Aqua yoga for pregnancy - getting started
Certified Aquanatal Yoga instructors offer pool classes lasting from 30 minutes to 1 hour for women at different stages of pregnancy. Some instructors hold Aquanatal birth preparation workshops. Each class includes warm-ups, main sequences and relaxation. Depending on the pool environment and the teacher, additional elements including adapted strokes, collective group practices or micro-movements are also included. The teaching of breathing techniques are integrated in the movements together with guidance about using the properties of water. Birthlight classes guarantee the following quality standards:
Personal rapport between instructor and each woman
A positive group atmosphere
Suitable pool (particularly for water relaxation)
Continuity through pregnancy and the transition to motherhood.
Aquanatal yoga moves
Spinal alignment and awareness
As the uterus becomes heavier and its weight pulls on the ligament of the pelvis during the third trimester of pregnancy, the lumbar curve in the spine tends to become more pronounced. To compensate for this, as your body seeks to maintain its balance, the thoracic curve can also become exaggerated, which may result in a slight ‘waddling’ in late pregnancy.
Aqua yoga exercises prioritise the lengthening of the lower back and simultaneous toning of the pelvic ligaments and leg muscles, which together ensure the correct progressive adjustment of the pelvis throughout pregnancy.
Rolling and looping hip movements will help to open the hips and lengthen the spine, while strengthening knee and ankle joints. These ample movements are much easier in water and can be done at all stages of pregnancy, helping to prevent or relieve backache. They will also help you find your rhythm in movement in preparation for labour. Make sure you breathe rhythmically while doing the rolls and enjoy the massaging action of the water on your body in these dynamic circling movements.
Before starting the hip rolls, loosen your hips by bending on one leg and then the other from a standing position with your legs wide apart, either against the wall or standing freely.
Breathing and relaxation in water are powerful tools to help you deal with the emotional transformations of pregnancy, and with labour itself. In the following exercises you are using not only your body but also your mind to expand your breathing in the water. Deeper, more expansive breathing has many benefits on the physiology as a whole to induce confidence and calm. With practice, all the muscles of your pelvis become involved in your breathing, making it a powerful tool in labour.
Supported breathing stretch
In the following stretch, if you dislike or cannot have your face in the water, inhale as you start and exhale as slowly as you can while you stretch forward without any movement of the arms or legs. The goal is to relax more and more as you reach the end of your forward movement and also the end of your out-breath. If you are able to put your face in the water, you will notice not only an increase in the forward movement but also a better combination of stretch and relaxation.
To do the stretch, stand against the pool wall, holding a float in front of you, and lower your body in the water. Pushing against the wall with your feet, knees bent, propel yourself forward with your arms extended, holding your float out in front of you. You may find that your legs lower themselves in the water under you as you come to the end of your forward movement. Do not resist this, just relax as it happens and stand up when your feet touch the pool floor.
The breath of life
When you practice the following diving exercise, your body comes to terms with unspoken fears such as running out of oxygen, drowning, failing or exhaustion. These are the same fears that you are likely to experience in labour during long contractions. You can use the aqua breathing to find a way to relax while in the grip of these deep-seated fears. It can transform the frightening experience and is therefore an extremely useful aid during labour.
Gaining further and easier forward movement in your long dive is not just an inspiration for your labour, but is also an actual practice for your body, a form of physical training to help you to deal with these sensations in a positive way. Bodies learn fast – and yours will reward you for this practice.
All women who have done this exercise in pregnancy use it in a positive way during their labour. For many, it has transformed the experience of giving birth.
Aquanatal Yoga Breaststroke
Swimming is excellent for breath control, and adapted breaststroke in pregnancy encourages you to breathe using your diaphragm more effectively. Emphasis is placed on the exhalation phase during the forward thrust, ideally with your face in the water. This will ensure a smoother rhythm and eliminate any forced or jerky leg movements.
Breaststroke is always best swum with your face in the water. Keeping your head above the water makes it impossible for you to open the pelvis in a way that makes breaststroke valuable in pregnancy. It also places strain on the muscles at the base of the neck.
If you have been swimming competition style breaststroke before pregnancy, the challenge now is to lengthen your whole spine along the surface of the water rather than raising your upper back out of the water as you inhale and propel yourself. Start swimming very slowly and consider it as a different stroke – one for stretch rather than speed.