Yoga for 2: Prenatal and Postnatal Artwork
Season 3 - Episode 8

Destress and Unwind

40 min - Practice


Maria shares a slow and active practice that focuses on safe, gentle twists to warm and awaken the spine. With the support of the wall and props, we find a deep shoulder stretch before flowing through a series of modified Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskars), and a variety of postures to strengthen and stabilize the legs, hips, and pelvis.
What You'll Need: Mat, Wall, Square Bolster, Block (2)

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(ocean waves) Hello, welcome. So today's sequence is for de-stressing. One series of postures that we don't very often get to do while pregnant, are twists. So I thought now would be a nice time to incorporate some safe twists for pregnancy. And what is very important about twisting is that we get to wring out the spine.

And in wringing out the spine, all of our nerves are attached to the central nervous system, our peripheral nervous system connects to the central nervous system there. So it's kind of a way to detox and cleanse the nervous system. So we have lots of options for you to integrate into your practices here today. So starting from there, we're just gonna come to a very comfortable Sukhasana. I sit on a blanket, I suggest you do too.

And the main reason is just so that the hips can be an upright position rather than tucked under. So tilt the pelvis slightly forward or upright, just slightly engaging the low back. Lifting the chest, relax the shoulders down. Hands can just come to the knees. And we'll just start by closing the eyes, and becoming aware of the breath.

If you're familiar with Ujjayi breathing, you'll start your Ujjayi breathing, inhaling and exhaling through the nose. And just letting the breath be soft and smooth. And observing the breath, and seeing if you can create a steadiness in the inhalation and the exhalation, so that they're pretty much equally long. And then we're just gonna take this into a slight twist. So you'll take your right hand behind you, and just start to twist to your right.

Now, as you twist, try to keep the low back lifted, the chest open, as you're twisting to the right. Maybe you want to walk your left hand over to the right as well, so that you can kind of pull yourself a little deeper into the twist, keep both sitting bones on the floor. Chest lifted. And don't crank the neck back. We really want to find a nice even twist throughout the entire spine.

So just let the head kind of follow the sternum bone, which is your breast bone in the center of your chest. And then starting to open up the right shoulder, pressing the shoulder blade into the chest. Taking a few more breaths here. Keep the head and neck aligned over the rest of the spine, rather than jutting the chin forward. So that you're really pulling tall through the crown of the head.

And then we'll slowly release and unwind, coming back to center. Then we'll take that over to the other side. So starting just with the right hand at the knee, first lifting the low back, lifting the chest up, aligning the head up over the rest of the spine, and then twisting to your left. Keeping the chin pretty much in line with the sternum. Then taking the left hand back, the right hand forward.

Pulling yourself a little deeper. Continuing to lift the chest up, lift the low back, and lift through the crown of the head. And the chin is more or less parallel to the floor. Getting a nice opening through the left shoulder, pressing the shoulder blade into the chest, to keep the chest space nice and open. Couple more deep breaths here.

And then just releasing that. Walking the hands back to center. And then we're gonna come back up to standing for some shoulder stretches and a Downward Dog at the wall. Okay, so we'll move the blanket off to the side, 'cause we won't need that for a bit. And then we'll come over to our wall, and just some gentle shoulder stretches.

First one with the hands pointing back, arms nice and straight, we're gonna come, it's depending on your flexibility, and how much range of motion you have in this right shoulder. You may be closer to the wall. And we'll start with almost facing the wall, but not completely. And then we're gonna open up the chest. And you should get a nice stretch right here in the pectoral muscle.

And just take some deep breaths there, inhaling and exhaling through the nose. And if you feel like you can go a little deeper, you'll open the left shoulder up more. And sometimes I even like to walk my fingertips out a little further, that just intensifies it a little more, gets me a little deeper into that stretch. And then we'll release that, and we'll do something similar. But this time with the hand flat on the wall, fingertips pointing up, and the elbow is gonna be about shoulder height, maybe an inch higher, and then we'll do the same exact thing.

