Yoga To Soothe Morning Sickness

19 August, 2015

It is exactly two years since I was in the first trimester with my son Theo, yet the dazed and unending weeks that I suffered with morning sickness still haunt me.  It crept in around week five, steady whole body lethargy and deep gut nausea with occasional vomiting. Delightful.

I learnt quickly.  If I left a banana next to the bed to nibble on something at 5am, this quelled the tummy by 7am.  My partner told me it was like sleeping with a possum.

Since then, in my experience, there has been a lot about pregnancy, labour, parenting that will inevitably draw the wild animal out of you.

As a professional yoga teacher before I fell pregnant I was, 80% of the time, the epitome of clean eating and healthy habits.  Fresh homemade vege juices and smoothies, chilled chia seed porridge, salads and sushi. Avoid evil grains! Embrace beautiful greens!  I was motivated and felt good for it.

However, after week five, these habits were quickly replaced.  For the first time in more than five years I found myself lining up at Maccas at 8am, surrounded by pimply 20-year-old desk jockeys and tourists buying hash browns for breakfast.

It became our family ‘in joke’ that the baby must have been Irish in a past life the way I embraced the potato.  More than anything I wanted salt, table salt, spooned in at any opportunity.

How quickly the mighty fall.

Week after week I had to cancel nearly my entire schedule.  Weekends were spent curled up under a duvet watching TV waiting for my partner to cook another weird request.  Theo was our first pregnancy so we were keeping a tight lid on the secret until 12 weeks.  This was very confusing for some of my poor friends who later told me they thought I was suffering from some life threatening illness!

One of the hardest things for me to surrender was my exercise habits.  Up to learning of the pregnancy, I had practised a strong Ashtanga yoga sequence.  Flowing, jumping, hand standing, I was attached to my asana practice.  I also worked out at the gym and had been trialling some indoor rock climbing.  Of course as soon as week 5 rolled into town these activities were the last things I felt like doing.

Being a good Capricorn, I had to know why this was happening to me.

Researching morning sickness you quickly find that science can’t really offer an explanation as to what causes it.  The first of a thousand ‘unanswered’ quandaries the path of motherhood raises.  A visit to the GP or Midwife with your complaint will be basically useless, however in very serious cases they can prescribe you with medication, which at the time I chose not to pursue.

In Ayurvedic tradition (sister discipline to Yoga in India) morning sickness is a sign of the body cleansing toxins/impurities to prepare the body for growing a baby.  Which makes some sense to me, although I felt I was pretty clean on the inside to begin with – perhaps not as clean as I thought!

After meeting with several wellbeing/holistic professionals and experimenting with my own practice, here are my top six solutions for coping with and surviving gut-wrenching morning sickness.

1.  Rest.  If you’ve been a very active person like I am, slowing down for pregnancy can be hard.  The first thing I teach my pregnant clients is that pregnancy is a maintenance time for the body, so let go of ideas about retaining your pre-pregnancy regimes, it’s just not optimal.  Instead remember that your body is doing a huge job, creating a little human from two cells requires great womanpower.  While this construction is underway, your body will get the second best of everything: the first of many sacrifices that will be asked of you on this journey of motherhood.  Surrender to the body’s request to rest and enjoy putting your feet up while you still can!

2.  Embrace cravings.  I saw an excellent naturopath during my first trimester who was a seriously healthy, vegetarian, conscious eater.  When I confided to her about the hash browns her advice was “just eat what you like” ~ I still LOVE that so much.  For a small percentage of woman morning sickness will be with them their whole pregnancy, however for most of us it will end between week 9 – 12 and then you can get back to your greens.  Until that time, listen to your body, there is a reason it is craving particular foods.  I was thin before I fell pregnant so in a way my body was saying “quickly, we need energy now! I know, potato!”… the rest is history.

3.  Acupuncture.  Out of all of the strategies I tried, acupuncture was one of the most relieving.  Acupuncture is an Eastern healing tradition that involves an acupuncturist putting small needles in to various points on the body called meridians, this helps to create flow of energy where there previously was none (yoga!).  I saw an acupuncturist  once a week for six weeks and for at least 24 hours after each session I felt 90% back to myself.  This was money well spent.  I’m not a huge fan of needles, but considering the nausea, they were the lesser of two evils.

4.  Nadi Shodahan Pranyama.  Alternate nostril breath is a powerful pranyam breath I teach my pregnant Yoga Coaching clients.  It helps to balance both hemispheres of the brain and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, that part of the system that helps us to naturally rest and restore.  Start by placing the index finger of your right hand on your third eye centre.  Use the right thumb to block off your right nostril and take a count of four inhale breath through your left nostril, pause, then using your middle finger block off your left nostril and exhale count of four out the right nostril, pause, then inhale count of four through the right nostril, pause, block off the right nostril with your thumb and exhale through your left nostril.  Continue the practice for four minutes, twice daily.

5.  Meditation.  At ten weeks pregnant I took a week off and went to Byron Bay with my meditation teacher on retreat.  It was the best decision I ever made.  We were meditating for five to six hours every day and the stress I was able to release was incredible.  Within a day I felt back to my normal self.  Meditation is the best kind of yoga you can practise through pregnancy.  It helps to release stress stored in the body for years and quietens the minds anxiety about the challenges ahead.  Start by sitting comfortably in an upright position twice a day with eyes closed for 15 – 20 minutes.  Use a mantra to help you drop down in to relaxation, ‘This too shall pass’ or something more traditional like ‘So Hum’ or ‘Sat Nam’ and repeat this silently to yourself.  When thoughts arise don’t fight them, when you realise you’re thinking just quietly return to the mantra and continue the process.  It is effortless and simple, but extremely powerful.

6.  Be kind to yourself.  No doubt this might be one of the most challenging times of your life.  Rather than gang up with the inner critic in the mind and start piling on the anxiety, endeavour to always be kind to yourself.  Find and write down ten things to be grateful for everyday.  Even work to find things to be grateful for in the rubbish things like the nausea – i.e. greasy potato and salt!  It’s a tall order, but it can be done.

If you would like to have a regular meditation and yoga practice through your pregnancy but you’re not sure where to start, please contact me for a Yoga Coaching session.  These are available via Skype or in person in Northcote, Auckland. or call me to ask any question my article raised for you concerning your pregnancy 021 195 0220.

Namaste and love



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