Yoga/Relaxation Exercises

When I was pregnant the first time, I read every book from the library that I could (as long as they weren’t too fear-mongering and anti-home/natural-birth). One of the books I read had some yoga/relaxation exercises in them. I’m not sure which book it was, but I think it may have been Choosing Waterbirth. [I remember that it was written by Aviva Jill Romm, and was about water birth… but none of the books by Romm sounded right, so I think I misremembered.🙂 This one sounds right, and it is in my old library.] Anyway, when I had the book, I wrote down the yoga/relaxation exercises and kept a copy of it in my computer. It was pretty neat, but I never liked that I had to watch the clock to know how long I had held a position, or keep count to know how many times I had done a particular move. One of the things I did recently, was to make an audio file of the exercises, so I could put it on an mp3 player, and just do the exercises with voice guidance, and not worry about counting or timing anything. [See below.]

For the past five years, I have basically not even looked at this — perhaps I dragged it out a few times when I was pregnant the second time, but I don’t remember doing it. This time, however, I started looking through my “birth and baby” files, and came across it. Even before I knew for sure I was pregnant, I thought I’d start doing these exercises, because I remembered it as being relaxing, and making me feel good and refreshed. And perhaps it helped me have an shorter labor the first time.

After I found out I was pregnant, I did the relaxation exercises for a few days, and then one day I didn’t do them. The next day was the first day I started spotting. Then the next few days I did the exercises, and had no spotting. Then again, for whatever reason, I didn’t do the exercises, and that night I bled red. As part of “taking it easy,” I didn’t do the relaxation exercises or anything else (“just in case” somehow squatting or whatever had been bad) — even though I didn’t think it was due to that, I tried to eliminate anything I thought might possibly have contributed; and these exercises were one thing I knew I had not done in my early pregnancy, even though I did them in later pregnancy. And each night I bled (although not much). Always in the back of my mind, though, was the realization that, rather than bleeding when I did the exercises, I only bled when I did not do the exercises.

Call it a coincidence. Call it superstition. But I started doing the exercises again, and haven’t had any spotting much less any bleeding since. You’d better believe I’m going to do these exercises every day. [I know. I know that doesn’t have anything to do with it! I know that! But I’m still going to do them… just in case.]

Below is the link so you can listen to it (and I think you can also download it to your computer, if you want to put it on your mp3 player or burn it to a CD or something). I believe that these moves are fairly mild and basic, but there are some things to keep in mind:

  • during pregnancy, your body makes relaxin, which helps your pelvis to loosen and move for birth, but also can make it easier for you to overstretch and overextend your body during stretching exercises, so please do not hurt yourself!
  • some of these exercises talk about “walking your torso down to the floor” while you stretch your legs — do this in moderation, taking into account your current level of flexibility and the size of your belly (if pregnant) — 35 weeks is not the perfect time to begin working on the splits — you will hurt yourself
  • late in pregnancy is also not the time to begin squatting for the first time in 20 years! You may wish to skip the squatting entirely, or at least support yourself with your hands, or only do a partial squat.
  • Squatting is beneficial, but if you’re not used to it, you are more likely to hurt yourself by overdoing it. Go slow, and work up to it.
  • Some of the moves are supposed to be held for 20, 40, or 60 seconds — if this is too much, feel free to come out of the move early — this is not some sort of competition, and you won’t get any points for hurting yourself by overstretching!
  • if the deep breathing causes you to feel lightheaded, stop
  • and, of course, consult your midwife, doctor, or other health professional before beginning this or any other exercise🙂

Now, without further ado, here is the 30 minute relaxation exercise mp3:

[Update — I did end up miscarrying soon after writing this.]

