A guide to pregnancy and childbirth

Chapter 4

Maintaining Your Balance

There is nothing as ancient as infancy.

Unchanging ancientness is born into homes

Again and again in the form of a baby;

Yet, the freshness, beauty, innocence and sweetness

It had at the beginning of history

Is the same today.

—RABINDANATH TAGORE

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Your unborn baby has a direct connection to your thoughts and emotions. As a result of this intimate communication link, the expectant family assumes a new responsibility. For the benefit of both your unborn baby and your family, it is essential that you cultivate the ability to maintain your balance while facing the inevitable daily stresses of life. Learning to stay centered during the ups and downs will serve you well throughout your pregnancy and throughout your life.

We have learned a lot about stress over the past seventy years. Whenever you feel physically or emotionally threatened, your body and mind shift into a protective mode. Your heart beats faster and harder. You breathe more rapidly. Your adrenal glands squirt out stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol, and your blood sugar rises. Your body perspires and your blood clots a little easier. These physiological changes prepare you to deal aggressively with the stress, either by fighting or running away. This reaction has become known as the fight-or-flight response. If the source of your stress is a wild tiger trying to eat you for lunch, the impulse to pick up a stick or run up a tree is adaptive and potentially life saving. If the source of your stress is a traffic jam during rush hour or a delayed airplane flight, activating the fight-or-flight response does you little good.

Eliciting the stress response repeatedly over time eventually predisposes you to illness ranging from chronic fatigue to heart disease.

Studies have shown that when you inject the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline into a calm animal, it reacts as if it were facing a stressful threat. The animal’s heart races, its blood pressure rises, and it appears to be agitated. When a pregnant mother is anxious, stressed, or in a fearful state, the stress hormones released into her bloodstream cross through the placenta to the baby. The unborn baby responds to her mother’s stress in a similar way.

A study by an obstetrician from Austria, Dr. Emil Reinold, explored how quickly a mother’s anxiety elicits a response in the unborn baby. Reinold instructed a group of pregnant women that he was going to check their baby with an ultrasound machine. After asking them to lie down and relax, and letting them know he was waiting for the baby to become calm, he told the mothers (knowing his statement would elicit anxiety) that the baby wasn’t moving. In every case, within seconds after the mothers received this information, their babies began kicking strongly.

In the early 1980s after an earthquake in Italy, pregnant women were studied by ultrasound. Each mother was anxious and frightened as a result of the earthquake, and their unborn babies had become unusually active in response to their mothers’ stress. Most of these babies remained agitated for several hours after the incident, and then many became inactive for up to three days before settling back into their normal rate of activity. Under intense maternal stress, the fetus activates its own fight-or-flight response, at times becoming exhausted.

In our Magical Beginnings courses taught at the Chopra Center, we ask pregnant mothers attending our childbirth classes to observe their stresses for a week, noticing if their babies show any response. Mothers consistently report that when they feel stressed, their babies often react by kicking. They repeatedly notice that loud noises such as dogs barking, sirens sounding, horns honking, and people yelling cause their babies to react. The unborn baby is a conscious, sentient being with thoughts, feelings, and memories of her own. She can experience pleasure, pain, fear, stress, and serenity, in response to his mother’s experiences and reactions.

Hundreds of studies have confirmed that chemicals released by the pregnant mother’s body are transported into the womb and affect the unborn baby. Maternal stress influences uterine blood flow. Stress activates the unborn child’s endocrine system and influences fetal brain development. Children born to mothers who had intensely stressful pregnancies are more likely to have behavioral problems later in life. These studies do not suggest that every time you get upset about something, you are harming your unborn baby. Rather, we hope that they will motivate you to deal with your daily challenges with as balanced a state of mind as possible.