So just starting to open up the chest. And the elbow doesn't have to touch the wall. But do get a sense of the shoulder blade, especially the inner corner of the shoulder blades, so imagine it like a triangle, press that inner corner of the shoulder blade into your chest, so you can stay nice and broad, and opened through the chest and collarbones, as you're opening the shoulder. And breathing. Okay, then we'll change sides.

We'll take the left hand to the wall, and we'll start to open up the right shoulder. Lifting the chest, getting a sense of the shoulder blade pressing into the chest, as opposed to wringing out and taking this internal rotation. And maybe even walking the fingertips back a little more if you have that option. And then bending the elbow, fingertips point up to the ceiling, elbow is at least shoulder height. And then opening up again.

And keep lifting the chest up. All right, then we'll release that side. And we'll take the hands about shoulder height here. We may have to adjust them as we walk back, and we'll take a Downward Facing Dog at the wall. So you'll just start to walk your feet back.

As you do so, reach the chest forward to the wall, start to strengthen the arms, and press the hands flat on the wall. And then we'll start to hinge at the hips. Bend your knees as you need to, especially 'cause your hamstrings are probably not awake yet, they're not open. So bend your knees, hinge at the hips, push the wall, and start to lower the head, so that the ears are in line with the upper arms. And then you can adjust your feet as needed.

And then just press into the wall to push the hips up and back. So you can get lots of length through the side bodies. Keeping the waist and long. So there can be a tendency to collapse here. We don't want that.

We still want the outer upper arms wrapping around to the floor. And it's more like we're trying to get into a nice inverted V shape. You might want to walk the hands down a little bit lower, depending on where you're at today. The knees may stay bent here, just so that you can avoid tucking the tailbone under. Really find that deep crease in the hips socket.

And we'll stay here for a few breaths. If you really press into the inner hand, you can start to engage the inner arm, the bicep. Wrap the outer upper arms around to the face, so it's like you're hallowing out your armpits. Keep the back of the neck nice and long. Two more deep breaths.

One more breath. And then walking your feet in. And we'll turn around to face the front of our mat. But we'll stay at the back of our mat for some Sun Salutation. So starting with your feet, about hip distance apart, roll the shoulders down the back to broaden the chest.

Find your height. Inhaling, and reaching up through the crown of the head, exhaling, and rooting down through the feet. Take a deep breath in, sweep the arms up over head. Arms can be shoulder distance apart, if you have the range of motion, and you want to bring the hands together. As long as it doesn't cause strain in the traps or in the neck, that's fine.

Exhale, hinge at the hips, and fold, bending the knees as needed. Lots of space for the belly, so if you need to widen your feet, let the head and neck relax. Inhale, look up and lengthen. Exhale, bend your knees, set your hands down on the floor, walk them forward to Downward Facing Dog. From Downward Facing Dog, we'll come forward to a plank position.

On your next exhalation, we'll bring the knees to the floor, and lower down. Inhale into a Cobra. Let the hips drop. Pull the shoulders back, the chest forward. And exhale, hips up and back, to Downward Facing Dog.

Breathing here. If you need to, peddle out your feet, still warming up the backs of the legs. Just easing into your body, easing into your breath. And then we'll walk the hands back to the feet. Inhale, look up and lengthen.

Exhale and fold. Inhale all the way up. Arms reach up over head. And exhale, arms down along side the body. Then again, inhale arms reach.

Exhale, fold. Inhale, look up and lengthen. Exhale, bend the knees, walk the hands forward to Downward Dog. Inhale, come forward to plank. Exhale, lower down either with the knees or in full plank.

Inhale to Cobra, or Up Dog if you're up for it today. And exhale back to Downward Facing Dog. Taking a few deep breaths in Downward Dog, the knees may still be bent, so that you can really find that deep crease in the hips, or you may wish to straighten them out at this point. Continuing to push the inner hands, press the floor away from you, so you can lengthen the side bodies. And this time, we're gonna walk the feet to the hands.

