Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Get Fit ~ Ode To Yoga ~

I am never in better shape than when I am pregnant- I am more consistent in my exercising and healthy eating habits than at any other time. Getting into shape is something you should do BEFORE you get pregnant, because it is much easier and healthier to maintain a healthy body than to try and become fit after you are already undergoing all of your pregnancy changes. That said- it is NEVER too late to start. Fit mothers experience increased endorphin levels and endurance, improved blood circulation (for the increased blood volume during pregnancy), decreased risk of certain complications during and after labor, and speedier post-par-tum recoveries. It's worth staying in shape.
source: www.fitpregnancy.com
With my first pregnancy, I was in pretty good physical shape- I had just finished running a half-marathon- and I continued doing water aerobics sporadically. But I was still attending university and very busy studying, so I wasn't very consistent or nurturing in my exercise. Eventually, I was just walking to and from classes (which was still quite a distance). By the time I was in my third trimester, I was experiencing sciatica- the nerves in my spine were being compressed and I would often experience shooting pain down my leg, or a loss of control over that leg all together. I also had a lot of lower back pain- right where my sacrum was. I wore myself out by not resting enough, and eventually got sick (a bad cold) and was not fully recovered by the time I went into labor. The labor itself was fast and intense, but the recovery was long and painful. My immune system was shot- I had recurring infections that made breastfeeding difficult (although I did persevere and breastfed for the first 14 months). I also had a couple months of baby-blues (I wouldn't call it post-partum depression because I could still function- but I cried a lot!) When my baby was 6 months, I was finally able to start running again without triggering bleeding.

Soon after, I made a good friend who introduced me to yoga. It felt akward at first, and my balance was horrible. But slowly I worked at it, and I noticed changes in my body. My knees and shins stopped hurting while I was running; my lower back pain (which continued with nursing) went away as my core strengthened and my spine aligned itself; and I started to discover that I could breathe through discomfort and focus my mind in a relaxed state. I was hooked. I continued to do yoga during my subsequent three pregnancies- and I continued to see amazing benefits- a pain free and healthy pregnancy, a speedy recovery, and a level of self-discovery and confidence that helped me during my labors.

It is never too late to start yoga! There are prenatal yoga DVDs that you can purchase, pre-natal yoga classes that you can attend if they have any in your area, and free online resources (through YouTube,  http://www.prenatalyogacenter.com/cmps_index.php?page=free-yoga-videos http://yogatoday.com/videos/this_weeks_free_videohttp://www.prenatalyogadvd.com/ ) Obviously there are times in my life where I have had to rely on DVDs and books, but I would always recommend attending a prenatal yoga class with an instructor that you like. The interactive teaching that takes place, the nurturing environment, and the motivation of having other moms exercising with you make it all worth it! You can even have your workout tailored to meet whatever specific discomforts or challenges you are experiencing in your pregnancy.

If you are not interested in doing yoga, then stay fit in some other way. Don't start something new- but if you are already a runner, cyclist, or soccer player- keep going until you start to feel off-balance or uncomfortable. Stay away from down-hill and water skiing, jet-skiing, and horseback riding- sports that require great balance and have a high-risk of injury. For a list of prenatal workout ideas, guidelines, and research that shows the benefits of staying fit, check out Fit Pregnancy Magazine. http://www.fitpregnancy.com/yourpregnancy/prenatal_workout/
During my third trimester, we could still hike and explore around Haifa while visiting for a friend's wedding because I felt fit and healthy.

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