Mind over body at all times

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class or maybe an enduring spinning class, you’ve probably heard the instructor say more than once, “mind over body” or “the body does what the mind wants”. These all-too-common phrases have a whole new meaning for pregnancy, specifically during labor. Making your relaxation and wellbeing a priority is very important since it can protect you and your baby from experiencing too much stress.

One isn’t born knowing these techniques, and just as everything in life, practice makes perfection. If you want to reap the rewards during labor, make time each day for learning how to reach a relaxed state. According to a study made by the San Jose State University (2008), pregnant women who applied mind-body techniques perceived less stress and anxiety during their pregnancy, had a shorter labor and their babies had a higher birthweight compared to the control group.

There’s one particular exercise that’s fairly easy to do and you’ll feel completely different afterwards, it’s called the body-scan and is commonly used as a mindfulness technique. In order to get the most benefits, it’s recommended you dedicate 40 to 50 minutes on your body-scan but whatever time you can give yourself to disconnect will be great. The body-scan consists in consciously driving your attention throughout your body, becoming aware of any and all sensations you may feel in different body parts. What’s particularly important about this exercise is to not judge your body, pain or discomfort, and simply become aware of it and release all stress, tension or illness that’s built up.

There’s tons of recordings online that slowly guide you through your body. In case you want to skip a body-scan recording or adjust the technique to your specific time-frame, The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program enlists the following steps for an easy-to-do practice anywhere and anytime:

1. Lie on some cushions with your legs spread out in front of you and your arms to the side, palms up. Cover yourself with a blanket if you tend to get cold so you will not get distracted throughout the body scan. Start by lying there and notice what it feels like to be connected to the ground, feel the weight of your entire body resting and identify the pressure points where your body touches the floor. (If you’re in your second or third trimester, you can do the body-scan sitting down.)
2. Start with your left toes. Don’t visualize them, just check in and see how they feel. Are they cold? Are they holding tension? Focus on your exhalations, direct your deep breaths to your toes. Now bring your awareness to your heel, focusing your breath to your left heel. You decide how much time or number of breaths you want to dedicate to each body part.
3. Move upward to your arch, ankle, calf, knee, thigh and then duplicate the process with your right leg, starting with your right toes.
4. Once you have scanned your legs, concentrate your awareness and breathing on your pelvis, traveling to your lower back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck and head.
5. Once you have scanned the individual body parts, unite them, focusing on how the fingers connect to the hands, which connect to the arms and so on. Be aware of your sensations — how does the blanket feel or the chill of the air on your skin.

As you practice more and more, it should become easier to keep your focus and attention on your body. If you find that your mind is constantly wandering, simply become aware of that and bring it back concentrating on your breathing. No harm, no foul. Have fun exploring this whole new side of your body!

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