11 Responses

  1. Kathy, I feel comfortable mentioning this because of previous posts by you and your forwardness about some of your beliefs. I’m a Biblical Christian and, after extensive research including testimonies from ex-hindu brahmins, I have refused several doctor’s recomendations to practice yoga. Yoga means ‘the little death’ and is a religious practice meant to teach you to ‘die’ to yourself (partically by ignoring your bodies needs about how long to hold a pose, breath etc) and embrace the Hindu concept of enlightenment and oneness with their gods. All yoga positions are believed to have been handed down to men directly by the gods, and practicing Hindus believe it is impossible to separate yoga from their religion. I know I have seen posts from you where you have proclaimed a belief in the Bible and God and I would caution you, as a fellow Christian, to do more research into yoga, specifically its origins and religious connections. Maybe I suggest the books The Seduction of Christianity (which includes to my memory a very good segment on yoga), and Death of a Guru (which is the autobiography of a man saved out of the brahmin class of hinduism). As far as online goes, checking out http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/ or http://www.thebereancall.org/ might be helpful, as I believe they have both done articles on yoga in the past that should be findable through their search engines. I do not mean to offend or push, you are my favorite blog author, but I come across so many Christians who have never thought or never looked into yoga who get caught up in it, and unwittingly get caught up in other eastern mysticisms as well. I will understand if you delete this reply, but I do hope you will take what I have to say as a serious concern from a sister in Christ (unless I have misread several posts/replies by you). Thank you.

    • I had not heard that, and will look into it. Thank you.

    • I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had a chance to read those links, but I wanted to respond a bit more in depth because I’ve thought about what you’ve said, and what my impression of yoga is.

      When I was a kid, I remember “yoga” being sitting in a weird cross-legged position with your heels on your thighs, saying “ommmm,” and that it was some Far-East religious thing, and that was as far as I knew. I didn’t know that there were all sorts of poses, that it had to do with holding your breath, or anything like that. Throughout my teenage years and beyond, I’ve done several workout videos of various types (aerobics, walking, abs, leg-toning, etc.), and many of them have incorporated positions I would later see as yoga positions or moves. I’m not sure if the workout people intentionally got yoga positions, or if they just happened to use similar ones.

      For instance, the “goddess” position in the workout above is basically the same as “the plié position” (a ballet move) from the leg-toning workout I have which kills my legs with all the squats it tells us to do. The “half spinal twist” is used before and after the abs workout to help warm up or cool down the abdominal muscles. Most of the videos have synchronized breathing at least for part of it, as you warm up and/or cool down.

      When I’ve done these yoga/relaxation moves up to this point, it was in complete innocence — I knew it was based on some Eastern something-or-other, but knew nothing more than that. I never got into any religious, spiritual, enlightenment, idolatrous anything. Perhaps after reading the links, I won’t be able to say that — and that is part of the reason why I wanted to respond more in-depth before reading anything that would challenge on it — so I could say this stuff with a clear conscience.

      My husband got the P90X workout series, and one of the workouts is a 90 minute yoga workout. I was never able to do more than about 30 minutes of it, before my hands and wrists just gave out, from all the push-up type hands-and-feet exercises in it. But what I did was very challenging, and helped me in my flexibility — which I already had a good bit of. To me, doing these exercises was no different from how I became able to do the splits. When I was about 16, I decided to do the splits, but of course, it took some time. Every night, I would stretch out as far as I could, and hold it for several seconds. It was uncomfortable, but I kept on, and every night was able to go a little bit further, and a little bit further, until finally I could do the full splits. The yoga moves I’ve done have been basically the same — just stretching exercises designed to challenge me physically until I could do what I previously could not.

      To me, there was nothing religious about it. As such, I can say at this moment, that it seems that there would be Christian liberty in this activity, since I do not see an evil in stretching and relaxing — just as in Romans, Paul said that there was nothing inherently evil in eating meat that happened to have been sacrificed to idols. The idols were nothing — truly nothing — so Christians who were grounded in God and Christianity were not worshiping idols by eating that meat; although the idolatrous Romans *were* worshiping idols through eating the meat. Same action; different hearts, different minds, and different outcome. I’m reminded of a verse in either Psalms or Proverbs that says, “The plowing of the wicked is sin”; and of the numerous times in both the Old and the New Testament when God basically said He was sick of the Jewish sacrifices, because of the vain and empty way they were made — not from the heart. God said that even the sacrifices that He ordained, that were done precisely in the outward manner He had prescribed, were not acceptable, and were even abominations (I think there’s a verse that says something like, “he that offers a lamb/goat/calf as if he offered swine’s blood”?), because of the rotten and false attitudes and pretenses that the sacrifices were being offered with. In the New Testament, Jesus excoriates the Pharisees for paying “tithes of anise, mint, and cumin, but omitting the weightier matters of the law…” So, it seems that the heart is more to be judged than merely the outward action — for good or for bad — and I can say that my heart is pure in this matter.

