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Yoga - Tips and Exercises for Pregnancy

by Kim Draper

Yoga can be a great way to stay flexible and prepare for birth. There are many ways to learn yoga: in a class with a professional teacher, or at home with a book or video tape.

Yoga has been used for centuries to help center a person and relieve stress. In many countries, yoga for pregnancy is considered the only option. Yoga can be a great way to stay flexible and prepare for birth. There are many ways to learn yoga, in a class with a professional teacher, or at home with a book or video tape. As with any exercise program it is best to consult your physician before beginning.

If you are having a fairly normal pregnancy, then yoga is fine for you. If not, then you may want to check with your doctor before you begin a class or do this at home. If you are trying to conceive, yoga may be able to help you along the way to building your family. Some poses that may help you conceive are the same poses that you need to avoid as soon as you become pregnant

From the beginning of your pregnancy to the end, yoga can teach you relaxation, breathing, and stretching and strengthening exercises to help you feel comfortable with the changes in your body, mind and spirit during and after pregnancy. It's also beneficial in many other ways:

  • Helps you develop awareness of yourself and your baby so you can participate more fully in you and your baby's health and well-being.
  • Allows your body to stretch to remove tension and tightness and relieve the other common annoyances and discomforts of pregnancy.
  • Increases energy and vitality.
  • Encourages you to strengthen where you need to for birth and for mothering a growing child.
  • Provides breathing exercises that deepen your relaxation physically, relieves stress and improves your body's circulation, immune, and digestive systems.
  • Practices meditation to enhance your concentration and your focus.
  • Gives you and a partner loving, supportive yoga postures to practice together. And, offers you visualizations to heighten your relationship with yourself, your partner and your baby.

Positions To Avoid During Pregnancy
Positions that should be avoided during pregnancy depend on what stage of pregnancy you are in. During the fifth month of pregnancy, the uterus is growing rapidly, getting heavier and heavier. Due to the heaviness of the uterus, lying on your back for more that 10 minutes may cause some compression to the blood vessels, which would decrease blood to the uterus an oxygen to the baby.

During the fifth month (or sometimes sooner), it may be uncomfortable to lay on your stomach. So these types of exercises should be avoided. A good rule to follow is do not do any positions that are uncomfortable or do not feel right.

Yoga Positions, Early Stages and Ending Stages:

Pregnancy Sit up - Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor close to your buttocks, and clasp your hands behind your neck. Inhale and lift up the head and shoulders and twist to the left. Exhale as you go down. Repeat twisting to the right side. Keeps the abdominal muscles strong without strain. When these muscles are exercised, help to hold the baby correctly in position.

Modified Child's Pose - Sit on the floor with knees wide apart and resting on the floor. Bend forward. Join your hands together and put them on the floor and rest your chin on them. Helps to open pelvic area. Also gives you a comfortable resting pose and a gentle forward bend.

Modified Forward Bend - Sit on floor, spreading your thighs apart to accommodate your abdomen. Bend forward and try to hold the toes with your hands. Keep the knees straight. This helps to open pelvic area.

Modified Cobra Pose - Stand with feet together (you may separate them for comfort) and hands clasped at the back. Inhale and drop the head back. Hold and breathe gently. Inhale again arcing the back, pushing your chest and arms back. Finally push your hips forward. Avoids abdominal pressure and strengthens the legs while giving a good backward bend.

Modified Cat Pose - Kneel on all fours, inhale and lift one leg straight up behind you, raising your head at the same time. Hold the pose and breathe normally, then exhale and lower the leg. Change legs. Keeps the lower back limber and strengthens the legs.

Wall Butterfly - Lie with buttocks and feet against the wall, soles together, and let your knees drop open. Use hands to press knees down toward the wall. Opens up pelvic area, to give an easier labor, and strengthens the legs and lower spine.

Wall Squatting - Separate your feet widely and place the soles flat on the wall. Gently pull your knees out and pull down with your hands, pressing your feet against the wall. Opens up the pelvic area, to give an easier labor. Promotes elasticity of vaginal muscles.

Pelvic Lift - Kneel on all fours, exhale and arch upward, flattening the lower back. Then inhale and arch downward curving the lower back. Lift your head up and back and breathe naturally. Repeat several times. Strengthens the uterus. It encourages deep breathing and eases lower back strain. It makes you feel healthy, and some mothers find this position comfortable during labour. It stretches the spine.

Perineal Exercises

  1. Lie comfortably on your back, ankles crossed. Tilt the pelvis up, pressing the small of your back against the floor. Exhale, squeeze your thighs together, and clench the buttocks, contracting the pelvic muscles. Hold for a count of 5, inhale and relax.
  2. Sit, squat or stand comfortably. Exhale, and contract the muscles of the anal sphincter. Hold for a count of 5, inhale and relax. Exhale again, and contract the vaginal muscles. Hold for 5, inhale and relax.

Keep the pelvic, anal and vaginal muscles strong and healthy. The muscles, like elastic will stretch fully for the birth and quickly return to normal avoiding postnatal problems like a leaky bladder. Also help to develop awareness and control of the muscles, so that you can actively help in easier birth.

Abdominal Corpse Pose - Lie sideways using your hands as pillows and draw one leg upwards while lying to take the weight of the abdomen and distribute it over the rest of the body. Helps in relaxation. Must be practiced after doing all other exercises, this is the cool down exercise.

There don't seem to be many books on Yoga and pregnancy, but one that looks well explained and short enough to be read in less than nine months is Yoga for Pregnancy by Francoise Barbiraet.

Yoga during pregnancy really can offer very extraordinary benefits, but it's important to take care too. Opinions on what is appropriate vary, but most Yoga practitioners agree on the following points:

  • The start of pregnancy probably isn't the best moment to start Yoga for the first time ever. If you do so, it should certainly be with the guidance of a Yoga expert, and one who understands Yoga and pregnancy.
  • If you're thinking of attending a class or are just starting one, let the tutor know that you're pregnant.
  • Don't practice Yoga between weeks 8-13.
  • Avoid postures that compress the abdomen, and also anything involving breath retention.
  • Don't take postures to the point where you're fatigued.

For more of Kim's writing, please visit her websites The Healing Alternative and CandleCrafters

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