Rule of thumb in your practice of yoga: Be comfortable so you can be calm.
If you aren’t comfortable when you meditate, you probably won’t come back. So if you aren’t comfortable, review, modify or adjust. A lot of times people seem to fear making adjustments and have to be exactly like the picture in the text book. There seems to be some concern that if you don’t do it like the picture you aren’t doing yoga. I say don’t worry so much, focus on practising SAFELY to get the maximum benefits that you can at any given point in time. Your body is constantly changing so why wouldn’t your practice evolve accordingly?
The idea is to make practice sustainable so you can carry on practising for the rest of your life. Just to be clear, I don’t mean for you to slouch your way through your set of yoga postures! Ahhhh, so comfortable. NO. You’ll need to be actively participating in your chosen posture: think of every fibre of your being as awake and alert but not tense.
As an example, below are some modifications that you can make in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), a fundamental posture that is the cause of a lot of worry over alignment for many people and can be challenging to sustain for some. Mr Iyengar writes in Light on Yoga, “All standing poses are strenuous, this pose in particular. It should not be tried by persons with a weak heart. Even people who are fairly strong should not stay long in this asana.”
So let’s look at how we can make you more warrior and less worrier here, ok? Ok.
IMPORTANT: I’ll add here that if you are pregnant, you may find that standing postures are definitely too tiring to attempt in your first trimester. That was the case for me, but towards the end of my first trimester it felt GOOD to be in the posture and I absolutely love it in my third trimester now. Alternatively you may be just dandy hanging out here. Be aware of any signals your body throws your way. Your yoga practice may be altered during pregnancy but that doesn’t make it less yogic. Never force!
Virabhadrasana I, here we come:
Start in standing, arms above the head (palms touching) with the legs about 4 feet apart.
Swivel to the right, turning the right foot to face forwards and the left foot slightly to the right (see below).
Bend the right knee until the thigh is parallel to the floor, knee above the ankle.
Keep the left leg engaged in one long line.
Look up towards the palms, letting the head drop back.
20 to 30 seconds in the posture (each side) with normal breathing is plenty but if you find yourself getting breathless, stay calm and exit a little sooner. This is a tough posture so don’t get discouraged! Start with 5 seconds next time and build up your stamina. I used to find this posture tiring, my arms ached from holding them up and my thighs BURNED. Now I don’t even notice such things and truly enjoy the posture. The key was to practice patiently.
If your shoulders seem to be bunching up around your jaw then keep the palms parallel instead of touching (see below).
(The legs are a little closer together here so that you can see the placement of the both feet. But if you find too intense a stretch in the groin, then by all means have the legs a little closer together like this!)
If you have high blood pressure, keep your arms down (see below) – placing them on your hips is a great way to check the alignment of your hips. In Virabhadrasana I the body faces forwards. Women may experience high blood pressure in pregnancy – be aware of this and modify accordingly.
If you feel dizzy, don’t look up but look straight ahead or down instead (see below).
Or don’t look up so high (see below).
If you have neck issues, don’t look up but look straight ahead or down instead (see below).
If the posture is too strenuous to begin with, have the front thigh a little higher than parallel to the floor (see below). Keep actively engaging the muscles in the leg though!
There you go, I hope that helps you to find more ease and comfort as a Warrior.
Let me know if there is anything else bothering you in your Warrior pose and I’ll be happy to make some suggestions! All the best in your practice! x
Most of June and a lot of July had been spent attempting to sleep my way out of the thing. Shortly after I had recovered, it was time to bundle up for a flight back home for a few weeks.
Some women have wonderfully regular cycles, mine is sort of “flexible”. Travel is one of those activities which impacts on my cycle so it didn’t seem strange that there was a delay. I was a little softer around my edges which also seemed normal, being a combination of having not been very active lately due to the flu, just getting off a long flight and also because of the particular point in my cycle I thought I was at. As my cycle length stretched onwards towards infinity, a girlfriend urged me to test.
But I was starting to cramp, so I decided to leave it.