A neonatologist friend of ours, Dr. Jamison Jones, tells the story of two premature infants under his care. Born two months early, they were in the neonatal intensive care unit at the same time. One was the baby of a woman who was a heroin addict. The other was born to a high-powered executive who worked up until the day she went into premature labor. Although these two babies came from mothers of vastly different socioeconomic backgrounds, they demonstrated similar problems in the hospital. Each had accelerated heart rates and difficulty breathing and appeared highly agitated. Although they were incubated in mothers from very different worlds, they had one thing in common: both mothers were under a tremendous amount of stress during the pregnancy.

Your unborn baby cannot control your choices or reactions to the world and therefore cannot control the sensations she experiences. If you are experiencing stress, your baby experiences it along with you. Stresses can be emotional or physical. In a fascinating study published by Dr. Michael Lieberman, unborn babies’ responses to their mothers’ smoking were monitored. He found that the babies became agitated within a few seconds after their mothers inhaled. The babies’ heart rates, kicking movements, and breathing motions all increased. Of even greater significance was the observation that when these mothers simply thought of having a cigarette, the babies had similar agitated responses.

We cannot ensure that our lives are stress free, but we can learn to reduce our reactivity to life challenges. Just as our body/minds are wired to respond to threats in an aggressive manner, we have the capacity to respond with restful awareness to circumstances throughout the day. Learning to be mindful of the situations that trigger your stressful reactions is an important first step in reducing them.

Managing Stress

Exercise

Over the course of a week notice the situations, circumstances, people, and events that trigger your feelings of stress. Each time you observe yourself reacting, shift into a witnessing mode. Identify where you feel the sensation of stress inside your body and notice if your baby kicks or has another response to your stress. Keep your journal handy so you can record your observations.

After a week’s worth of journaling, find a quiet place and, with your journal, markers, and pen, draw a stick figure portrait of yourself on the center of a page of paper. Draw a picture of your baby growing inside your womb. While rereading your observations of the situations and circumstances that catalyzed your upsets, notice where in your body you feel your stress. Use your markers to identify these places on your stick figure, choosing a different color for each stressful situation. Next to each location where you marked your stressful feelings, write a few words to describe them. To reinforce the connection between your feelings and those of your unborn baby, draw lines from the stressful sites in your body to your pregnant belly.

As you look at your portrait, think about your baby, your body, and the ways you can reduce your stress. Consider how you can best nourish and take care of yourself and your baby each day. Take a few moments to journal your thoughts.

Below we offer some suggestions to reduce the harmful effects of stress on you and your baby.

•                  When you feel the sensation of stress, take in a few long, slow breaths. Feel yourself bringing oxygen into your body and imagine it infusing your baby.

•                  Massage your belly when you notice that you are feeling stressed. As you rub your belly, let your baby know that both of you are okay.

•                  Take time out of each day to relax quietly.

•                  Take walks in nature.

•                  Soak in a warm aroma bath.

•                  Listen to music that makes you feel happy.

•                  Snuggle up with your partner or a close friend.

•                  Get some form of exercise daily.

•                  Treat yourself to a massage.

•                  Practice meditation.

Finding Silence/Releasing Stress

What is the value of meditation for parents-to-be? There are benefits on many levels. From a basic physiological perspective, meditation is the perfect antidote to stress. During a stressful encounter your heart rate and blood pressure rise, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, and your adrenal glands pump out stress hormones. During meditation, your heart rate slows, your blood pressure normalizes, your breathing quiets, and your stress hormone levels fall. Meditation enhances both mental and physical health.

I have never encountered another temple as blissful as my own body.

—SARAHA

When a mother takes the time to quiet her mind and center herself, the calming physiological changes that are invoked through meditation are also communicated to the baby. Stress hormone levels fall, oxygenation improves, and the unborn baby gains the psychological and physiological benefits of restful awareness.

Outside of the actual practice time, meditation helps you become less reactive to stressful encounters. Many studies have shown that people who meditate regularly are more adaptable both mentally and physically to life’s challenges. Meditators have less anxiety and depression. They show lower rates of high blood pressure and are less likely to use prescription or nonprescription drugs to regulate their moods. Taking the opportunity to connect with a deeper aspect of your being enables you to be more centered, less reactive, more responsive, less anxious, more creative, and less habitual in all aspects of your life. As a result of this expanded state of awareness, you are able to use your energy more efficiently and enjoy your life and your family more.

