10 of my Favorite Prenatal Yoga Poses

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I’ve loved yoga since the day I discovered it. I love the way I feel when do it, and especially the way I feel afterwards. A good yoga practice makes me feel open, spacious, bouncy, flexible, strong, pain-free (or at least in much less pain), and calm. And at no time has yoga more been my friend than during pregnancy.

Yoga has helped my energy, strength and flexibility so much. When you can no longer do basic things (like pick things up or put on shoes) without modifying how you do them, keeping up a yoga practice gives your body a bank account of other default postures to draw from, without which I’d have had to ask for a lot more help.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a pro, but these poses have helped me immensely. I also had a yoga practice before pregnancy. Not all poses would be appropriate for all pregnancies.

All postures help with 3 really important things:

  • Daily energy, strength and flexibility
  • Baby positioning
  • Strenghthens and stretches muscles used during labor (that you might not typically use)

Here are some of my favorite poses.

Warrior II

A classic and basic. Warrior II. It begins to warm up your hip flexors for the other poses. My warrior II is better now than it was before pregnancy.

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Standing Half Moon

Standing half moon for picking things up. I really do pick things up this way.

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Standing Figure 4 or Standing Pigeon

A standing figure 4 for putting my socks on. As long as I practice this daily, I can put my own socks on. 🙂

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Yogi Squat

Alternate position for picking things up is yogi squat. (Really helps encourage the baby into the right position, too).

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And with a side stretch:

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Low Lunge Variation

And one of my favorites for various purposes, opening up the low back, the psoas muscle (great for lowering risk of emergency C-section I hear), and the hips – the low lunge variation. Start this one on your hands instead of elbows. Work gently into your elbows over time.

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Horse, plie, or goddess squat, whatever you want to call it.

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With a side stretch variation. Side stretches feel so good during pregnancy.

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3 legged downward dog. 

This one will fire up your muscles and strengthen your core.

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3 legged Down Dog with Open Hip

This next one is one of my absolute favorites, especially when you’re experiencing that sore, tight band of muscles around your low back that are exhausted from holding up your baby. This yoga pose stretches all the way from your shoulder to your hip. You’ll want to start in down dog, transition to one legged dog, and lastly of all bend your knee and open your hip. In pregnancy, you can open up your side as much as you want to feel that therapeutic stretch all the way up your back (before prenatal yoga, instructors will usually tell you to square your shoulders because they are focusing on different muscles).

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Just doing the poses for this photo shoot got my heart rate up and I worked up quite a sweat, even though it was a short and sweet practice.

Cooling down, focusing, prayer, feeling gratefulness for having made it to 39 weeks, for my and my baby’s health.

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Why Hot Yoga – how Bikram Yoga is Changing my Life

I will never forget the sixth day of my 30 day Bikram yoga challenge. I felt a release in my back. A pain that I did not even know it was possible to exist without evaporated. I’ve had neck pain for a decade, and I am a little young for that.

The emotional release that came along with this physical relief of pain, tightness and tension was dramatic. I called my husband laughing and crying. I floated, not walked. I played the violin. “It sounds effortless, happy, fluid.” Nate reported. I cried tears of happiness while I played. I expressed myself, something I’ve struggled to do with the violin for years.

I did doubles sometimes (two 90 minute classes in one day) – the best of all. The second class was always euphoric. I ate and slept less those days. I didn’t need much of either. I drank a lot of coconut water though. Unwanted flab melted way, and so did the pain of painful memories, tension and false expectations of myself. While friends thought I lost weight, I actually gained through muscle.

On the last day of 30 my day challenge, I mourned. I didn’t want life to change.

I floundered for a few weeks after that. How often is one allowed to go to Bikram yoga? Isn’t that kind of time commitment irresponsible? Twice should be good for a responsible adult, right? I tried other yoga forms at home in the meantime. All good, but none so therapeutic. Pain crept back into my muscles, joints, tendons, mind. My work hours, the ones for the very job I said I had to do less yoga for, receded like a puddle on a sunny day. Last week I petered out at 20 hours, and pain plagued 10 of those hours. My going to yoga guilt was not working, for myself or anyone else in my life.

