The final part in our series of training for a triathlon in the UAE looking at the best training and exercise methods as well as providing great nutrition tips.
Article Contributor: Admin
Do you suffer from pre-natal aches and pains? One problem that many pre-natal women in the UAE suffer from is back pain and unfortunately the severity can increase as your pregnancy progresses.
Many prenatal women are now turning to alternative, low impact exercise types like Yoga to help alleviate some of the aches and pains associated with pregnancy.
An Abu Dhabi Yoga Coach explains how regular Yoga practice in the UAE can help in many ways.
Question: Being pregnant is a joyful time for women in the UAE but many can suffer with pregnancy aches and pains. A particular problem seems to back and lower body pain. Pre-natal women in Abu Dhabi & Dubai need to be careful and safe when exercising and seek medical advice before changing their exercise routines. With this in mind do you think Yoga for Pre-Natal women can help with back pain?
Yes. Prenatal yoga can help relieve lower back pain, as well as other areas that get tight during pregnancy (chest, shoulders, hips).
A lot of focus is placed on pelvic mobility, which aids in reducing lower back pain and preparing the body for labour.
Gentle stretching of the hips and lower back, in conjunction with strengthening the legs and glutes can be helpful in lower back pain reduction.
There are also some acupressure points which can help in relieving back pain, which some prenatal yoga instructors may be educated in.
Certain types of Pranayama, or breath control/extension, are suitable during pregnancy. Breath control can help to relax the mother to be, reducing overall stress and anxiety, thus reducing tension in the whole body.
Question: Is doing Yoga when pregnant considered a safe form of exercise for women?
Yes, it is one of only three recommended forms of exercise for pregnant women in the UAE.
However, it is important that the pregnant mother is cleared for exercise first, secondly that the teacher is a prenatal trained yoga teacher or at least aware of the pregnancy (if the mother to be is a regular practioner), as some poses are contra-indicated during pregnancy.
Some poses are contra-indicated for specific conditions such as diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal wall), the baby descending earlier than it should, high blood pressure and so on.
If a woman develops any condition during pregnancy, she should check with her doctor and if she is given the all clear to continue practising yoga, her yoga teacher should also be informed.
Question: Yoga is considered a low impact form of exercise but to many it can look difficult. Do you think pre-natal women with no Yoga experience can still try Yoga poses for back and lower body pain?
Yes, of course! For many women, prenatal yoga is their introduction to yoga in Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
There is much more to yoga than deep backbends and handstands (both of which are not practiced during prenatal classes) or just sitting in meditation (although there is some of this during prenatal yoga)!
Prenatal yoga classes in Abu Dhabi are gentle and slower paced than most “typical” yoga classes, particularly vinyasa flow or power flow yoga.
Prenatal yoga classes are a great way to connect to other expectant mothers, gain advice and support and to have fun, all whilst loosening up the body and learning to breathe.
Prenatal yoga classes are perfect for women that have never done any yoga before. Whilst some aspects may be challenging (for example, shifting center of gravity affecting balance), women can learn in a safe, supportive, non-judgmental environment.
Expectant mothers can gain strength, relieve tight/painful areas of the body (such as the lower back), find stillness and peace within otherwise busy minds, learn to trust their body’s and so much more. Some Yoga classes are more active, some are quieter and more restorative based.
There is something for everyone. Even if a mother to be is placed on bed-rest, breath work and visualization are still available.
Question: Can you provide some examples of yoga poses for beginners that are safe and fairly easy to do and also explain how and why these poses help with back pain during pregnancy?
kneel down on a stable surface with the feet together and knees apart. As the pregnancy progresses, the knees will be placed wider apart to accommodate the growing baby.
Walk the hands forward and rest the head down on the floor, or on a block or pillow. Stay for at least 5 breaths, up to 3 or 4 minutes if it feels really good.
Kneel on all fours. Knees hip width apart or slightly wider, wrists under the shoulders. Start with a neutral spine and keep hands and knees on the floor at all times.