Meditation will help you quiet your inner dialogue so that you can be fully present to your experiences in each moment. This will allow you to be more fully open to yourself transforming as a mother, while bringing mindfulness to your body as you grow and then give birth to your baby. Meditation is the most important tool to expand awareness. It provides you with the opportunity to turn your attention inward. Normally your awareness is directed outward through your senses to the sounds, sensations, sights, tastes, and smells of the world around you. Meditation is the process of disengaging your senses so you can experience the expanded silence within you. This domain of awareness is the source of your thoughts and feelings. Although it is beyond mental activity, it gives rise to all creativity, insight, and understanding. Accessing this field of awareness on a daily basis through meditation encourages your identity to become more expansive, even in the midst of daily life.

In each of our lives we experience a constant influx of change. We can see this in our day-to-day lives, as people come and go, as our feelings, thoughts, and perceptions shift, as we take deeper or shallower breaths, as our body image alters over time, and as each of the seasons changes—all of these aspects of our lives are continually transforming. The challenge is learning to refine our awareness so we can be with each of these experiences fully.

My inside, 
listen to me, 
The greatest spirit, 
The Teacher, 
is near, 
Wake up, 
wake up! 
Run to his feet, 
He is standing close to your head 
Right now. 
You have slept for millions and millions 
of years. 
Why not wake up this morning?

—KABIR

There are many effective techniques of meditation. The essence of meditation is shifting your awareness from the objects of experience to the experiencer. In daily life, your attention constantly moves from one sensory experience to another. You listen to the radio, sip your coffee, read the morning newspaper, feel the accelerator pedal under your foot, hear the conversations over your phone, and smell the strawberries at the market. Your awareness is continually being seduced outward. During meditation you relinquish your attachment to the experiences of your senses and become intimate with the one who is having the experiences. You shift your reference point from the objects of experience to the alert witness of the experience. Your identity shifts from ego to spirit, from constricted awareness to expanded awareness.

Mantra Meditation

Try this simple meditation technique that uses your breath and a breathing mantra to quiet mental activity and bring you to a state of restful awareness.

Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Turn off the ringer on your phone and let your family know that you would appreciate twenty minutes of privacy. Find a comfortable place to sit with your back supported, but do not support your head. Take a few deep breaths and allow the tension to be released from your body. Close your eyes and simply become aware of the activity of your mind. Notice how your thoughts come and go without any effort on your part. It is the nature of the mind to generate thought forms spontaneously.

Bring your attention to your breathing. Observe the inflow and outflow of your breath without attempting to consciously influence the rate or depth of your breathing. Maintain an attitude of innocence, neither resisting nor anticipating any particular experience. Silently begin repeating the mantra “so-hum” with your breathing. Think the word “so” on your inhalations and “hum” on your exhalations. Silent mental repetition does not involve a clear pronunciation of these sounds. They are faint impulses repeated effortlessly.

At times your attention will drift away from the mantra and become absorbed in a thought. You may at times become aware of sounds in your environment. A sensation in your body may occasionally take your attention from the gentle repetition of the mantra. Whenever you become aware that your attention has drifted away from “so-hum” to another thought, sound, or sensation, gently return your attention to the mantra.

What lies before us and what lies behind us is but a small matter compared to what lies within us.

—RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Continue this procedure for about twenty minutes. When the time is up, allow your awareness to float freely. Wait a couple of minutes before opening your eyes and resuming your activities.

Understanding Your Experiences in Meditation

All experiences during meditation fall into one of four categories: (1) silently repeating the mantra, (2) having thoughts, (3) falling asleep, or (4) going into the gap between thoughts. Each of these is a sign that you are practicing meditation correctly. Let’s review each in more detail.

THE MANTRA

A mantra is a sound with a pleasant vibration that does not engage your intellect. It is a word without meaning, which therefore does not keep your awareness trapped on the level of analysis or understanding. Because the mantra does not trigger the usual associations that normal words do, it acts as a vehicle to experience thought forms at subtler levels of development.

