Exercise during any pregnancy requires extra care. That is especially true in high-risk pregnancies. Having experienced this type of pregnancy condition more than once, I have learned quite a bit about what works, what is risky, and what the doctors may recommend. Along with the info I discovered and experienced, there are certain exercises that were approved by my doctor and worked well for my high-risk pregnancy.
Should Women With High-Risk Pregnancies Exercise?
It is important to remember that each woman's case is different. Your OB-Gyn (or other prenatal care specialist) will be your best source of information for what is right and what is not. There are some precautions all pregnant women should take, especially those who are considered high-risk, due to certain conditions or complications. If you exercised before pregnancy, doctors may recommend that you keep up the same routine, but tone it down to avoid rapid or jerky movements.
Some high-risk pregnancies may require bed rest, which means little to no exercise is allowed. An example of some who may not be allowed much exercise are those at risk of or diagnosed with preterm labor, cardiac disease, seizures, anemia, and other restricting conditions. However, according toNewswise, women with high-risk pregnancies due to pre-eclampsia may benefit greatly from stretching exercises. Always consult a physician before starting any exercise regimen during pregnancy. This is especially true for women at risk.
Exercises for High-Risk Pregnancies
Kegels - Most pregnant women know what kegels are. However, if you do not, kegels are tightening and releasing of the vaginal muscles for a set number of seconds, generally performed in sets. Since kegels do not require very much physical exertion, they are generally safe for high-risk pregnancies. Kegels can help to prepare the body for the birth, as well as prevent tearing during the labor.
Yoga Plank Pose - The Yoga Plank Pose is just like the pose you would get in to begin doing push-ups. This is generally a pretty safe pose, but with high-risk pregnancies, you'll want to be careful not to strain the abdominal muscles during this one. Also, be careful that you balance well. If your arm strength is not good, you may want to avoid this pose, so that you do not accidentally fall onto your stomach.
Yoga Sukhasana (Easy) Pose - The Sukhasana, or Easy Pose, is a seated yoga pose. To create this pose, sit in a cross-legged position, creating a triangle shape in between the thighs and ankles. The ankles should not be tucked close to the sitting bone in this position, as they sometimes are in other yoga positions like this. Place the hands atop the knees with the palms facing up and lengthen the tail bone to the floor, while sitting up tall. This position can be done for most any desired amount of time. In high-risk pregnancies, or any other pregnancy, caution against stretching the abdomen too much.
Yoga Padmasana (Lotus) Pose - The Lotus Pose, or Padmasana, is done quite similar to the Sukhasana Pose above. However, in the lotus pose, the feet should be pulled tighter to the body and placed across the opposite thigh with the soles facing up. As with in the Easy Pose exercise, be careful not to pull the abdominal muscles too tightly.
The Bridge Pose - For this exercise position, you will want to get on the floor (or a yoga mat) on all fours. Arch the back up toward the ceiling slowly. Then, lower it slowly. Repeat several times. Be careful of your abdominal muscles during this one. Normally, you will tighten them a great deal during this pose, but during pregnancy, you may want to do this more loosely.
Leg Stretches - If you are on bed rest during your pregnancy, your legs may not get the movement or exercise required for good circulation. Lie on your side with the legs extended. Slowly lift one leg up toward your head as far as it will go. Slowly release it back down. Repeat this several times. Then do the same with the other side. This exercise will help keep circulation going and help avoid bed sores and varicose veins.
Neck Rolls - Much like the legs, the neck may get sore and stiff and receive poor circulation if you are ordered on bed rest during pregnancy. Even if you are not on bed rest, neck soreness can still occur. You can do a few successions of neck rolls 2 or 3 times per day. This exercise should generally not be a threat to high-risk pregnancies.
Lengthening Stretch - This pose is done while lying flat in the bed. Place the arms over the head, reaching back as far as possible. Normally, you would want to stretch the entire body as hard and far as possible. However, during high-risk pregnancies, you will want to modify this slightly. Still stretch the entire body, but be careful not to pull too hard at the abdominal muscles.
Walking - Good old-fashioned walking is great for pregnancy, sometimes even high-risk pregnancies. Of course, as with all of the exercises, you will need to check with a medical professional familiar with your background, but many times, walking is the best exercise for pregnant women.
Pregnancy Squat - This exercise is good for labor preparation, even in some high risk pregnancies. Your prenatal specialist may suggest that this one is saved for the labor and delivery room. To do this exercise, first get in a standing position. If you cannot balance well, hold onto a chair or other piece of furniture. Turn the knees outward and bend them down until you can no longer go down any further. Stay in that position for several seconds. Then, come back up. Repeat a few more times. Precautions for this position may include induction of preterm labor or abdominal stretching.
Things to Watch for During Exercise in High-Risk Pregnancies
Exercise can go smoothly, but sometimes things can also go wrong. Here are just some of the warning signs to look for. Consult your regular prenatal medical professional for information specific to you.
***Note: The author is not a medical professional, but is simply sharing her personal experience and studies. Always consult with a medical professional before doing any exercises during a high-risk pregnancy and even in general. Each person's body and situation is different.
Established in 1997, Anusara yoga now is one of the most popular forms of yoga being practiced today. It is also often referred to as heart-centered yoga. Its popularity may have something to do with the positivism it espouses.
By definition, Anusara specifically means to go with the flow of nature, the flow of grace, or to follow your heart - hence the alternate title of Heart-Centered Yoga. In Anusara yoga, the "asana" poses, when combined with the "universal principles of alignment," allow a connection with the divine goodness of nature. This connection is referred to as "supreme consciousness." To achieve that, Anusara yoga practitioners must exercise the principles and go with the flow.