On an exhalation, round the back by drawing the pubic bone towards the navel, pressing the back away from the floor and chin to chest (like a cat stretching).
On an inhalation, arch the back by lifting the hips/tailbone away from the knees, drawing the heart forwards as though through the arms, and lifting the chin up towards the sky or as far as feels comfortable.
Through both movements/breaths, imagine grounding/rooting down through the fingers and knees to create a stable base. Take at least 5 breaths, up to 20 breaths.
Standing or kneeling on all fours, move the pelvis around in a circle. If standing, bend the knees slightly and rest hands on the thighs. If on all fours, come into the same start position as cat/cow.
Start by drawing/lifting the right hip towards the shoulder, then draw the pubic bone up towards the navel, then the left hip towards the left shoulder and finally drawing the pubic bone away from the navel to complete the circle.
Perform a few circles in one direction, then move in the opposite direction.
These 3 poses/movements help to loosen and mobilise the muscles surrounding the hips and lower back.
For all poses, one should try their best to maintain connection to the breath. The breath should be soft, gentle and slow.
At no time during pregnancy should the breath be held. Another fantastic pose is Legs up the Wall. Simply sit down next to a wall or closed (locked) door, lie down on the back and place the feet up the wall. Lift the hips up off the floor by pressing the heels into the wall, and slide a pillow under the hips.
This can be absolute bliss, particularly if a woman suffers from oedema (swelling), varicose veins, exhaustion or is on her feet a lot.
This pose helps with veinous return (deoxygenated blood returning to the heart), thus giving the heart a break. Also helpful in lymph drainage. The legs feel lighter after a few minutes. If the legs become numb, or tingling is experienced, bend the legs and roll over onto the left side before coming up to seated.
Question: Back and lower body pain seems to increase in the latter stages of pregnancy. If pre-natal women in Dubai and Abu Dhabi start doing Yoga exercises early on can back pain be avoided?
All pregnancies are different and every day is different. Whilst I cannot say that starting prenatal yoga in the UAE earlier in the pregnancy will necessarily help to avoid back pain during the later stages, there are many other benefits to attending prenatal yoga classes.
Women learn many tools to deal with common discomforts experienced during pregnancy, including reducing lower back pain. Many women experience anxiety and confusion at some stage during pregnancy – attending prenatal yoga classes can help women to accept and process these feelings.
There is a great deal of mental and emotional support as well as wisdom to be found in prenatal classes. Sharing experiences with other expectant women can be a great comfort, as there are others going through the same, or similar things.
The more tools a woman has to deal with all things that pregnancy can bring, the better she will be able to cope with the pregnancy at each stage.
Question: Because pre-natal women need to exercise with caution are there any restrictions on the amount of time they do Yoga per week?
As always, check with your doctor first. Secondly, this depends on the woman – how much time she has available during the week, how active she was before pregnancy, how active she is now and most importantly, how she feels.
If the doctor has advised the woman to wait, perhaps due to an underlying condition, complication or high-risk pregnancy, respect the doctors advice.
If she feels that the doctor is being overly cautious and she feels great, I advise that she gets a second opinion before ignoring the first doctor’s advice.
For a beginner, or a very busy expectant mother, one class a week may be enough.
For an experienced yoga practioner in Abu Dhabi, Dubai & Sharjah (or a woman that has worked out/played sports regularly for many years) that is used to regular activity, 3-4 classes a week may be more suitable.
Some women may find that just 20 minutes a day of gentle stretching and breathing is enough for them. Others may prefer a full hour. Some women may find that pregnancy symptoms are too severe to practice yoga for a few weeks/months. In any case, always respect how the body feels.
Pregnancy is generally a time of slowing down, accepting change and tuning into one’s inner wisdom and the natural rhythms of life.
The growing of a new life takes a lot of energy, and one cannot expect to maintain the same schedule/energy levels as before pregnancy (although this can happen, it is not necessarily the norm). Take each day as it comes and enjoy the journey as much as is possible.