When you place your awareness on the mantra, you may notice that it changes—in rhythm, rate, or clarity. A change in your perception of the mantra suggests that you are experiencing less localized expressions of it; do not resist changes in the mantra. Whenever you recognize that you are no longer repeating the mantra, gently return your awareness to it.

THOUGHTS

When people first start meditating, they often complain that they are having too many thoughts. Although it may not feel very comfortable when your mind is active, being aware of the activity of your mind is an important step. Before beginning meditation, most people never have the thought “I am having too many thoughts.” The technology of meditation begins the process of witnessing mental activity. This shift from being caught in your thoughts to becoming the alert witness of thoughts is the shift from ego to spirit.

When you are engrossed in a thought sequence, there is nothing you can do. At some point, however, the thought “I am not thinking the mantra” will arise. When you have this thought, gently shift your attention back to “so-hum.”

FALLING ASLEEP

You may fall asleep in your meditation. If you are fatigued and allow yourself the opportunity to relax, your body may take advantage of the opportunity to take a nap. Don’t fight the impulse to fall asleep. Allow your body to take the rest it needs. When you awaken, spend at least five minutes thinking the mantra or focusing on your breath so your mind will be clear when you resume your activity.

THE GAP

Finally, you may experience your mind becoming quiet while you maintain full awareness. We describe this experience as slipping into the “gap” between thoughts. Awareness is maintained but there are no objects of awareness. This is the domain of pure consciousness . . . of spirit. Your awareness has gone beyond your environment, beyond your body, and beyond your mind. In this state of pure awareness, you glimpse the reality that your essential nature is not localized in time and space.

Meditation opens your channels of awareness, allowing you entry into a place of peaceful stillness that exists within you. This stillness is your source of happiness, peace, and creativity. As your mind quiets, your body relaxes deeply. Your baby will feel the quietness and relaxation you are generating in your body in her own body.

Raising a child from conception to adulthood will inevitably bring challenges. How you deal with these challenges reflects the quality of your life and shapes the lives of your children. You are not expected to be perfect in the sense that you never feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or irritated, but having a conscious pregnancy and living a conscious life means dedicating yourself to growing in wisdom, peace, harmony, and love. It means making a commitment to learn from your experiences in ways that raise the level of well-being for you and your family. Conscious parenting is a balancing act. As you take on the responsibility of ensuring the safety and nourishment of your children, it is also important to be aware that your children are spiritual beings with their own bodies, minds, souls, and destinies.

The Yoga of Pregnancy

Yoga is a powerful form of exercise that encourages flexibility in the body as well as the mind. If you haven’t already experienced yoga, now is the time to do so. Consider it a gift that you give to yourself and to your unborn baby during your pregnancy.

Your yoga practice will reduce your daily stress, thereby sweetening your inner environment for your baby. As you stretch into poses, you will learn to relax naturally and begin to trust the innate wisdom of your body. Yoga awakens mind/body harmony, making it easier for you to make choices that are good for you both physically and emotionally. Yoga poses can also help relieve many discomforts of pregnancy as they release tension in your body. As you twist and stretch, you will learn to surrender into places that feel tight or out of balance. Your awareness shifts from being in your active mind to being in a deep, quiet place within you.

You will discover that your breath is one of your greatest allies on the journey inward. Yoga helps you listen to your body, your needs, and the needs of your unborn baby. You will find yourself feeling more intuitive and balanced in all aspects of your life, which will help you throughout labor and birth. These yoga poses will enhance your joint flexibility while toning your muscles during pregnancy.

Butterfly Pose

Sit at the edge of a blanket with the heels and soles of your feet together. Pull your feet in toward your body so that they are comfortably close. Rest your hands on your toes or on top of your feet. Close your eyes and lengthen through your spine.

Allow your buttocks to sink down into your blanket. Feel yourself lengthening upward and releasing downward at the same time.

Notice how your thighs begin to soften out to the sides.

