July '08 Pregnancy

Pregnancy and Practice

by Catherine Harris

I’m forty-one and 31 weeks pregnant as of July 2nd, meaning I’m either in my seventh or eighth month depending on which book you follow. I have gained about twenty-five pounds. I’m not sure how much I weighed exactly when I started, but on average I usually weigh between 125 and 130. I’m now around a solid 155. I’m just barely shy of five foot six. I have to sleep on my side now and I can still wear my husband’s t-shirts. I am due September 4 or 5. My first child arrived at noon on her due date. We don’t know if this is a boy or a girl. I did not practice during my first pregnancy and it took a year after giving birth to get back into practice. I have been practicing Mysore style ashtanga since 1997. Before this pregnancy, I was just starting to add the first poses of third series. I have never been to Mysore, India, but have attended San Francisco and New York Pattabhi Jois workshops and practiced with teachers in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. With my family, I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to India, but we dream of a Fulbright that might get us within shouting distance.

I practice about six days a week, but my practice is short now that I’m so pregnant and often tired. I am now doing a modified second series most days and modified primary on Friday. Standing poses with no parivritta trikonasana or parivritta parsvokanansana, still feel great. I now stop at pincha mayurasana most days, though I still try to get all the way through second once a week. It is tiring to lift so much of me. I work with staying in the same alignment as the traditional pose, even through the modifications. Breathing is a challenge as the uterus starts to really impinge on my lung capacity, but it is also incredibly soothing.

Practicing makes my back feel wonderful. I had almost two weeks without practice when we went traveling to my in-laws at the beginning of the month and I had a typical pregnant lady sore back for much of the time. I struggled with returning to a daily practice, but I feel much better. I do have a bit of ligament and muscle soreness under my belly. The body works hard to cantilever all that weight out front.

I am looking forward to retrieving my body from the miracle of childbirth. Figuring out how to practice with a newborn will, of course, be a new challenge, which I did not rise to well, last time around. I was terrified to leave my first child, even just for an hour or two. I hope that emotion will be easier to handle. My practice is also somewhat dependent on the mysore room I teach in, so keeping the teaching flowing as well as the practice with the sleepless nights and new baby seems daunting, but possible. Practice while pregnant seems like just a good stretching of the humility required to engage with the baby. The real test comes later.

The pose run down:
When I do second series, I start with a modified pasasana with my belly between my legs and my arms binding on one knee. The lift into a handstand still works for me, though I do them three or four feet from a wall so I can catch myself if my balance is off, as it often is. I’m learning about a new strength in my back to handle all this new weight.
Krounchasana works well to open my hips now, as I have to pull the leg out to the side quite a ways.

I then do a version of salabasana through parsva dhanurasana, using urdhva mukha svanasana, holding for ten breaths, then an upside down bhekasana, then a transition of side plank pose with no raised foot, down to parsva dhanurasana on the right side, a back bend in between, parsva dhanurasana on the left side, up into side plank and then finishing with five breaths in urdhva mukha. Its not traditional, but it helps move into ustrasana next.

I am still lifting into handstand between the next poses, but I can’t jump back really now. I practice ustrasana, laghu vajrasana and kapotasana. I have backed off a bit on kapotasana, so I only hold the soles of my feet, not my heels. It feels safer somehow.

Some days I do supta vajrasana, but often I just sit in padmasana and stretch my back.

Bakasana is very wide to accommodate the belly, but feels great. I can’t jump in, so I just hold it twice for five breaths each.

I no longer put my hand under my knee in Bharadhvajasana, but I do gently twist.

I don’t twist in Ardha Matsyendrasana. It’s a great pose to look at my moon shaped belly, though.
Eka Pada and Dwi Pada became not possible several months ago. I do a modification holding my outstretched leg with my opposite hand, as you see pictured. I usually add in hanumanasana to help keep my hips moving. Dwi pada becomes really upavista konasana and then I lift into titthibhasana.

Then, I lie down for a version of “dead bug” dropping my coccix to the floor and concentrating on the hip joints and roll up into tittibhasana again. Then jump back, then tittibhasana for five breaths and drop the feet to a very wide and modified b pose. Then, I lift out, hold tittibhasana again for five breaths and jump back.

Pincha mayurasana is still good and that’s usually where I end.

I can hold my padmasana up in karandavasana, but no folding. Mayurasana is out of the question and I just hold chaturanga instead of nakrasana for ten breaths.

By the end of next month, I hope to be comfortable again in the handstands, but perhaps it will wait until I am no longer carrying the baby in me, but am carrying it out of me.

Back bends feel great, but I no longer do any tick tocks after my drop backs. Just three back bends, and up to standing and then three drop backs and down to seated forward bend. All seated forward bending involves opening my legs quite wide.

At the end of finishing, I now do Shavasana rolled over on my left side as the weight of the uterus is uncomfortable on my kidneys and spine if I lie on my back for long.

I won’t go all the way through my modified primary here as it gets too long, but briefly, I leave out janu sirsasana b and c, and marychasana b, c and d. Navasana I substitute lifting and staying in a full squat in between. I have been advised by several people that practicing Navasana makes delivery harder and who wants that? Again I use holding tittibhasana rather than bhujapidasana and supta kurmasana. I think it provides some of the same alignment for the body without impinging on blood flow to the pelvic region. I just hold my toe in supta padagunsthasana with no upper body lift. No chakrasana, and no roll into uhaya padangusthasana or urdhva mukha paschimottanasana.

Click here to read Catherine's past pregnancy updates, as well as the Living Mysore article on Ashtanga Yoga of Albuquerque.

Check out more photos of Catherine practicing in our flickr gallery.

Catherine Harris teaches and practices in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Ashtanga Yoga of Albuquerque, ashtangayogaabq.net. Come visit us!

No comments: