Prenatal Yoga

prenatal-yogaThe Shiva Rae Prenatal Yoga DVD is an excellent choice for pregnant women (with or without back pain). This DVD has a very nice flow and is safe and appropriate for beginner and experienced yoga practitioners. I particularly like that there are 3 students in this video, one in each trimester, and the instructor demonstrates the appropriate modifications for the various poses as your pregnancy progresses and body changes.

Prenatal yoga is beneficial for relaxation, preventing and reducing back pain, taking time to connect with your baby, and for gentle strengthening and stretching. It also helps prepare the body for the experience of childbirth and mindful parenting. I did this video during both of my pregnancies and found it to be so helpful especially on days when I felt like I was really huge and dragging.

If you’re unsure about doing yoga on your own, finding a prenatal yoga class in your area is another great way to get comfortable with yoga and meet other expectant moms.

Ergonomic Tip of the Week: Save your Back when Sitting on the Floor

Sitting on the floor may be something you do often, or for some it may be a position they never assume. Personally, I never felt comfortable sitting on the floor, but when I had children, I found myself constantly on the floor with them. I would vary my position between sitting cross legged, kneeling, lying on my side, or propped up on my elbows while on my stomach. These frequent position changes helped my stave off stiffness and soreness, but it still wasn’t ideal to change my posture every few minutes.

As my new york yoga practice deepened, I began doing more spine and hip opening postures which certainly helped in terms of flexibility for being able to maintain these seated on the floor positions. The other technique I applied at home was to sit on a bolster pillow or folded blanket to help lift my hips up a little. By lifting the hips higher than my knees, the pressure on the muscles along the spine is reduced, and I am able to maintain these seated positions for longer periods and feel much more comfortable doing so. With my hips elevated, I can vary between sitting with my legs crossed, with my legs straight out in front of me, or with my legs out to the sides. It has helped me to gain better strength through sitting with an upright spine, and also improved the flexibility of my hamstrings and thighs.

You can experiment with sitting on a firm, folded blanket or a firm pillow. Allow your “sit bones” (the bony prominences within the flesh of the buttocks also known as the ischial tuberosities) to rest at the front edge of the blanket, so the pelvis starts to spill forward slightly, bringing the lower spine into it’s natural curve. This alignment through the lower spine translates to better posture through the ribcage, upper back, shoulders, and neck. If you find this to be particularly helpful, I recommend investing in a yoga bolster. They are made specifically to aid with seated postures on the floor and are the right size and firmness for doing this.

As always, listen to and respect your body. If something doesn’t feel right to you (stiffness, aching, throbbing, or other pain/discomfort), immediately bring awareness to your body, change your position, and eliminate the strain on your body. This will help reduce the likelihood of and assist in recovery from musculoskeletal injuries.

Hot Yoga

This morning as a gift to myself on mother’s day, I escaped for an early morning yoga class at a studio I’d never been to before. They specialize in hot, power yoga classes, which is not the style of yoga I typically practice, but do enjoy once in a while.

The heat was set to about 98 humid degrees, and the teacher was pushing the 40 or so of us that filled the room at 7am to our limits. During my peaceful hour and a half, I remebered why I enjoy subjecting myself to classes of this sort:

1. Being pushed to the limit and realizing how strong you are can be empowering.

2. Sweating (and I’m talking about the dripping, soaking wet kind of sweating that you don’t often experience) really does leave you feeling lighter and like you released a lot of toxins. (And I always replenish and rehydrate with lots of water afterwards.)

3. Varying your practice or exercise routine is a challenging, stimulating, and highly effective way to optimize your overall fitness level.

4. Any yoga leaves my mind and body feeling more at ease.

And I started thinking how all of these points relate in a way to my own experience of injuries, and those of my patients. (And I hope may help you)

1. As a PT, I am the one sometimes pushing the patient to their limit…and I’ve worked with many patients who push themselves to the limit. This can be good when they are motivated and work hard, but this can also lead to overuse injuries, so it’s important to find a good balance.

2. As far as sweating, well, this one doesn’t relate as much. However, the process of releasing toxins is so beneficial. Massage and water therapy, such as a warm whirlpool, are two ways to experience a release and should also always be followed up with adequate rehydration.

3. When recovering from an injury, it’s important to change and progress your exercises in order to continue making gains. If you stick with the same 3 exercises forever, you may not see results.

4. Finding a means of relaxation and stress relief helps to reduce overall pain levels. The more stressed you are, the more likely you are to tense up your muscles, restrict circulation, and lose muscle flexibility. If yoga’s not for you, it’s important to find some other form of phsical or mental therapy to help induce a state of mental peace.

So maybe today you will think about trying something a little bit different. Your health care provider may have some helpful suggestions if you’re not sure where to begin.