Wednesday, October 17, 2012

5 Good Reasons to Practice Prenatal Yoga

You're pregnant. I know you're probably already thinking, "When can I sign my little one up for the Alluem Kids classes!?" I know you want to start them young! The sooner the better, right? I know!! ;-) So start now! Prenatal yoga gets your little bean ready for a well rounded yoga practice once he or she is born!  And to boot, there are tons of benefits for you, the mom-to-be! Read "5 Good Reasons to Practice Prenatal Yoga" written by Alluem's very own Prenatal Yoga instructor and guest blogger, Nicole Coons!
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends "30 minutes or more of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days of the week for pregnant women without medical complications." But what kind of exercise is best? What's safe enough to do through your entire pregnancy while also keeping you supple and strong? More and more, women are discovering that yoga offers something for every stage of pregnancy and more. Even doctors are starting to recommend yoga as a way to stay healthy and stress-free for the duration. If you are pregnant, or even trying to conceive, here are the top reasons you should consider incorporating yoga into your exercise regime.
1)   Love and celebrate the pregnant body. The physical body goes through so many changes during pregnancy and the needs are different as the pregnancy progresses. New pains or areas of discomfort develop that need special care. Prenatal yoga is a gentle, yet effective way to keep the body strong and to address the changing needs of the pregnant woman’s body.
2)   Tame the emotional roller coaster. Emotions can seem to run wild during pregnancy, and prenatal yoga can provide stimulation to the glands that govern emotions. Higher levels of serotonin and melatonin in the mother’s body create feelings of ease and general happiness, which can make her feel better in her body during pregnancy. It’s much easier to deal with the emotional ups and downs if you have a practice that supports emotional balance.
3)   Restore energy. It takes a lot of energy to grow a baby, and prenatal yoga teaches the mother to become respectful of her need to slow down. By slowing down, vital energy can be restored, and healing and healthy growth of the fetus can occur. Prenatal yoga also addresses the practice of pranayama (breathing), which alone can aid in relieving stress or tension in all of the above areas—body, emotions and energy.
4)   Connect with community. Being pregnant, especially when it’s the first pregnancy, can feel very isolating at times. It’s wonderful to have access to prenatal yoga classes that allow expectant mothers to spend time with one another. This sense of community can decrease stress and anxiety that may come up. Sometimes friends are made that continue long after the babies are born.
5)   Gain confidence about birth--and experience less pain. Prenatal yoga classes, unlike other exercise classes, often have the underlying goal of supporting women as they prepare for birth. Many yogic teachings about breath, concentration, relaxation and openness in the mind and body are complimentary to the teachings of common childbirth methods, such as Lamaze and Bradley. Practices that promote confidence and calm in the mother are common among all of these approaches. Even if a mom-to-be doesn’t enroll in a childbirth education class, she may receive a lot of the same information over the course of her pregnancy by just attending yoga classes. Finally, a study conducted in Thailand in 2008 found that "prenatal yoga may result in less labor pain and shorter labor. [Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 14(2), 105-115]. If that's not motivation enough to incorporate yoga during pregnancy, I don't know what is!
If you’ve practiced yoga during pregnancy, what’s your main reason? How has it benefited you most?

Whether you have tried yoga or not, come on in to the studio for a prenatal class on Thursday nights at 7:00pm or Saturdays at 12:15pm! All levels and stages of pregnancy welcome!
Nicole teaches prenatal yoga at Alluem and has been practicing since 1998 after spending 15 years of her youth as a modern and ballet dancer, instructor and choreographer. She became certified through YogaWorks, which also introduced her to prenatal yoga. Once she had the experience of two yoga-filled pregnancies herself, she connected more deeply with a desire to support women through their childbearing years - helping them feel great in their bodies and enjoy the journey of motherhood. She received specialized training in prenatal and postnatal yoga through the Prenatal Yoga Center in NYC. Through this training, Nicole refueled her vision for a world where more women are having conscious births, wherein they are knowledgeable about their bodies, inspired to trust their intuitive wisdom and able to recognize their own power to choose and participate actively in the unfolding of their birth experience. Nicole's prenatal classes offer expectant mothers a balanced and safe practice designed to help release stress and anxiety, relieve typical aches and pains of pregnancy and cultivate strength and confidence for birth and beyond. She is eternally grateful for the numerous teachers, students and her family who have illuminated the path for exploring her never ending inquiries of the mind and the heart. She is honored to be part of the Alluem Family and to share the gift of yoga!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chair Yoga

"Sit up straight. Get your head off the desk. Feet on the floor. Stop rocking your chair. Sit still." These are the words I heard day in and day out at school. We're taught that in order to learn and be focused, we must be still. Not true. We all learn and absorb material differently. Some of us are visual learners, some auditory, some kinesthetic. Me, I'm a kinesthetic learner...hands on! I needed to move and touch and experience. Tell a kinesthetic learner to sit still and that's all they learn...they learn to put a ridiculous amount of energy into staying still, that they don't hear a word the teacher is saying. Who benefits there? 
So, let's try some chair yoga you can do right in school that may not be as crazy as the pose to the left, but is subtle enough to help the kinesthetic learners focus.

Ground Your Feet - Sit up straight feet with feet flat on the floor. As you inhale, push your right foot into the floor, exhale release. Inhale, push the left foot into the floor, exhale release. Keep going nice and slow. The breath calms and the pushing of the foot is so subtle you barely see movement, but brings focus.
Seated Twist - Time for a break? Take a twist! Reach the left arm across the body and hook the right arm onto the back of a chair. Inhale sit up taller, exhale twist. (Be sure not to do this during a test.) And switch sides.
Seated Cat n' Cow - Hands on the knees, inhale open the heart and arch the back. Look up for Seated Cow Pose. Exhale round and almost push into the knees for Seated Cat Pose. Keep going for a couple rounds.
Eagle Legs - Gotta move those feet, but can't go far? Wrap them up! Lift the right leg up and over the left thigh. Keep the right foot going and wrap it around the left calf. While you're all twisted squeeze the muscles, hold and then release. Feel a fresh flow of blood right into the legs and feet! 
Take 5 Breath - Feeling anxious before a test or maybe you just aren't understanding what the teacher is talking about? Don't panic. Take 5. Place one hand on your thigh under your desk and tap your fingers out to the count of 5 as you inhale. Pause and then exhale out counting backwards from 5 tapping it out on your thigh.

Then of course, there are plenty of fun ways to use a chair within our yoga practice, 
that we may not be able to do in school, but grab a chair at home and get to stretching!

Don't forget to throw in a round of Musical Chair Yoga!