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Take a few slow, deep breaths, then place your hands on the floor or on a block right in front of your feet. Let your head and neck hang forward, softening your elbows as much as you can and allowing your shoulders to release downward. Take a few slow breaths into your belly, then slide your hands farther forward along the floor until you get to your place of stretch. Let your body sink forward into this stretch and feel your thighs releasing out to the sides even more. Allow the bottom of your spine to soften down toward the earth. Remain in this pose for five to ten slow, relaxed breaths.

To come out of this pose, slowly walk your hands back toward your body and then lengthen your torso, neck, and head until you are back in an upright position.

BENEFITS OF THE BUTTERFLY POSE

Your pelvis consists of four plates of bone joined together by muscle and ligaments. These make up your pelvic girdle. Your baby will be passing through the ring of your pelvic girdle during birth. Throughout pregnancy your body releases hormones that help to soften these ligaments in preparation for birth. The increasing flexibility of your pelvis enables it to shift and widen, making it easier for your baby to maneuver her way through your body as she journeys into the world.

Cat and Cow Pose

Get onto your hands and knees. Your knees should be comfortably apart, with your hands resting beneath your shoulders with palms down and fingers spread wide. Let your neck and head hang forward, while tucking your toes under. Begin to round your buttocks under so that you feel a stretch in your lower back. Press your palms gently into the floor and, starting from your tailbone, begin to round your spine one vertebra at a time up toward the ceiling, and bring your chin in toward your chest. Remain in this rounded position while breathing deeply. Slowly release your body back to center, aligning your head with your spine.

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Now, soften your belly, allowing it to sink toward the floor. Simultaneously, begin to tip your buttocks up toward the ceiling, so you create a small arch in your lower back. Lift your head and neck gently upward as though you were peering at someone in front of you. Imagine sending your breath down your spine into your lower back.

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Continue to move back and forth through both parts of this pose—rounding and arching. Notice where you feel tight and where you feel open. Breathe into these places.

BENEFITS OF THE CAT AND COW POSE

This pose increases spinal flexibility and hip mobility. Performing this posture when you are experiencing low back pain will help stretch the tight muscles that are contributing to your discomfort. Cat and Cow can also be performed during and between labor contractions. It has been suggested that this pose may help rotate babies that are posterior.

Squat Pose

From the hands and knees position in the Cat and Cow Pose, begin to walk your hands back toward your knees. Lift your knees up off the floor. Sink back into your feet and allow your heels to release down toward the floor. If your heels do not rest comfortably, place a folded blanket underneath them. Allow your buttocks to soften and lengthen your tailbone toward your heels.

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If you’re not comfortable squatting without support, place a rolled blanket between your legs and sit on the blanket in a squatting position. Now clasp your palms and fingers together in front of your heart. Place your elbows between your knees and use your elbows to spread your knees apart. Let your neck and head hang forward comfortably and soften your pelvic floor.

As you take your next inhalation, visualize bringing oxygen and nourishment to you and your baby. As you exhale, allow your pelvic floor to soften. Inhale nourishment and as you exhale release any tightness or tension. Continue for five to ten full, deep breaths.

To come out of this pose, release your clasped hands and elbows, placing one hand and then the other by your buttocks. If you used a rolled blanket, pull it out from under you and sit comfortably on the floor.

SQUATTING FROM A STANDING POSITION

Stand with your feet comfortably apart, placing your hands on your thighs for support. Bend your knees and slowly lower your buttocks down toward the floor. Now clasp your palms and fingers together in front of your heart. Place your elbows between your knees and use your elbows to spread your knees apart. If your heels do not rest comfortably on the floor, place a folded blanket or mat underneath them to support you.

BENEFITS OF THE SQUAT POSE

Women throughout the world assume the squatting pose to give birth. This position widens the pelvis and works with gravity to move the baby through the birth canal. Practiced during pregnancy, the squat pose relaxes pelvic musculature. Whether or not you decide to give birth in this position, this posture can help ease labor and reduce the chances for tearing of perineal tissue.