For some, simply hearing the words "go with the flow" can be very relaxing. But Anusara yoga does not end there. It holds a much deeper meaning. The feeling obtained also is much more intense. It is an overwhelming feeling of joy, love, peace, enlightenment, happiness, oneness and connection with nature. In this type of yoga, your heart is centered and in tune with nature, as well as yourself.
Energy from the Heart
The energy that is tapped for Anusara yoga comes from within the body, rather than the outside. Specifically, the energy is deeply rooted in a natural state of inner feelings from the heart. To tap these feelings, Heart-Centered yoga participants use the universal principles of alignment.
In the words of Dr. Douglas Brooks, a leading scholar of Hindu Tantrism, "Flowing with Grace, anusarena, we experience our inner worth, we align our bodies, our minds and hearts in the current of the Divine flowing through us, we celebrate life itself as we touch the Divinity who pulsates within us as our every thought, feeling, and experience."
One With Nature and Heart-Centered
Anusara yoga celebrates the heart as well as nature. It is not a domination of nature, but rather a harmony and participation with the natural flow of things. "Inner body bright" is a secondary principle and is the term for the energy flow achieved through the first main principle of Anusara yoga. That first principle is called "opening to grace" and is an essential starting point for every pose. In opening to grace, the goal is to align with supreme consciousness.
In Anusara yoga, the main focus is a spiritual connection to innate goodness as well as the freedom of expression related to that goodness. While there are strict principles involved, creativity and self-expression are greatly encouraged.
Anusara (Heart-Centered) Yoga as a Way of Life
The philosophy behind Anusara yoga is not left behind on the mat for participants. It often is a big part of the way they live. Anusara yoga is not just practiced a few times a week like simple exercises. In fact, it is not actually considered an exercise at all, but rather a spiritual connection and a way of life.
With Anusara yoga comes the realization that life, as experienced through one's true nature, is perfect. It is not something that needs to be corrected, but rather should be embraced for what it is. There is beauty in everything and nature is as it was intended to be when created. That said, the spiritual awakening, or supreme consciousness, achieved through Anusara yoga is also intended to allow the discernment between things that are of nature and are good for us, and those that are material and may not be. While not all material is bad, some may be.
An Inviting Community
Anusara yoga is rapidly growing in popularity and has a large community base. Those involved in the Heart-Centered yoga community are said to be friendly, inviting and have open minds. All expressions stemming from Anusara yoga are positive in nature. They stem from the heart and are all about experiencing and expressing love, peace and happiness from the inside out. Because its roots involve love, participants from all backgrounds and religions are welcome to join the community. The philosophy can be learned and practiced by attending classes and seminars.
Anusara Yoga Techniques
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
The definition of Anusara is to flow with grace, or "go with the flow." In Anusara yoga, often called heart-centered yoga, certain principles are followed. But participants are also encouraged to be creative and to go where their heart takes them.
Philosophy and Meaning of Anusara or Heart-Centered Yoga
Anusara yoga has a philosophy that is Tantric in nature, inspiring participants to go where their hearts lead them. It is not a form of exercise, but rather a series of yoga poses that are meant to lead to a deeper spiritual meaning and connection. It is a way of finding the good in everything, including yourself. Basically, you follow the principles to properly achieve the energy, enlightenment and state of awareness required. Then you let natural creativity take over and go with the natural flow of nature.
Universal Principles of Alignment
There are five main principles in Anusara yoga, which are called the universal principles of alignment. Anusara originator John Friend defines alignment as "mindful awareness of how various parts of ourselves are integrated and interconnected." There also are secondary principles involved.
For heart-centered yoga to be effective, each principle must be followed in succession with each pose, while still holding to the preceding principle. For instance, before starting any pose, "opening to grace" must be achieved. Then throughout the pose, each of the alignment principles must be adhered to without interrupting the others.
The Five Principles of Anusara (Heart-Centered) Yoga in Detail
Opening to Grace - Opening to grace is the act of going with the flow to align yourself with supreme consciousness. This is achieved by practicing the poses with an open heart and mind. During this first main principle, "inner body bright," a secondary principle, is achieved. Inner body bright is a feeling and energy that flows from within to the outer body. This energy should create a feeling of fullness and buoyancy in the outer body.
Muscular Energy - Muscular energy is that which is drawn into the focal point. This action causes the pose to be stronger, more stable and more effective. The focal point is a secondary principle in Anusara yoga involving the pelvis core, the heart and the palate. In Anusara yoga, the muscular energy is drawn through the focal point, while the organic energy is extended outward from it.
Inner Spiral - The inner spiral is the energy felt throughout the core, starting at the feet and running up into the waistline. It is the energy that enables inward rotations of the legs to allow for widening of the pelvis and thighs.
Outer Spiral - The outer spiral is basically the opposite of the inner spiral. The outer spiral allows outward rotations of the thighs. This spiral runs outward from the waistline and down and out through the feet. This is the spiral that draws the pelvis and thighs inward, rather than widening them.
Organic Energy - Organic energy is that which extends outward, starting at the focal point and extending throughout the core of the body. This allows for increased flexibility in poses during Anusara yoga.
Applying Principles of Anusara (Heart-Centered) Yoga to Life
Anusara yoga is more than an activity, it is a way of life. The Anusara yoga community consider themselves to be very organized. Yet at the same time, there is much room for individual creativity. Those who practice Anusara yoga often apply some of the things they learn to their lives, such as appreciation for the good in everything. Those interested in learning more about it can learn the principles and techniques from a certified Anusara teacher through seminars and classes offered at many yoga centers.
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