I don’t care how much responsibility I have, I said. I’m going to yoga. Today I finished my fourth class this week. I still have time for a fifth. I worked 38 hours this week at my desk, coding and designing, each day getting better, more creative, more productive. Happier. I hadn’t played the violin in a week, knowing how the old frustration might be there. It wasn’t today. The beauty I found in it on the sixth day of my Bikram yoga challenge was back.

I have never been to another hot yoga class. Chances are they would vary in effectiveness by how much they are like or unlike Bikram yoga. But since heat is a necessary part of therapy, I’m not parting with it, or a grueling 20 some postures, anytime soon.

I have found the key to everything else I love.

10 Things Bikram Yoga is doing for me

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I’m a newbie when it comes to bikram. However I can already see some major benefits of those odd form of exercise and meditation.

But back up a bit. Before bikram yoga, I found myself in physical therapy for the 3rd time in 3 years. This third time was like an sign to me – I had to find a permanent maintenance solution. Every time something I put in too many hours at work I ended up injuring my neck again and ending up in physical therapy. Coupled with the fact that I was lifting kettle bells to build core strength, I strained my neck and shoulder muscles by doing work they were not equipped to handle.

Physical therapy is an amazing gift. I always found it nothing short of a miracle that they knew what to do to lift months of stress and strain and injury from my muscles. Physical therapy also has a way of retraining your mind. By forcing my muscles to relax and let go (instead of allowing them to keep tensing up every time I felt stress), my mind had to let go of the stress as well because it had no where to send it.

But as soon as the program was over, I slowly returned to my old muscle habits.

I questioned out my physical therapist almost every time I was there about what I could do to continue the benefits of physical therapy but didn’t really get a great answer. You were supposed to get better, finish the program, and stay better by strength training.

But strength training was not enough. Either that or I never went to physical therapy long enough. I tried to tell my therapists that heat, stimulation, manipulation and stretching were all necessary precursors to strength training, as it multiplied the benefits of the strength training.

So I made a mental list of physical therapy elements which included 5 things: heat, stimulation, manipulation, stretching and strength training. I needed to find a way to incorporate these things into my daily life.

I started doing yoga again, berrating myself for neglecting this awesome tool of fitness and relaxation. Seriously, if you think yoga is just some kind of meditation or pansy workout, you have no idea what you’re in for. You have no clue. Yoga is the most amazing workout I’ve ever had, and that includes Biggest Loser Boot camp type workout videos (I’ve never been personally trained by Biggest Loser Trainer – I’m sure that’s an entirely different matter).

A friend invited me to Bikram Yoga Camp Hill one day and I went, always eager to try new forms of yoga. During the 90 minute class in a room of 105 degrees with 26 intense poses, I was dizzy and nauseated. I wasn’t sure if everyone else felt that way but even the deep breathing at the beginning made the room spin. (In the weeks since, I’ve figured out that the combination of my hypoglycemia and high metabolism was not a good combination with such a comprehensive workout. I fuel up with a protein drink and a banana before I go, and I’m experimenting with what to drink during the workout to give me strength).

I got home around 7:30, fell asleep on the couch, and woke up only to take a quick shower and go to bed.

I have hypoglycemia, so the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is eat or I feel nauseated and/or weak within 5-10 minutes. The next morning though, I woke up feeling very rested and totally forgot about eating breakfast. It was a beautiful Saturday and I had a few plans to enjoy the weekend but it was a relaxed day. I was doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, etc when I realized two hours had passed and I had forgotten about breakfast. This was definitely a new thing for me.

So i continued to go to Bikram Yoga and then got a month unlimited package as a Christmas gift from my husband, who knew I loved it and who also loved the fact that it seemed to make me feel better.

