Motherwell Maternity Health and Fitness - Improving Balance Before, During and After Pregnancy
Mind, body and spirit are one. The more we become balanced in the mind, body and spirit, the easier it is to stay centered in all aspects of our lives.
During and after pregnancy, there are many distractions. With baby moving inside of you, a part of your brain is always thinking about the baby as well as all possibilities as you focus on future events about to happen. On top of that, your body’s center of balance is shifting constantly, literally sweeping you off your feet! For that reason, practicing balance exercises will help you stay centered during this important stage of growing a baby.
After delivery, your body undergoes a huge transformation from baby incubator to infant caregiver. There are more demands on your body, mind and spirit. It is easy to feel like you are being pulled in many directions trying to meet the needs of your growing family while staying balanced yourself.
The following exercises will help you to keep centered on your feet, preventing falls and maintaining physical balance. You will also notice that as you become more centered in your body, the easier it is to stay balanced mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The more you practice, the easier it will become. Try it for yourself:
IV. Yoga Poses to Improve Balance
A. Balance Pose
- From a standing position with feet hip-width apart, bring arms out the sides or toward the center of your chest with palms together and start to bend your knees slowly until moving into a crouching position, knees fully bent and weight on the balls of the feet. Hold the pose for 3-5 breath cycles or longer if you can.
- To exit the pose, either come onto your hands and knees or tuck the pelvis under to stand back up. You can also come into a Forward Fold and roll up the spine.
Note: You can also get into this pose from a table top position, walking your hands toward your knees and then lifting the knees and coming onto the balls of the feet.
C. Tree Pose
- Prepare to balance on one leg. The supporting/standing knee can be slightly bent or straight as balance ability improves.
- The non-supporting leg is held in one of three positions:
- Knee rotated out to the side. The easiest position is with the heel of the foot against the supporting leg right above the ankle and the toes touching the floor.
- An option which is a bit harder is to place the arch of the foot on the inner calf.
- The traditional pose has the leg fully folded with the arch of the foot held high on the opposing inner thigh (In this position the ball of the foot can rest on the upper margin of the knee joint. The foot should never be positioned on the side of the knee as this could destabilize the knee joint.)
For variation, move arms above the head with palms together and/ or arms separated a shoulder-width apart with palms facing up.
3. Exit the pose with a return to Mountain Pose, and complete Tree Pose on the other leg.
D. King Dancer Pose
- Start in Mountain Pose.
- Bring weight onto the Right leg while bending the Left leg behind you. Grasp the Left ankle or foot from either the inside or outside with your Left hand.
- Take the Right arm out to the side or up beside the Right ear.
- Feel the lengthening in the spine and try to keep body in alignment with ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips and hips over knees.
- To enhance the pose, keep body in alignment while tilting forward and hinging at the Right hip joint. Eventually, the body will be parallel to the floor. To further deepen the pose, feel the Right arm and Left Leg pulling in opposite directions. The Left leg pulls away from the restraining force of the holding arm.
- Hold the pose for 3-5 breath cycles and repeat on the other side.
E. Eagle Pose
- Bring attention and weight onto your Right leg.
- Bend your Right knee slightly.
- Standing on the Right leg, bring the Left leg across the Right knee and take
- the Left foot behind the lower right leg. Bending the right knee deeper may facilitate securing the left leg to the rear, however, for some it may not be possible to hook the foot behind the right calf.
- Extend arms forward with palms facing up.
- Cross Left arm over Right at the elbows.
- Bend both elbows and bring hands together with thumbs facing toward the body, close to the face. Try to keep elbows bent at a 90 degree angle. If the palms will not come together, press the forearms together.
- Stay in pose for as long as you can and then exit to mountain pose – Complete the Eagle Pose on the other side.
Note: When folding Right leg over Left, you cross Left arm over Right. When folding Left leg over Right, you cross Right arm over Left.
F. Crow Pose (Postpartum only)
- Crow Pose is executed by balancing on both arms. From a deeply crouching position (knees wide and fully bent, weight on the balls of the feet, arms extended between the legs) lean forward placing the hands shoulder width on the floor with fingers spread wide and middle finger pointing forward.
- Bend elbows and slowly transfer your weight from the feet to slightly bent arms, with the mid-thigh area of the upper legs resting on the upper arms just above the elbows. (Initially, just lift one foot off the floor at a time.)
- Stay with your breath and keep your gaze at the floor. Exit the pose by rocking back onto the feet. Note: This is a demanding arm - strengthening pose and initially should be done with the mat or pillow in front so that if balance is lost with a fall to the front, the face and head are protect
G. Hand to Knee / Hand to Toe
- Start in Mountain Pose.
- While balancing on Right leg, bend Left knee and either stay in this position or bring hands either under the thigh or on top of the shin pulling knee toward the chest. Hold for 3-5 breaths and then repeat on the opposite side.
- Perform Hand to Knee again on while balancing on Right leg and grab the Left big toe with your the forefinger and middle finger of the Left hand. Then slowly extend the Left leg in front of you. Keep a strong, straight back as the leg is extended (until straight at the knee if possible).
- Hold the pose 3-5 breath cycles or until form starts to break down. Repeat on the opposite side.
H. Hero (Warrior) III
- Stand in Mountain Pose.
- Step onto the Right leg in front of you while taking the arms out to the sides at shoulder level.
- Keeping your body in alignment, start to hinge the body forward at the hip joint onto the Right leg while keeping the Left leg straight and lifting it off of the floor in line with the hips. Left foot is flexed with toes pointing toward the floor.
- As the rear leg is further raised, keeping it in line with the upper body. The hinging at the hips is continued only as long as the pose can be safely controlled and the back kept straight. The fully established pose looks like the letter “T” with upper body, extended arms and rear leg forming the top of the “T”. Should the final pose position be unstable, arms can be kept extended to the sides to assist with balance.
- Hold the pose 3-5 breaths or until form starts to break down. Exit to standing on both feet – complete the pose on the other side.
J. One-legged Chair
- Start in the Chair pose – knees are parallel and bent to front, arms extended forward with palms facing in, chin up and back in neutral position with abdominal muscles engaged to support the spine. Weight is equally distributed between both feet.
- Shift weight onto Right leg, while bringing
- Left foot on top of Right thigh. Hold for 3-5 breath cycles Repeat on other side.
Note: While balancing, palms can be brought together in front of the heart in Namaste’.
K. Easy Balance with Arm and Head Rotation
- Stand in good posture with one foot forward and facing forward.
- Extend opposite arm with thumb up and start to slowly rotate to one side without moving your feet. Follow the thumb with you head into a twist. Breathe naturally.
- When you can not go any further, switch arms and move in the other direction.
- When returning from the second direction, lower arm and repeat on the other side.
L. Sunbird / Balancing Cat
- From the table top position, extend Right leg behind you and keep heel no higher than the hips. (If this is difficult, keep toes on the floor). This is Sunbird pose. Pull the abdomen toward the spine for support.
- Extend Left arm beside your Left ear, palm facing inward and hold position for 3-5 breaths while thinking about being pulled in opposite directions.
- Release and perform on the other side.
M. Half Crescent Moon
- From the Sunbird Pose, turn the Right foot toward the Right while lifting the Right hip over the Left.
- Extend Right arm up to the ceiling.
- Hold for 3-5 breaths and then return to Sunbird pose and repeat pose on other side.