Pelvic Tilts

Lie back on your blanket with your feet on the floor and your knees pointing toward the ceiling. Lengthen your neck and allow your shoulders to soften. Allow your arms to rest at your sides. Bring your knees into alignment with your hips. Press weight into your heels and lift your buttocks off the floor as high as you can, pressing your pubic bone toward the ceiling.

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Stretch your knees out over your toes as your buttocks continue to lift. Soften your head, neck, shoulders, and arms and take a few long, slow breaths.

Now from your upper back begin to lower your spine, releasing one vertebra at a time until your buttocks are resting comfortably on the floor. Repeat this motion four or five times.

BENEFITS OF PELVIC TILTS

This is another useful posture to improve spinal flexibility and relieve congestion in the lower back muscles. It also helps to improve circulation in the pelvic area and massages your internal organs.

Pigeon Pose

Begin on your hands and knees. Crawl your right knee forward between your hands and slide your right heel toward your left hip. Extend your left leg back behind you, keeping the top of your foot and knee facing the floor. While still supported by your hands, begin to allow your hips and pelvis to release downward. Slowly lower down onto your forearms.

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If you find you need more room for your belly and baby, slide your right forearm toward the inside of your right knee. Place a rolled blanket under your arms, hips, or buttocks if you’d like more support. Allow your head and neck to hang forward to increase the stretch. Turn your elbows out to the sides and allow your head to rest on top of your hands. Breathe and release into the stretch for five to ten breaths.

Repeat the pose on the other side.

BENEFITS OF THE PIGEON POSE

This pose helps stretch and lengthen the muscles around your hips and groin.

Child’s Pose

Starting on your hands and knees, move your folded blanket in front of you. Spread your knees apart to create room for your baby. Your feet should be facing inward with the toes of both feet close to each other. Press your buttocks back into your heels and allow your lower spine to lengthen. Bend your elbows and come down onto your forearms. If you are comfortable, stretch your arms farther forward over your blanket. Rest your forehead on the edge of your blanket making sure that you can breathe easily. Soften your neck, shoulders, torso, belly, lower back, and buttocks for five to ten breaths.

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Bring your awareness to your baby and imagine your breath flowing around her.

To come out of the Child’s Pose, place your palms by your shoulders, then press into your palms and lift your head and torso. Finally, come all the way back to an upright position.

BENEFITS OF THE CHILD’S POSE

This is a resting pose that helps to release tension in your back muscles and hips, while allowing your belly muscles to soften and relax. It helps to enhance the flexibility of your pelvic joints as it widens the space through your pelvis.

Simple Twist

Sit on the edge of a folded blanket with your legs crossed in front of you. Place your right hand behind you on your blanket with the base of your palm by your buttocks. Press into your palm and lengthen your spine. Reach your left hand across your body and rest it on your right knee. Inhale deeply. As you release your breath, begin twisting your torso to the right beginning with your waist. Continue twisting through your chest, shoulder, neck, and chin. Taking another deep breath, see if you can twist a little farther.

To come out of the pose, soften your back arm and gently allow your torso to return to center. Then repeat the procedure twisting to the left side.

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BENEFITS OF THE SIMPLE TWIST

During this pose your internal abdominal organs are massaged while your spinal muscles gently stretch. People often report a sense of enhanced vitality after performing this pose in both directions.

Rotated Stomach Pose

Lie down on the floor on your back. Bend your knees and bring them in toward your chest, resting your arms at your sides with your palms facing up. Roll your hips and bent legs all the way over to the left and allow your legs to rest on the floor, with your thighs resting at a comfortable angle in relationship to your belly.

Rest your left hand on your right leg to give it some support. If your knees do not touch or if you want more support for your legs, place a folded blanket or a pillow in between your thighs. Turn your neck and head away from your knees, and allow your right shoulder to soften toward the floor. If your right arm is uncomfortable, bend the right elbow and place your right hand on your ribs to support them or place a blanket under your ribs and arm for more support.

