If you have ever felt your muscles shutter with the shakes, you’ll understand the challenge that is this week’s yoga practice.
I was ready for a “yoga workout” this week. I scoured videos and landed on the glorious Yoga with Adriene’s Deepen & Flow practice. It sounded like the right fit as the summary listed “cultivate some heat!”. Heat equals hard working yoga in my world!
The practice took me through some challenging low lunges and quick(er) flows of downward facing dogs and planks. I had thought most of the challenge was done when we transitioned into a standing balance sequence. It was unique and novel and I loved it!
Let me spell it out…
I was guided into chair pose by sending the hips back first followed by bending the knees. It felt like more of a traditional squat but was happy to lower my butt towards the ground. The pose transitioned into a single leg stance with the ankle of one foot onto the thigh/knee of the supporting leg. Kind of like a figure four position or modified pigeon pose. If that wasn’t challenging enough, without touching the raised foot down to the floor, move the lifted foot back by pressing it back into Warrior III pose.
Maybe if you do it once.
But we repeated it three times!
By having the hips and knees flexed, it allowed the body to be “closed” initially then transitioned into an “open” position into the Warrior III. The gluteus maximus of the support leg plus the core needed to be engaged to allowed the flow of the poses together.
And where was the shakes, you may ask?
By the third and final repetition, “crazy prana [was] running through the body” and the support leg shook! So much so that the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings all had a fun dance together!
I haven’t felt that muscle shake feeling since participating in a Barre class…if you don’t know, that is was happens in barre classes! Fighting it doesn’t work, moving through the shakes is what works the muscles best.
Now this sequence was a "full body experience”!
It was a combination of balance, strength and stamina all rolled up into one! Something to keep in mind for future teaching as a “simple” way to challenge a class - combine three poses into one and repeat, repeat, repeat.
I know I sure got the work intended!
Tree trunks? Yep, I got them. My legs are thick, for lack of better words. And its likely how my ancestors thrived on the farm...especially with all the physical labour that days gone by required.
I can say it.
I use to hate them. Finding a pair of pants that fit in the legs and the waist is a never ending struggle.
But now I embrace the strong base of support I own.
Well, sort of strong...
As noted during pregnancy, I found that last post-partum period was "hard" on my legs. They withered away to nothing and truly, I think I lost a fair amount of muscle mass.
With this revaluation, I've been adamant to keep my leg strength. I am the first to admit that I love squats. So when our teacher this week said we were going to do chair pose (utkatasana), I started to grin!
As I descending into the seated position, I felt like I was home. Granted, not a low as usual nor was it particularly easy but I knew this is something I need to work on. Then the teacher threw in a twist, literally.
Cued to bring my hands into pray position in front of my body, I started to wobble. Then told to rotate the left arm to the outside of the right thigh...and thats when I lost it. That being my strength. It is intriguing to me how each body part interacts with each other. I need to be strong through my core to keep the pose. She found my current achilles heel - my core!
Even though I struggled (and breathed through it!), I enjoy revolved chair pose (parivrtta utkatasana) almost equally as I do chair pose. It is in the challenge that we move forward.
Revolved chair pose is a leg strengthen exercise but it also provides a great upper body stretch. The chest, shoulders and upper back benefit. The core, no doubt, is also challenged especially the oblique abdominals. Engage the pelvic floor and transverse abdominals, and you've got yourself a core challenge (note - this is my achilles heel if you didn't catch it earlier!)
The pose is excellent for a spinal twist as well. It tones the internal organs, including the kidneys and digestive organs. All a while trying to challenge your balance!
Not only did my legs get the work they need but my core did too. Honestly, my mind did too. It takes coordination to do this pose!
Always an adventure on the mat,
So the fatigue and stomach distress can only mean one thing, I'm pregnant!
Yoga has been a blessing each week as I transition into my second trimester. But with the transition, I am now moving a new body where I have to ensure my yoga is adaptable to my ever growing belly!
Here is what I remember from before (and from my other hat of being an exercise physiologist who specializes in pre/postnatal exercise):
1. Avoid overheating so no hot yoga for now.
2. Modification to supine poses (elevating torso by 20 degrees or so with a towel, block, blanket etc.) after 16-20 weeks due to the compression of the vena cava (large vessel that carries blood back to the heart) when lying flat on my back.
3. Stand close to a chair or wall with balance poses...just in case I feel like I'm going to fall.
4. My joints are more flexible because of the release of the hormone relaxin, which increases joint laxity...everywhere...not just through the pelvis. So, no being a hero with the poses and not to overdoing the obvious increase in range of motion.
When I was pregnant last time through, I was able to take a weekly class with Judy. However, I am on my own this time. As I listed, I recall some poses that need modification but this pregnancy brain of mind isn't always clear.
What do I need to be watchful of and how does my practice change? And, the overarching theme of what can pregnant women safely do in a yoga class?
Yoga Journal has a four part series that outlines a basic overview of modifications in pregnancy then an article for each the first, second and third trimester. With further investigation, I also found an article specifically on contraindications. All five articles are very comprehensive as a student but also for the future teacher in me.
So rather than rehashing the detailed articles, here are a couple more key things for me to remember!
1. Controlled breathing will be very helpful for labour but also ensure I'm not holding my breath during any of the poses. Obviously, not good for babe.
2. No head stands, hand stands or plow poses. Okay, this is pretty obvious that my physical body probably won't let me do such poses but it is really about blood flow and not having blood shunted away from babe. Makes sense!
3. Limit abdominal contractions (i.e. flexion and extension) such as in full boat pose and abdominal stretching such as in bow pose or full cobra pose. Having a strong pelvic floor is much more important than overemphasizing abdominal work right now.
4. Yoga is a great place to practice and ready my body for labour. Holding chair pose for about one minute is challenging just like a contraction. Practising hip opening poses such as bound angle pose will help keep the adductors (inner thigh) flexible which is essential for natural birth.
So, there we have it, a refresher for me and a learning opportunity with my changing body. I'm positive I will stumble on more gems of wisdom over the next 24 weeks!
16 weeks done, April 25 is sure coming fast! Yoga is essential to my prenatal care,
Image: Me at 8 months pregnant...last time around...and more blonde than I remember!
This is the last week of revisiting a yoga journal I completed 12 years ago. At the time, I picked poses that I was finding a challenge during the practical classes. Interestingly, some poses are "easier" today and others are just as challenging.
Here are the three I practiced this week:
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Even back 12 years ago, I really liked this pose. I suppose it is the flexible hamstrings I've got. But I'd have to say that my understanding of how to do the pose has greatly improved over the years. I think the key piece was not collapsing into the pose as I lean over to the side. I had always wanted my hand to touch the floor not realizing that my side body and ribs were compressed. Practicing in Judy's classes, I have been able to increase the opening of my side (hard to believe!) and get greater range in the pose. This weeks practice just reinforced how I use to do the pose and how it has changed. Challenging still - yes - but done better. See here for what else I have learned about triangle pose lately.
"Doing this pose first allowed me to warm up for the rest of the poses. I began to feel a warm sensation as I did the pose. I think that it was my body waking up and realizing that I was doing something vigorous and physical. I found that my body was tight and not free flowing. I did the pose more than once because I wanted to feel the position with a more limber body."
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.