3 Yoga Poses for Labor
As a birth doula and yoga teacher, I believe that yoga for labor is one of the most rewarding forms of yoga. Your labor could be a breeze or it could be a marathon. Either way, these sure fire hip-openers can help give you the edge.
Take your Cobbler’s Pose to new heights by not only lengthening and strengthening your upper back, helping to improve your posture, but the lift also allows the hips to fall open towards the sides, going deeper into your groin muscles and stretching the pelvis to open for birth. Place the soles of the feet together in front of your body and walk the hips back an inch to rest in a forward pelvic tilt. Keep the outer edges of the feet pressed to the earth as you roll your shoulders open and back and lift your hips from the floor
- enjoying a deep stretch in the entire back from crown to tailbone.
2. Low Lunge Pose.
Lunge is a terrific pelvic floor stretch as well as a strengthener for your thighs. In addition, it stretches the hip flexors which lead into the back and can alleviate some of the tension in your tight lumbar. I often recommend my Doula clients to try this pose while standing in labor, as it may help to open up the pelvic floor on one side more than another, which is useful for babies who like to thumb suck in utero and cannot descend with a little arm in the way!
3. Downward Facing Dog.
The Downward Facing Dog is a standard pose in most classes, but done properly with birth in mind, can also become your new best friend. Begin the pose by sitting on the heels with the arms outstretched on the mat as far in front of you as you are comfortable. Keep the fingers soft and the shoulders pulled into the back with a long neck. Shift your weight into your toes and lift the knees slightly from the floor. Keep reaching with your chin as you straighten the legs, letting the heels descend, and the shoulders pulled back into the spine. The head will naturally fall towards the floor as your hips elevate, keeping the length and the strength in the shoulders behind you, where it belongs. As you lift the hips, lift the tailbone and stretch the hamstrings from heels to hips forming a perfect triangle with your body. In this position, the baby can fall out of the hips and low back, offering relief in later weeks as well as encouraging a breech baby to shift with the relaxation of the internal ligament structure.
*Consult with your medical professional before starting any new physical regime during pregnancy or labor.
Top 10 Yoga Poses for Headaches
Yoga can be a beneficial therapeutic tool for relieving headaches brought on by muscle tension and stress. The majority of headaches originate from muscle stiffness and imbalances emanating from the neck and upper back. When headaches set in, using a series of restorative yoga exercises can greatly relieve both the cause and symptoms. Here are our top yoga poses and exercises that naturally treat headaches.
1. Cat Pose: The flowing motion of breath and spine helps release tension from the neck and upper back while also pouring refreshing energy through the body and mind.
2. Seated Twists: Besides increasing circulation throughout the entire length of the spine, the twisting motion in the upper spine (cervical region) often alleviates tension coming from the scalene muscles of the neck (anterior aspect).
3. Chest Openers: Much of the tension in the back body is a result of muscle dominance from the front body (called Upper Cross Syndrome). Expanding the chest and front shoulder muscles helps break down muscular imbalances and frees the tension coming from the neck.
4. Eagle Arms: This simple crossed arm pose can be done in Mountain Pose or any natural seated posture. This back expander can reach well into the mid and upper back targeting problematic muscles around the shoulder blades and the base of the neck. Take time in this arm pose to breath slow and full into the upper back and insure that you perform this arm pose on both sides.
5. Simple Neck Stretches: Gently move through the various muscle fiber lines by allowing your head to float down to one shoulder with gravity, down across the chest and into the other side – repeat with a natural, unforced motion. Avoid letting the head fall back-keep the motion in a half circle from one shoulder to the other. Pause where you find extra areas of resistance.
6. Child’s Pose: A perfect restorative yoga pose that slightly inverts the body. A gentle flow of extra blood circulates into the head helping relieve tension. With the legs slightly separated, you can easily settle into deep core and back breathing to encourage a flood of circulation to reach deep into the body. Note that the head and neck should be absolutely comfortable. If needed, keep you arms forward or bend the elbows and rest the forearms by your chest/under your shoulders so the palms face up-this will greatly unload any pressure from the neck.
7. Two Knee Reclining Twist: Unlike our seated twists, this reclining twist can be far more restorative and held longer to bring deeper focus into relaxing the nervous system while the chest expands and rejuvenates the spine. Give extra attention to releasing the shoulders into the mat to release dominance of the shoulder and chest muscles.
8. Legs Up The Wall Pose: This highly beneficial inverted pose is great for developing hamstring flexibility and for improving circulation in the lower limbs. For headaches, the extra flow of blood to the brain and the restorative support can be deeply relaxing and nourishing.
9. Alternate Nostril Breathing: The aim of alternate nostril breathing is to restore balance to the energy systems. With balance, we find release and calm. This yoga breathing exercise is easy to do for all levels and targets the nervous system by slowing brain waves, calming the mind, and purging stress.
10. Relaxation Pose: After doing a series of restorative yoga poses, take some time to simply relax and release in Savasana. Turn the focus away from the symptoms of your headache and settle into the sensation of mental and physical release. You may find a light eye pillow helpful in moving tension/pressure out of the eyes and forehead. Increase your comfort by placing a bolster under the knees and a thin pillow under the head. To complement the chest openers and reclining twists, lay with the arms open to the sides/palms facing the ceiling.