YOGA DURING PREGNANCY - 1

Earlier generations of women were used to doing household chores themselves. This ensured that their bodies remained flexible, and the need for separate physical exercise did not arise. Our modern lifestyle has made life 'easier', but our bodies have become less flexible.

The muscles used during childbirth remain under-utilized in our day-to-day lives. While many muscles participate in childbirth, attention is usually, and mistakenly, focused on the abdominal and pelvic muscles with respect to labour. In reality, the thigh, back, neck, and even the facial muscles, directly or indirectly participate in this process. Strengthening these muscles as well, through specific exercises, will ensure a smooth delivery.

During pregnancy, all physical movement should be carried out with care to avoid problems for the mother and the unborn child. This does not mean that exercise or routine work should be avoided; on the contrary, too much rest and relaxation can prove disadvantageous, and hinder natural labour. The expectant mother should continue to carry out simple, routine household chores, as well as specific exercises beneficial for pregnancy. Another important advantage of such exercises is that they help to bring the foetus into its natural birth position in the womb, necessary for an easy and natural delivery.

The duration of pregnancy is divided into three phases, known as the first, second, and last trimesters. One can maximize the benefits of exercises by focusing on those that are meant for each trimester. Do consider the growth of the foetus and the physical changes occurring in the mother at this time.

SHAKTISANCHARAN (ENERGY FLOW)

1. Sit in sukhasana, hands resting on the thighs.
2. While inhaling, slowly raise the arms sideways up to 60 
    degrees, as shown in the illustration, with thumbs facing upwards 
    and fingers lightly flexed to form a fist. The arms should be
    straight.
3. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply. Each cycle of inhalation
    and exhalation should last for about 20-30 seconds initially.
4. To complete the exercise, while inhaling, raise both arms above
    the head, with palms facing outward, in such a way, that the backs
    of the hands touch each other. Exhale.
5. Inhale again, and while exhaling, lower the arms slowly and place
    them again on the thighs.
Note : The eyes should be steady and     focused, or, alternatively, they may remain closed lightly.

As you get better at this asana, you should hold your arms up in the illustrated position and breathe slowly and deeply for up to a minute, for the best effect of this exercise. If there is discomfort in the arms while doing the asana, they should not be lowered suddenly. The above sequence should be followed through to completion.

This asana strengthens the neck, shoulder and back muscles, and improves the supply of pran (life energy) to these regions. It leads to an improved flow of energy in the body, especially in the spine. This improved flow of energy, along with deep breathing, increases the tolerance for pain, and is thus helpful during labour. This asana should be a part of the daily exercises throughout pregnancy, if possible.
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