A week of cramping went by.
And that’s when I started to suspect something was going ON.
SLOW ON THE UPTAKE, right?
For those who don’t already know, a lot of the symptoms of pregnancy resemble the symptoms women experience prior to menstruation. But CRAMPING, seriously?! Why on earth would I have cramps and think, “Yup, I’m definitely pregnant.“
Of course I’m going to go pick up some tampons.
So symptoms are not always that helpful unless you own a “I just know” radar. Myself, I “just know” when women around me are pregnant, but apparently my radar only works on other networks not on my own. I remember being a little girl and walking towards my piano teacher one afternoon. As I walked towards her, I said to my mother, “She’s pregnant.“She totally was. The words just fell right out of my mouth. And then I proceeded to tell her it was a boy. It totally was a boy. Kids, huh.
Cut to me now.
I worried that this meant I wasn’t CONNECTING to my baby. Where was my awareness? Were we not bonding? After trying to take care of myself so that I would be as healthy for birthing a baby as possible, here I was, fluey and clueless. I remember hearing that from the moment a person has a child, they worry about that child until.. forever. My worrying had started from conception. Actually no, it started as soon as I peed on a stick.
And then I shook myself mentally. I realised I was completely missing the point! Here we were so so so lucky to find ourselves in this happy position, waiting on a baby. Was this how I wanted to spend my pregnancy?! I had always wanted a calm pregnancy and now it seemed that was exactly what I had on my hands. A calm and easy pregnancy.
Pregnancy is so synonymous with morning sickness. People constantly asked me, “Any nausea?“
A host of websites informed me that nausea was positively correlated with a healthy pregnancy. Crap! Where was my nausea?! I had aversions to a few things but when it came to nausea I had about two weeks of morning sickness, at most. And all in the afternoon and evening time. And it mostly felt like indigestion.
People with good intentions trying or genuinely interested in my pregnancy continued to ask me about morning sickness, not realising it would remind me that I didn’t have any of this thing that was associated with a strong pregnancy. I thought calm thoughts as best as I could and reassured myself that I was LUCKY. Much later, I was informed that in all likelihood, I wasn’t experiencing much nausea because of the type of food choices I made and because I was drinking so much water.
Other than that, I felt kind of ordinary although very sleepy.
VERY sleepy. I was constantly tired in the first few months. I’d wake up super early (to pee) and then I’d go back to bed, toss for a while, feeling RAVENOUS, and finally haul myself out in search of food. After that, I’d manage to stay up for a few hours before I took a really long nap (anywhere between one hour to five hours). I’d gone from being someone who struggled to nap to a total Nap Queen. I started thinking I might just sleep through the pregnancy.
“Someone wake me up when my water breaks.” I’d say.
I’d wake up and manage one or two conversations before I’d yawn. Oh, eight o’clock! Time to pee and get into bed.
Going to bed was a major operation. Before getting into bed I would go pee, so that I wouldn’t need to get back up again. I’d settle down in my nest of pillows and close my eyes with a happy sigh once I found the perfect position. A few seconds later I’d realise I needed to go pee again. FINE. So off I went. And then I would come back, have my sip of water, lie back down. Hmm. Was that it though? Better go back. FINE. Etc.
I probably walked a kilometre each night going between my bed and my bathroom all those times.
B was very kind and offered to get me anything I craved no matter what time.
“Just wake me up honey if you get hungry and you want something.” His friends had warned him their wives wanted KFC and nutella pancakes at all hours of the night.
“I’ll get back to you.” The thought of chicken made me feel green but I decided to keep the food delivery option open.
I never ended up using that wild card. Around three in the morning, B would wake up to a crunching sound. Turning on the light on his side he’d realise it was me and not some giant crunching on bones in his dreams.
“Are you… eating?!“
“I’m just crushing apples with my jaws to make cider. Nothing to see here, go back to sleep.“
A lot of women suggested keeping a box of crackers beside the bed. I disliked the idea of crumbs flying everywhere so I would chop up two apples and keep them in the fridge. When it was that time of the morning I’d go get them and munch happily away. After two or three pieces, I’d rinse my teeth and roll over for another snooze until it was time to pee again.