Inhale, look up and lengthen. Exhale and fold. Inhale, come all the way up to the top. And exhale, arms down alongside the body. Surya Namaskar B, bend your knees, sit your hips back like you're sitting into a chair, and inhale, sweep the arms up over head.

They can stay shoulder distance apart, or come together. And exhale, we'll fold forward, letting the head and neck relax, looking through the shins. Inhale, look up and lengthen. Exhale, bend your knees, set your hands down in front of your feet, and step back to Downward Dog. From Downward Facing Dog, we'll bring the feet together.

Just make sure if you're near a wall, that you're not too close to the wall. And we're gonna raise the right leg up and back to a Three-Legged Downward Dog. And we're gonna sweep the right knee forward, set the foot down behind the right hands. From there we'll use our right hand on top of the right knee to help us up. If you need to, soften the back knee a little bit, to get your hips upright.

And then with your next inhalation, you'll reach the arms up, finding full crescent. And then with exhalation we're gonna just take a little twist to the right. As you twist, you'll open your arms out to the side. Continue to lift the chest up. Lots of space of the belly here.

And then you can press out through your back heel, sink down through the hips, and breathe. And let's take the left arm up, right arm down, so we're getting a little more length through the left side body. And then reach the right arm back up to meet the left. One more deep breath here. And then exhale, release.

We'll set the hands down to the floor, inside the right foot, and step back to Downward Dog. You can stay in Down Dog or transition, inhaling, coming forward. Exhale. Inhale, Cobra or Up Dog. And exhale back to Downward Facing Dog.

From Down Dog, we'll bring the feet together. With inhalation, we'll raise the left leg up and back. And then we'll sweep the left leg forward. Stepping the foot behind the left hand, keep the right heel lifted, bring your left hand to your left knee, press yourself up. With inhalation, we'll take the arms up, finding the crescent.

Hands can be apart or together, your choice. And then with an exhalation, we'll start to twist to the left, keeping the chest nice and open, reaching the arms apart, and pressing out through your back leg. And it is okay to keep a little bend in the right knee, especially if it feels like it's too much pulling in your hip flexor or quad. And we'll reach the right arm up, left arm back. Lengthen the right side body.

And then we'll bring the left arm up to meet the right. Inhale here. And exhale, release. Setting the hands inside the left foot, step back to Down Dog. Either stay there or we'll come forward.

Inhale, and exhale, lower. Inhale to Up Dog or Cobra. And exhale, Downward Facing Dog. And just taking a few cooling breaths in Down Dog, finding a nice crease in the hips. And look forward, walk your feet to your hands.

Inhale, look up and lengthen. Exhale, fold. Bend your knees, sit the hips back. Inhale, chair. And exhale, stand up tall, Samasthiti.

Bend the knees, inhale. Exhale, fold. Inhale, lengthen. Exhale, hands down in front of the feet, step back. Inhale to plank.

Exhale, lower down. Inhale, Cobra or Up Dog. Exhale, Down Dog. Step the right foot forward, if you need to, lift the right leg up and back first. Pivot the left heel down to the floor.

Feel free to use support with your right hand on your right knee to lift up. Inhale, we'll come up into Warrior I. And then exhale, release. Bring the hands down to the floor, inside the foot. So we do have the option to lift the back heel here, but we're gonna take this into a twist.

I'm gonna keep my heel planted. We're just gonna take the right hand to the right knee. Now, for some of us, you're gonna need your block. This is gonna be too low. So you'll just bring your left hand to a block, inside the right foot.

And we want quite a bit of space here, at least a foot. And then we're gonna press the hand to the right knee, lift the right shoulder up, and we'll twist to the right. Hand can stay on the knee, or you can reach the arm up, and even over. There shouldn't be any compression in the belly, lots of space here. Pull the shoulders back, open the chest.

And then with exhalation, we'll release. Set the hands down to the floor, inside the foot. Pick up your back heel, and step back to Down Dog. From Down Dog, you either stay there or take plank, lower down. Inhale, Cobra or Up Dog.

