Cathrine Mathiesen

Sequence to prepare for birth

For the last couple of weeks leading up to birth, I have put together a small sequence of postures that, together with breathing exercises, meditation and plenty of rest, will help you prepare for the delivery. The series is inspired by what I felt the most comfortable at this stage which naturally coincides with the recommended position for birthing: upright, forwards and open. UFO. Always listen to your body and don't push yourself at this stage: it is all about feeling safe, relaxed, open and ready.

1. Seated side-stretch sequence
I start off in a supported cross-legged position. Sit on a couple of blocks or a bolster to raise the hips a bit off the floor. You could add more support - one cushion under each knee, to further protect the hips. On an inhale, stretch the left arm over your head and on an exhale move it to the right as you rest the other arm on the floor beside your right hip. Inhale stretch the left arm back over your head, exhale, place it on the floor beside your left hip and stretch the right arm over your head. Keep your buttocks firmly grounded. Moving with the breath, the arms flow gently up and from side to side, softening the neck and shoulders, massaging the spine, lengthening the side of the rib cage, creating space in the upper body, establishing the breath. Close your eyes and really feel the stretch from your hip bone to the tips of your fingers on the raised arm. Repeat as many times as you feel comfortable. I could easily do this for a couple of minutes.

2. Deep squat
Then, move into a deep squat - but only if you know your baby is positioned correctly - head engaged down and tummy to spine. Be careful if you know your baby is not - it might encourage a wrong position. If this feels too strong or you find it difficult to lower your heels to the floor, you might want to rest them on a bolster, perhaps even your buttocks. The point is to encourage flexibility, strength and opening in your pelvic region. The pelvic outlet opens and the perineum is able to stretch, making it also an ideal position to give birth. Also, squatting is deeply grounding, and allows the force of gravity to help the baby descend through the birth canal. You can take your hands to namaste in front of your chest, using the elbows to gently push against the knees, and rest your forehead on the tips of the index fingers, at the point of the third eye centre, where intuition, wisdom and psychic awareness lies.

3. Supported child’s pose
From the squat come forwards, place the hands on the mat in front of you, spread the knees as wide as your mat, take the big toes together and gently push back on the heals. Lengthen forwards and down on your mat, stretch the spine from the hips, move the shoulders away from the ears, make a pillow with the hands, rest your head on that pillow, relax the jaw, close your eyes. This position rests the heart, eases breathing by allowing it to flow freely into your groin, lower back, spine and abdomen, and helps treat high blood pressure. This pose can also assist you during labour, it can help you both breathe through contractions and rest between them. Move effortlessly a couple of times between the squat and child’s pose.

4. Rotating hip/pelvis opener from hands and knees
Then come up to hands and knees. Take the right leg out to the side and place it in front of you - a bit wider than the mat and a bit higher than the right hand, which is firmly placed underneath the right shoulder. You should feel a deep opening and a good stretch in the pelvis. As in all hip/pelvic openers, be vary of any pain or discomfort and refrain from the practice if you suffer from SPD. Start making circular movements with your hips in this position. Experiment with making the circles bigger, smaller, slower, more dynamic. Try making a figure of eight. Keep your chest lifted, your shoulders and face relaxed. Let go of the control of the movements - let your baby guide you and your body move intuitively. Remember to change direction every once in a while.

5. Warrior pose
As a last physical effort before breathing, meditation and rest, I have included a classical standing posture in this little series - Virabhadrasana 2. Named after a warrior, this is a powerful, balancing and strengthening pose, for both body and mind. To come into it, spread the legs wide on the mat, turn the right foot 90 degrees and the left foot 45, bend the right knee and sink down towards the mat, stretch the arms out to the sides, from the shoulder blades to the finger tips and turn the head to look over the right hand. Keep the spine straight, the torso upright and centered, the shoulders moving away from the ears, face relaxed and gaze soft. Keep pressing the outer edge of the left (extended back) foot down into your mat. In addition to building core strength, which we will need during the physical marathon that is labour, and invigorating the pelvic region, Warrior 2 also brings a sense of lightness into your belly, massages internal organs and specifically strengthens your spine. I also find it brings peace and focus to the mind. Repeat on other side, and try sinking deeper into the pose for each exhalation. Don’t hold for more than five breaths though, and to come up, press the feet into the mat and away from each other.

And then… Savasana.

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