Stuck on bed rest? You can still enjoy the benefits of a gentle prenatal yoga practice. Here's how.
As if it's not tough enough being put on bed rest (what with the anxiety, the boredom and the discomfort of whatever condition you're dealing with), chances are you might be feeling a bit physically stir-crazy, too—especially if you were a fitness-loving mom-to-be beforehand. It's important to follow your doctor's instructions, but if she says it's okay, there are a few things you can do to get some mind/body work into your day, even if you're stuck in bed. "You can still enjoy a restorative yoga practice, including meditation, special breathing techniques and particular shapes that are safe for the body," says prenatal fitness expert and yoga instructor Desi Bartlett, creator of the DVD Prenatal Yoga with Desi Bartlett. If your doc approves, try one (or more!) of Bartlett's favorite restorative bed rest techniques:
1. Breathe deep. Close your eyes and slow down your breath and your thoughts. Breathe deeply through the nose, sensing a "whispery" feeling in the back of the throat. (If it's uncomfortable, you can breathe through the mouth.) Expand the time each breath takes—if you're used to breathing in for 3 seconds and out for 2, try to make both your inhale and exhale closer to 4 seconds—to calm and relax your body and mind.
2. Visualize your baby. Imagine Baby's head pointed down toward your pelvis, and his or her back to your belly. Spend a few moments sending love, blessings, laughter and peace to your little one.
3. Take a gentle backbend. Sit upright, scootch forward slightly, and place your hands 6-12 inches behind you on the bed. Open your chest, lift your heart and—if it feels okay—let your head dip back slightly for a breath or two. This easy backbend stretches the front of your body and tired shoulders.
4. Engage your shoulders. Try weight-free I's, Y's and T's: Sit up in bed and lift arms directly overhead for one breath (like an uppercase I), then out to the upper corners of the room (like a Y), then straight out to the sides (like a T). Perform three "sets" to encourage movement and blood flow to your upper body.
5. Squeeze a ball. Use your hands to squeeze a stress ball (or other small, pliable ball), breathing deeply as you squeeze. Imagine any stress, anxiety or frustration moving out of your body and into the ball as you squeeze—just don't hold your breath.
6. Try a supported stretch. Arrange three pillows on your bed in a T shape—one placed horizontally at the top (for your head), and two underneath it vertically (for your spine). Lie back on the pillows, bend your knees, and allow them to open out to the sides. If your legs feel tight, place pillows under your outer thighs and knees. Relax and enjoy the stretch for at least one minute.