Exhale, Down Dog. Second side, we'll step the left foot forward, pivot the right heel down, inhale, we'll come up, Warrior I. And then with exhalation we're gonna bring the hands down to the floor, inside the foot. If this is already too much, you're gonna take your block, place it underneath the right shoulder, maybe even a little wider, depending on how big the belly is right now. And we'll set the hand down, bring your left hand to your knees, start to twist open to the left.

You have the option to keep the right heel lifted. I'm gonna plant mine. Press the outer edge of the right foot if you're keeping the heel down. And we'll twist to the left. Open the chest.

Maybe add the arm. And maybe even sweep it up over head. And then we'll release, move the block off to the side. Set the hands down inside the foot. Lift the back heel, and step back to Down Dog.

From Down Dog, you can come forward to plank. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale, Up Dog. And exhale, Down Dog.

And then breathing in Down Dog. From Downward Facing Dog, we'll bring the feet together, and raise the left leg up and back. And then we'll sweep it forward. And this time we're gonna pivot and turn our feet to our right. So the feet are more or less parallel.

If anything, maybe turn the toes in just a touch. Bend the knees if need to, and you can also bring your hands onto blocks here. Inhale, we'll look up, lengthen, lift the chest. Exhale, and we'll fold into Prasarita Padottanasana A, walking the hands back in line with the feet, and reaching the head towards the floor. You can also bring the head to a block, or just let it hang.

Pull the shoulders back to reach the chest through the elbows, and breathe. Knees can be bent. If they're straight, you can start to lift the kneecaps up the thighs, and just start to tilt the weight a little more forward, so it's resting in front of the heels, and moving towards the toes. Inhale, we'll look up and lengthen, walk the hands forward. Add a little twist here.

Bring the left hand under the heart. Take the right hand to the sacrum. Start to twist the right shoulder to the ceiling, keeping the belly nice and spacious, breathing. And then we'll release the right hand down, place it where the left hand was. Take the left hand up to the sacrum, lift the left shoulder.

Opening up, and breathing. And then we'll release the left hand down. And just turn the right toes out, to about 45 degrees. And as you do so, press the right knee out, so that your right knee is pointing to your second toe. Take this into a little lunge.

You can start to lift the left toes up. And we'll just walk the hands in for support, so that we can open up in the groins, maybe a little in the hamstring. Probably more of the inner aspect of the left hamstring, if anything here. And you just go to a place where it feels like a good stretch. And you can breathe.

You can always use blocks here, if bringing the hands to the floor is too much. And then we'll start to straighten the right leg, walk the hands over to the left, plant the left toes down. Press the left knee out, so it points to the second toe, and lift the right toes up to the ceiling, lunging onto the left side. Keep the chest nice and open. Use blocks if needed.

And most importantly, breathe. Couple more breaths here. And then we're going to take the left leg, straighten it out, parallel the feet, but then right away walk your hands back to the front of the mat, pick up your back heels, step your left foot back to Down Dog. And from Down Dog, we'll bring the knees to the floor, and we'll cross the ankles. And we're going to take Marichyasana C, but in an open position.

So you may want to have blanket. I'm going to grab a blanket for myself. You might need two blankets. And we'll sit up on the blanket, and we'll straighten the legs out in front. And when you straighten them, whereas maybe previously we would have the feet together, legs together, let's just give ourselves a little bit of space.

Open the feet about hip distance, maybe even wider. Bend the right knee. Turn the toes out, turn the knee open, rather than keeping it closed. So you have lots of space for the belly here. And we're going to keep the right hand, or forearm, elbow, on the knee.

Again, just like in the beginning, we're going to lift the low back, lift the chest up. And we're going to start to twist to the left. So usually this would be done closed, twisting to the right. But we're going to keep open, so that we can get the benefits of twisting for the spine, without compressing the baby in the belly. Lift the shoulders, relax the shoulders, lift the chest.