      I will read what you’ve linked to, and I may change my current attitude, but I don’t want you to worry that I’m going off the deep end.🙂

      I had not heard about “yoga” meaning “a little death,” and it is in one way disturbing to me; and yet in another way is fascinating to see how Satan counterfeits true religion to fashion into a false religion. “Dying to self” is not inherently bad — in fact, it is to be a constant with the Christian — Paul said, “I die daily”; and “I buffet my body to bring it into subjection” — literally, “I beat myself black and blue,” if I remember correctly; and we are to “take up our cross” [an instrument of death] and follow Christ, etc. But that is dying to self in order to become more like Christ, not to become one with false gods. I won’t go into other counterfeits that I see in the world; but will just suffice to say that, in general, whatever God has ordained, set up, established, loves, promotes, etc., Satan will try to knock down and do away with, one way or the other — sometimes by a frontal assault, and other times by a sideways measure.

      At this moment, I can still separate yoga exercises from religion, because they’re nothing more to me than deep breathing and stretches; but I can see that to other people, who do not have a firm foundation on the one true God, it can be a religious experience, and they can move from simple exercises into false religion.

      Again, thank you for your concern — “faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Not that your words wounded me — but even if they had, you would be justified in saying them; I would be a fool to ignore well-meaning advice from a fellow Christian.)

      • Kathy,
        Thank you so much for your full reply! I was hesitant to post because I didn’t want to come off as a judgemental ‘you can’t do that AND be a Christian!’ type. I fully agree with what you said in referrence to the eating meat (my husband and I quote it frequently to more ‘conservative’ relatives). My concern was, as I mentioned, I’ve see so many Christians who have fallen into eastern mysticism through the gateway of yoga because they weren’t aware it was religiously based. I think if you are well informed, aware of whats going on, and choosing between you and God to take what you can from a purely physical standpoint and reject the spiritual (which in some ways you are automatically even without knowing, like you said if you don’t feel you can hold a pose/breath for as long as they recommend you don’t) then doing yoga poses (I won’t actually say ‘doing yoga’ since yoga is a hindu spiritual act, but, like you mentioned with the ballet pose, some of the poses do serve legitimate physical purposes) is between you and God and not an automatic sin or an automatic road to something else. Personally, I could never do yoga because I have 1) heard too many stories from ex yogis and 2) have done too much study into hinduism to ever be able to distance the physical from the spiritual in my mind. But my warning is more to know exactly WHAT you are getting into, not that you CANT get into it. (man, I really wish you could italics in these posts…caps just doesn’t get the same feeling across!) Sometimes being a student of apologetics really does mean you end up with so much information on a subject that you do end up on the extreme conservative side of an issue. You seem, from your reply, that you have a wonderful foundation, and a firm foundation in Christ and God’s word is always the best defense again the snars of the Enemy. And yes, he is insidious, twisting and turing bits of truth into falsehood to decieve those who aren’t fully protected by God’s wisdom. Most of the issue, to me at least, with yoga isn’t the moves (although there is some of that since according to hindu beliefs they were handed down to man by the gods) but is yoga’s focus on ‘centering’ finding *to paraphrase one instructor I’ve heard* ‘the quiet within oneself that resonates with the universe, clearing your mind of all thoughts and focusing on the quiet center that connects us to the calm flow of the universe.’ that you are supposed to do while doing the poses/breathing. Christian’s are called to ‘meditate upon the Lord day and night’ but the Christian (and western in general) meaning of meditate is to ‘focus on, consider, think about deeply, contemplate’ eastern meditation is very un-Christian as it means for us to put aside our thoughts, focus on some abstract ‘oneness’, ‘nothingness’, or to simply ‘be open’. Our brains are like machines, they need our mind to operate them! If we intentionally turn our minds ‘off’, then we leave our ‘machine’ open for other operators! Of course “greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world” so I would never suggest a true Christian could be truly possessed, but that doesn’t mean some bored demon isn’t going to take a Christian ignoring their God-given common sense to whisper something that might lead them astray. I’ve heard a lot of Christians say they follow some pseudochristian belief because they were ‘led to it’ or ‘felt it was right’ during eastern mediation (some specifically led to eastern mediation because the meditive part of yoga ‘felt so right’). So I would just encourage you to keep your guard up and learn about the dangers so you can avoid them. And, if you do start to feel uncomfortable with parts of yoga you were previously comfortable with, remember that all the health benefits of yoga can be found elsewhere (think stretches for athelets or physical therapy), the only thing ‘unique’ to yoga is, ultimately, that which comes from its Hindu religious aspects!

