presence fortifies my spirit and renews the feminine divine within me! So, yes, let's do some yoga, get outside and go for a walk!
With all that said, below is a breakdown of what month seven held for me in terms of physical activity. During weeks 30 to 32, sciatica got the better of me, so I cut out one day of walking (from five days to four) and stopped walking while pushing Avie in his stroller. Instead, I waited for my husband to get home to enjoy a stroller-free stroll.
Thankfully, sciatica is all better now, thanks to a combination of lemongrass and wintergreen essential oils mixed in sesame oil - upon lathering this concoction on my hips and thighs, any pain associated with this common pregnancy ailment disappeared within five minutes. It took several days of application for it to subside completely, but once it did, it did not and has not returned. Whew!
My hope is that the following information inspires other fit mamas to be flexible in their approach to exercise and to view it as a form of training for the big day of delivery, of receiving your sweet soul child into your arms in your own unique, beautiful, powerful way.
Week 28 (Jan. 2-8): 12.87 miles walking (five days of walking two to three miles)
*Yoga seven days per week: sessions varying in length from 20 minutes to one hour, with one day consisting of two and a half hours of yoga practice broken up into three times throughout the day
Week 29 (Jan. 9-15): 11.02 miles walking (four days of walking two to three miles)
*Yoga seven days per week: sessions varying in length from 35 minutes to one hour, with two days consisting of two and a half hours of total yoga practice broken up into two to three times throughout the day
Week 30 (Jan. 16-22): 11.75 miles walking (four days of walking 2.75 to three miles)
*Yoga six days per week: sessions varying in length from 20 minutes to one hour
Week 31 (Jan. 23-29): 9.6 miles walking (four days of walking 1.6 to three miles)
*Yoga seven days per week: sessions varying in length from 40 to 75 minutes
Here's to walking and yoga for an active birth!
Follow the link here for information on my upcoming Prenatal YOMA (yoga with massage) class, led by me and a massage therapist, at LPS Strength & Meditation yoga studio!
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