Press the shoulder blades into the chest. And then start to open up to the left. And again, careful not to torque the neck. We really want to keep the spine twisting evenly from just above the sacrum, all the way to the base of the neck. So we kind of want to find a little bit of a back bend as we're twisting.

And then we'll slowly and carefully unwind. Straighten out the right leg, bend the left, turn the toes out. And at first, just siting nice and tall, upright lifting the chest. And then starting to twist to the right, pulling the shoulders back, the chest open, pressing the shoulder blades in. So we can really get some opening in the upper back, in the shoulder girdle as well.

Finding length the whole time. So it's like you're creating space between the vertebrae of the spine. And then we'll release that. And then a modification of Marichyasana D, you can always repeat C if that feels more appropriate. For Marichyasana D, we're going to take the right ankle above the left knee, and flex the foot.

So this may be where you take Marichyasana D from just placing the right hand to the right foot, taking the left hand behind, again, lifting the low back, and twisting to the left. So now we have the benefit of both the hip opener, and a twist. I'll add another option. You can also bend the left knee, set the foot flat on the floor. And we still have space for the belly.

But if the belly is bigger, if you're close towards the end, then you may not want to do this, just keep the left leg straight. Otherwise, we'll lift the low back, and even lean back a little bit, and then twist to the left. Keep nice and open through the chest, nice and spacious through the belly, and breathe. And keep the head in line with the rest of your spine. And then we'll release that.

Straighten the left leg then the right. Set left ankle above right knee, option to stay here, keep the hand behind you, and twist to your right. Or we can take it to the next stage, setting the foot flat on the floor, bring the left hand to your arch of your foot, lift the low back, open the chest, and then twist to the right. Sometimes moving onto the next stage of a pose just doesn't make sense for where your body's at. Sometimes it doesn't even benefit you.

You get more out of working in the previous stages. So really listening to your body, seeing what would serve your body best right now, and your baby. And then releasing, straightening out the right leg, and then the left, coming up off the blankets. And we're going to setup for a Reclined Baddha Konasana. So move the blanket off to the side.

We'll take our blocks, one block at its highest height, and then the other one at its lowest. Then we build a ramp. Grab your bolster, and we'll stack the bolster over top of the blocks. And from here you'll bring your sacrum right up against the lower edge of the block, or bolster. Either set the feet together, or if you prefer, you can keep the legs straight.

I'm going to go for a Baddha Konasana here. If your knees are up here, and you'd like the support of a mat roll, or a blanket, or pillows, blocks, then go ahead and grab those now. Otherwise, we'll lie down on our back. Let the head come to the nice, comfortable pillow. Palms face open to the ceiling.

Take a moment to adjust, so your shoulder blades are underneath you. And still pressing into the chest, so the collarbones are nice and broad, and open. And then just start to focus on relaxing throughout the entire body. We'll be here for about three minutes. If you have the time, and you want to stay longer, feel free.

Really expanding the belly, letting the belly relax, the breath fill the belly, fill the chest, fill the side bodies. Slowly starting to stretch through your fingers. Feel free to stay here longer if you'd like. Otherwise, we're going to take our hands to the outsides of the knees, gently guide them to upright. Walk the feet out.

And we'll just roll over to our side, just set your elbow, forearm, on the floor for support. Careful coming off the blankets, the bolster, and the blocks. And we'll just come to a cross-legged position. Bring the hands to prayer position at the heart, gently bow the head, take a deep breath in and out. And just fill yourself with love and light.

And thank you all, namaste.


Carly L
Another awesome strong flow,  shoulders feel tingly, warm  and open!  Thank you
Cassie G
1 person likes this.
This wasn't particularly applicable for the 3rd trimester, as I can't lay down on my belly or comfortably/safely perform some of the positions
Maria Villella
(Edited by Moderator - Brittany Potter on October 5, 2022)
Cassie G that makes sense. Maybe you can come back to it after the baby is born. You're almost there!  Exciting times!

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