It’s the first time where I’ve truly felt hunger pains. Not pangs but true pain. It physically HURTS not to eat when I feel hungry. Just like it physically HURTS LIKE MAD if I don’t pee when I need to.
My body changed shape quite quickly in my eyes. I looked like I’d had breast implants and they entered the room a full half hour before the rest of me followed. Every top was a cleavage loving top. My rib cage became wider very early on and my belly which was usually a little firmer became rounded so I couldn’t zip up a certain dress that highlighted my waist. The first week I realised I was pregnant, I had two pimples on my face where I never got pimples and a small patch of dry skin on my face, eczema-ish in appearance. I have never had eczema. They all cleared after a week and I peered at my reflection wondering if I was glowing. Looked pretty ordinary to me. Aside from the cleavage. I mean, whoa. Welcome, sisters.
Oh, let’s see, what else?
Cravings! I had just two cravings. One was fresh orange juice WITH THE PULP. The pulp was very important.And the other was chilled watermelon. To be perfectly honest these are things I like to eat even pre-pregnancy but for various reasons I don’t usually indulge in them very often. I figured compared to all the other people with cravings for clay or tacos or fried chicken that at least I would get some nutritional value. Later I discovered that I may as well cut out the middle man and just eat oranges fresh. Worked just as well! As a bonus, when I went through my two minutes of nausea I discovered that the chilled watermelon really helped. You might like to try that and let me know if it helped!
Exercise wise I was too tired most days. I took a break from my regular yoga routine which a lot of senior yoga teachers suggest practitioners do in the first trimester. Just the thought of being up and MOVING for 45 – 90 minutes made me want to lie down. Instead, I did small 10 – 15 minute intervals of very gentle yoga and Pilates exercises to keep my body feeling mobile and my core strong so that I wouldn’t get too much back pain. That seems to have paid off so far. When I had the energy and the weather permitted I would go down to the pool for a short swim. A little walking. A lot of meditation.
I think meditation has been one of the best tools I’ve had for adjusting to pregnancy and hopefully towards parenthood.
Due to some combination of meditation, yoga, a user-friendly batch of pregnancy hormones and loads of naps, I haven’t had any mood swings. I remember one day I was really tired. B had snored ALL NIGHT and I couldn’t sleep through the noise. By the afternoon I was so exhausted I felt really grumpy and I told B how I was feeling really short tempered due to my frustration. We got through the day without anyone getting hurt hahaha. Slept like a baby that night and we went back to being happy pregnant people. Aside from that day, my mood has been really stable. Phew! Friends would meet up with us and later message B to say,
“Gosh, she seems really happy.“
Towards the end of my first trimester my energy levels improved and I went back to practising slightly more active yoga. Initially I sought the guidance of my first yoga teacher who guided me with making adjustments and modifications. She is an Iyengar teacher and Iyengar Yoga felt like the best way for me to return to a safe and supportive practice. With the information I learned from her and a few other senior teachers, I returned to my regular home practice. I’m almost in my third trimester now and have been doing this modified version of my regular practice for a few weeks now. It feels so good to be back to it!
By the second trimester the nocturnal toilet visits reduced, thank goodness, and my cravings which had gradually reduced over time went away. I’m still pretty interested in orange juice but it’s not a big deal if I don’t get any for days or weeks at a stretch. Also I stopped waking up at all hours of the morning needing food so the apple chopping operation has ceased. Now I just find that when I wake up in the morning, I want to have something for breakfast before I can meditate.
Pregnancy has turned me into a breakfast person!
I’m now at the stage where I can balance my plate (albeit a smallish one) on my belly. Brilliant! Goodbye tables, I have my own built in, hehe.
That’s all I can think of to say for now about the first trimester. Hopefully that helps! If there’s anything else you wanted to know, just ask and I’ll share what I’ve experienced!