  2. Kathy – glad to hear you and baby are doing well so far! Praying for you both!!

  3. Hi Jessica
    II commend you on doing your research and being guided by your beliefs.
    There is a program call Praise Moves that incorprate the many physical benefits ( deep breathing, relaxation, gentle streatchs, tuning into your body) within the framework of Christianity.
    Many Blessing
    Kathy~ Congrats on another baby!

  4. I come from a different religious background, so maybe I shouldn’t be chiming in, but yoga doesn’t mean “little death”–it means “union” (as in union between yourself and the Divine–no separation, God/you are one). The French word for “orgasm”means “little death”–I wonder if something here has gotten confused along the way?!

    I do not think of yoga as a religious practice–in fact, a lot of my yoga books specifically say (I’m paraphrasing) “yoga is not a religion and anyone can practice it regardless.” I incorporate yoga into all of my birth classes and find it a valuable addition. I think the overall Western adaptation of yoga is basically just a stretching and relaxation practice (possibly with a meditation and/or centering component also). Perhaps simply calling it “stretching and relaxation” would reduce any incompatibility with religious beliefs, since your intent has nothing to do with religion/spirituality.

    • had to comment specifically on “a lot of my yoga books specifically say ..yoga is not a religion and anyone can practice it regardless”. I have heard this from Americanized hindus as well. I have also heard, however, the leaders of several large yoga movements in the US telling their Indian Hindu followers (or simply stating it in their homeland) and Hindu Gurus in general state that teaching people the ‘physical’ aspects of yoga or telling them it isn’t religious is just a good way to ‘desensitize’ or ‘lure’ westerners into Hindu beliefs (or Budist). I always make it a point to listen to what people say to their longterm followers, not their new recruits! (this is just as important for popular pastors that claim Christian beliefs as it is for leaders of other religions, people that claim to be from/in/of all religions can suffer from hypocrisy)

  5. Oops–wanted to point out that I do understand that “union” and “we are all God” types of beliefs are not really considered compatible to many Christians.

    • I am quoting a brahmin in the definition, and admit it may be a specific type of yoga (raja, karma, jnana etc) that carries the separate definition of ‘the little death’ it might also be an aspect to yoga that carries that definition (in Hinduism yoga can also be used to refer to one of the six schools of orthodox philosophy in Hinduism, I know Brahmin gurus strive to ‘die to themselves’ and focus entirely upon reaching oneness with their gods, in the book Death of a Guru he recounts how his father, a respected guru, sat in a meditative state and was completely non responsive, leaving his mother to bath him, feed him, etc, while his father did not look at, speak to, or move for years and he was considered very holy for it). I know a general definition for the sanskrit word ‘yoga’ is ‘to unite’ (also includes ‘to control’ or ‘to yoke’), but since the Hinud religion/language uses ‘yoga’ to refer to so many different things, specific definitions given the circumstance vary greatly, and include ‘the little death’. (btw, I had no idea that the french word for orgasm means ‘little death’ I find that very interesting)

      • Yes, the practice of “dying to oneself” can be a part of some yoga practices, but it is misleading to say that that is what the word itself means. And, you’re right, there are lots of types of yoga. The yoga I practice (and the books I have) is a very Western “skew” of yoga and this is okay with me. I am not interested in going any further than the physical and relaxation benefits–I tried once upon a time to read Light on Yoga, which is really by a yoga “guru” and I couldn’t stand it and only got through about five pages–and have learned what I use from videos and from books.

        There are two French words for orgasm and one of them is “la petite mort,” which literally translated means “the little death” (and I guess fits with the whole “union” concept too, now that I think about it).

        I *really* don’t belong in this conversation because I’m not Christian, so worries about whether or not yoga can be part of a Christian’s life don’t apply to me and are really out of my depth in terms of exploring–our worldviews are quite different. I just wanted to comment on the “little death” thing and then accidentally went further!

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