Take a few slow breaths into your belly and allow your right shoulder to soften toward the floor. Remain in this pose for five to ten breaths, and then roll your legs back to center so that you are again lying on your back. Place your arms around your knees and rock your hips slowly from side to side. Then repeat the process by rolling your body to the right side.

BENEFITS OF THE ROTATED STOMACH POSE

This is a soothing pose for your whole body. It aids digestion and elimination by gently massaging your internal organs. It also helps you stretch and relieve discomfort in your lower and mid-back muscles, and may help relieve discomfort from sciatica.

Kegel Exercises (Pelvic Floor Toners)

Your pelvic floor muscles provide support for your pelvic and abdominal organs. During pregnancy the pelvic floor muscles support your expanding uterus and baby. You can consciously learn to strengthen these muscles by contracting and releasing them throughout the day.

For this exercise we will do the pelvic floor exercises sitting crossed-legged but you can do Kegel exercises anywhere and in any position.

ELEVATOR KEGEL

Sitting with your legs crossed, close your eyes and bring your awareness to your pelvic floor—the space surrounding your urethra, vagina, and anus. Contract the muscles around your anus and then around your vagina and urethra. Continue to contract these muscles inward and upward toward your belly. Imagine moving your energy from your pelvic floor to your abdomen as if traveling up an elevator. Hold for a few breaths, then slowly release the muscles as though you were traveling back down the elevator to the first floor.

Now focus on how your muscles feel back at the pelvic floor and see if you can soften and release them even more. Continue to release these muscles, feeling them relax and open.

THE WAVE KEGEL

Contract the muscles around your anus, then around your vagina and into your urethra as though you were contracting these muscles toward your pubic bone. It will feel as though a wave were washing over your pelvic floor from your anus to your pubic bone. Slowly release the muscles from your urethra to anus as though the wave were releasing back to the shore. Start by simply contracting toward your pubic bone and releasing, and then see if you can slow down the motion, hold for a breath at the deepest contraction, and then release slowly.

BENEFITS OF KEGEL EXERCISES

Kegels help prevent urinary incontinence in late pregnancy and postpartum. Keeping your pelvic floor muscles in good tone will improve circulation and may prevent hemorrhoids. The perineal or pelvic floor muscles form a figure-eight pattern around the vagina and anus. You use these muscles automatically during love making and when you resist the urge to urinate. As you practice tightening and releasing these muscles, you will find that you can hold them in the contracted position for longer periods of time. You will also be better skilled at keeping them relaxed when you need to during the final stage of labor. We recommend that you perform fifty to one hundred Kegel exercises every day.

Yoga for Two

Take the time to move your body consciously and both you and your unborn baby will enjoy the benefits. Pregnancy affects every aspect of your body and yoga provides the opportunity for you to use your awareness to enliven healing and transformation in every tissue, organ, and cell. The flexibility that yoga cultivates in your body and mind will benefit you during your pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

Enliven Through Your Attention

•         Place your hands on your belly a few times throughout the day and send loving thoughts to your unborn baby.

•         Journal each day about your experiences.

•         Early in your pregnancy, plant a tree or flowering bush to symbolize the growth of your baby in the womb. After your child is born, you can take care of the plant together.

•         Read enchanting stories and heartfelt poetry aloud to your baby and listen to beautiful, relaxing music each day.

•         Perform a daily oil massage on yourself before you bathe or shower.

•         Diffuse an aroma while listening to music, while soaking in a tub, or while meditating to create the association between the fragrance and the relaxed state of awareness.

•         Ensure that you have all six tastes available during your meals throughout the day.

•         Choose to eat meals that are rich in color, aroma, and texture.

•         Be mindful as you eat your meals. Eat at least one meal each week in silence with your full awareness.

•         Practice meditation for twenty to thirty minutes twice daily.

•         Pay attention to signals of stress you experience during the day and employ stress-reducing behaviors to minimize the harmful effects of stress on you and your unborn baby.

•         Perform yoga postures with awareness on a regular basis, being gentle and respectful of your body.