The first week I did two classes. This week was my second week of completing 3 classes in one week. That’s not a lot, but I can totally see the difference already in muscle tone.

It was after one of my classes last week that I was thinking about physical therapy again and my long list of possible things to try (massage therapy, muscle training, getting an electric stimulation machine), to try to garner my “5 elements of physical therapy” as a life long habit.

Then I realized I had all 5 in one single activity: bikram yoga.

Heat. Heck, yeah.

Stimulation. The increased blood flow and heat are a good combination.

Manipulation.  Yoga is the only way I know of that can safely manipulate your own spine. I’ve benefited from it for years. When I keep it up, my neck feels almost 100% great – when I forget, I end up in physical therapy.

Stretching. A given.

Strength training. For sure.

Prior to bikram I had been setting up expensive appointments for massage therapy, talking about buying a stimulation machine, wondering what workout to do on a regular basis, and just feeling very overwhelmed and knowing I could not afford it all. Getting all of these benefits in one activity? Oh yeah.

I am new to bikram yoga but the benefits I’ve seen after only a couple of weeks are enough to make me want to continue 3, 4 or 5 times a week. I’ll stick to 3 for now and see if I can master that in my schedule but going for a 30 day challenge? Maybe so!

Yoga is the only workout I know of that builds your muscles up without also tearing them down at the same time. I can build strength like my therapist told me to without straining or injuring my neck. I am stretching my muscles and warming them up at the same time, and the results are magical.

So here are 10 things Bikram Yoga is doing for me:

1. Balancing my blood sugar.

2. Building muscle tone, including core and ab strength

3. Slowly increasing my mental control and patience – this part will be a long battle but I’m seeing some results

4. Empowering me with physical strength

5. Increasing my flexibility – never thought this was important until I experienced using muscles in my body I didn’t know I had.

6. Flushing out toxins – something we all need. This affects weight, blood sugar, and so many other health issues

7. Helping me avoid bugs. Not spiders and creepy crawlers, but sickness. Although that would be nice, too.

8. Providing ongoing physical therapy for my neck

9. Strengthening my lungs

10. Strengthening my cardiovascular system

“Give me 30 days, and I’ll change your body. Give me 60 days, and I”ll change your life.” Bikram Choudhury

Yoga, Kombucha and Paying off School Loans

Dear faithful readers,

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching about my blog this turn of the year. 2014 is an important and exciting year to me for many reasons and I’ve had to answer some important questions, some of them regarding this blog. I at one point considered whether or not I could keep blogging for wear your vitamins. Not because I don’t love writing but because I do. Is this the blog I want to devote my time to? Is this blogged trapped in its own identity? Do I want to keep writing about what this blog’s scope is all about, and can this blog be what I envision and need as a blogging platform?

The answer is: I am going to keep growing Wear Your Vitamins but with some changes.

For a long time I’ve wanted more of a lifestyle blog. Nate and I enjoy so many things we’d like to share with other people, and there are so many things I want to write about that are not just another makeup tutorial (which was never the purpose of this blog anyway). Sharing my life with others is the purpose of this blog – including issues related to health and beauty – subjects of great importance with me. In the next few months, look forward to reading about kombucha tea, yoga, makeup, skincare, relationship issues, friendship, building a life, etc. Because first and foremost this is a woman’s blog, but one from my very own unique perspective. Its my way of learning and growing and living and keeping alive passions which are very important to me. Maybe there’ll even be a bit about my music and writing, but those should be more referential in nature. (For example, as a result of all my introspection and prayer, I started another fiction blog called http://virtuallymarisa.com, where I share the adventures of absent-minded dreamer Marisa Maven, who is more of a misfit than a maven, and has big dreams to change the world. If only she could master school, work and family).

