this simple prenatal routine, from yoga MASTER gurmukh, will help you harness your body's power for labor.
The word “yoga” literally means to yoke, or join together, the body and mind. At her Golden Bridge Yoga Studio in Los Angeles, Kundalini yoga instructor Gurmukh teaches legions of pregnant women to yoke their body, breath and mind with the soul growing within them. Gurmukh has inspired expectant moms such as Madonna, Cindy Crawford and Reese Witherspoon to approach pregnancy as yoginis, or women who practice yoga.
The simple yet powerful prenatal program shown here is based on Kundalini yoga (“Kundalini” refers to the spiritual energy within the body that yoga unleashes). It was designed by Gurmukh, who is pictured with our model on pg. 90, and adapted by Fit Pregnancy fitness editor Teri Hanson. This routine, which can be done to your favorite music, promotes Gurmukh’s message for expectant women to make the most of this special time. “Bringing a meditative element to your life now makes you more peaceful and more appreciative of the gift you have been given,” she says. “It teaches you how to get in touch with your natural rhythm and energy to harness them for the stamina required during labor.”
Paul Crane, M.D., an OB-GYN at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, has seen that energy in action. “Through its emphasis on concentration and breathing, yoga gives women a physical and emotional practice that can transform nicely into the birth,” he says. “Their birth process often becomes an extension of their yoga practice.”
1. Miracle Meditation
You can do this pose at the beginning and end of the routine. Sit in a cross-legged position with your spine straight. Bring your hands together 6 inches from your chest, pinkies touching and palms cupped. Close your eyes and remain quiet and still. Keeping your breath smooth, imagine placing everything that brings you joy in the palms of your hands. Say a silent prayer of gratitude for each of them. Rest for 3–5 breaths.
2. Pregnancy Yogi Squat
Stand with your feet more than hip-width apart. Place hands in prayer position [A]. Inhale and sweep arms out and up, keeping hands together, eyes looking up [B]. Exhale as you bring your hands back to heart center and lower your body into a deep squat; hold for 1–2 breaths. Keep feet flat on the floor [C]. (If heels come up, place a folded blanket under them.) Tip forward to place hands on floor [D]. Roll up to standing [E], pushing off thighs if necessary. Inhale and sweep arms out, up and back to prayer pose overhead. Exhale as you place hands back to your heart center [A]. Lower eyes and rest for a moment. Repeat for 8–10 squats, progressing to 15.
3. Meditation for Commitment
Sit on a large pillow in a crossed-ankle position, hands resting on shins. Pull navel toward spine. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose, drawing shoulder blades back and down, allowing your neck to lengthen and your head to tilt back gently. Allow your back to gently arc, opening and lifting your heart to the sky [A]. Exhale through your nose and round your spine. Tuck your chin in toward your chest [B]. Repeat for 8–10 full breaths, progressing to 15.
For Your Body: Increases overall stamina and flexibility in the spine. For Your Mind: Makes you feel calmer and more powerful.
4. Cat Cow
Get down on your hands and knees with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips, fingers spread, toes curled under, abdominals pulled up and in. Inhale through your nose and gently arc your back as you close your eyes and follow your breath [A]; imagine creating space in your baby’s home. Exhale through your nose and round your back, tucking chin toward chest [B]. Continue this cycle for 8–10 complete breaths, progressing to 15. Sit back into heels to rest if needed.
FOR Your body: Strengthens abdominal and low back muscles. FOR Your mind: Allows you to concentrate.
5. Standing Rotation
Stand with feet more than hip-width apart, knees bent. Bend forward slightly, keeping back flat, palms on thighs, fingers facing in [A]. Let yourself be loose as you inhale and then exhale while you rotate your torso in an easy circular movement: up, left, down, right [B, C], giving your baby a ride. (Rotate once for each complete breath.) Continue this cycle for 8–10 breaths, progressing to 15. Repeat in opposite direction.
For Your Body: Strengthens abdominal and low back muscles. For Your Mind: Connects with the soul growing within you.
This activity (not shown) teaches you to endure discomfort—such as a contraction—via breathing and concentration. Sit in a cross-legged position, arms straight out to sides. Place your thumbs up with fingers in a loose fist; close your eyes. Draw a figure 8 with your thumbs, hands and arms. Breathe deeply through your nose. Continue for 5–10 complete breaths, progressing to 20.
Breathe in and out through your nose, gently resting the tip of your tongue behind your teeth on the roof of your mouth.
Allow your breath to lead your movements.
Keep your breath smooth and slow. If your breathing becomes irregular, slow down and relax for a while.
Be sensitive to your body’s abilities and modify the moves to suit your own energy and needs. Do not attempt any exercise that feels uncomfortable.
Follow your intuition. Remember, this is a practice of mental and physical conditioning. Close your eyes and go within, finding your inner strength and stamina.
Place a few large pillows next to you before beginning. Use one for the seated poses and have one ready for comfort as needed.