One of my favorite blogs is http://www.thesmallthingsblog.com. There is something about this faith-filled, beauty-filled, fun-filled blog that connects with my values and personality. I believe that beauty is deeply important to women, but I’ve always wanted to think of a way to express that love for beauty in an inside-out kind of way. Taking care of our souls and spirits is the most important thing we can do. But eating right and finding mind and body restoring exercise are also God-honoring ways to take care of our bodies. I have never felt so thankful for the gift of life than as I’ve learned to get in touch with my body and live in the way our bodies were naturally intended to move, live and eat. Skincare is another way we can take care of ourselves, but this starts from the inside out as well. And cosmetics? An artform for me.

I have a confession to make – I’ve been holding this blog, even though it’s precious to me, at arm’s length. Somehow I feel that since I’m in this really happy place in my life where my husband and I just started a business together and we’re haven’t started a family yet that I just have it too good to blog about my life. But I’ve worked really hard to get to this point and to be honest, my story has not been an easy one. To reach an oasis of peace where I don’t feel torn apart by 30 different demands is amazing. I have struggled with feeling, well, guilty somehow. Knowing that children will change everything keeps me from enjoying some of the things I’m at liberty to enjoy at this time.

But all that is going to change. Reading Kate’s story about her first weeks and months after baby really helped me realize that I’m always going to be who I am even when I’m a Mom. I’ll love to design, write stories, build websites and write for my blog. I’ll just have to do these things in a different way. It was so fun to see her sneaking on nail polish as her baby sleeps or calling him a good shopping buddy!

Here are some things about my journey in life that you’ll likely be hearing more about: Nate and I have been on a debt repayment journey for 3 and a half years. We started at something akin to a small mortgage ($120,000), and this was just student loans, consumer debt and stupid tax. We are now at $41,000 and really hope and believe that 2014 is our year to get it cleaned up and say good-bye to debt forever. We have made a lot of sacrifices and worked really hard to get here, but we’ve also been incredibly blessed.

We’ve put so much on hold to get out of debt. Vacations, travelling, buying certain things, giving the way we want to (everybody should give no matter where they are, and we do, but not like we’re going to some day), even starting a family. Once we get out of debt, we plan to take some time to really celebrate and enjoy some of the things we haven’t done in almost four years and then we want to start a family (adopt? definitely).

So I want to share this last part of the getting out of debt journey with you, and all that lies after that.  Wife, skincare fanatic, yoga and kombucha addict with a passion for getting out of debt and inspiring others to do the same, you’ll find it all here.

Welcome to 2014.

Moments from 2013:

This silly dog:

this silly dog

cutest bernese mountain dog ever 

Working from the mall:

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Christmas at Mom and Dad’s

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Pretty pleased with their presents:

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Great memories from our very rare weekend getaways to Reston:

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His handsome face:

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Summer:

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Walks along the river on Front Street in this beautiful weather:

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With this crazy guy:

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Weather that makes you want to do yoga:

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My skater’s pose has improved some since this:

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Cool buildings on Front St:

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Nate’s attempt at yoga:

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The river:

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More yoga, or did someone just knock me over:

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Not sure what this is but it represents us spending time together, which I love:

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We discovered Walden, a village inside a town, another reason to want to get out of debt:

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Some other holiday at Mom and Dad’s?

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Cracker Barrel mornings:

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I can’t deny it: I miss my hair. Man I miss my hair, even if it wasn’t my “natural” hair. Big deal.

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Hiking in the woods with Holly:

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Going from video chats with Nate at our separate jobs:

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To getting to work with him on our new business, Arete Imagine. (yes that’s always the way we look working together, right?):

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Visits from terrific friends:

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Exercising with Holly:

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Playing with our (then) 2 dogs:

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Working from my home office:

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Are you going to take a picture of me right now?

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Stop and smell the roses:

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Cute smart nephews:

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Not sure what’s going on here. Apparently I’m posing with Bilbo and some elf. Some unwilling sister and brother-in-law are also part of the picture (I think we were all coerced).

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Enjoying one of Nate’s breakfasts:

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Nate was so excited about windows 8 he made this cake:

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So excited to spend another year with you baby.

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