Prenatal: Embrace the squat

Although he will never experience the journey of pregnancy, labor and delivery himself, my lovely co-worker Addison still agreed to model the squat.

13.5 months postpartum, and I fear I’m losing important bits of prenatal yoga knowledge! But squatting, my pregnant friends, is a MUST. I cannot stress how important squatting is, but I will certainly try in this post.

Considering that I’m Asian, the squat (aka malasana aka garland pose) is genetically programmed into my body. I have never needed to be “taught” how to squat. I just do it. I feel relaxed in it. I could hang out in a squat for long periods of time. This is exactly how it should be, especially since this is a position that is ever so helpful during labor.

The main benefit of squatting is to open the pelvis. In the latter weeks of pregnancy, squatting encourages the baby to “drop” into a favorable position further in the pelvis. As soon as your doctor or midwife says the baby is head down, squat away! **If the baby is breech, work on postures to encourage the baby to “flip” first before adding in deep squats.

When in labor, a more open pelvis allows gravity to do its work on bringing the baby further down the birth canal. This posture also gets the tailbone out of the way, unlike lying on your back or on your side.

Strength and flexibility in the legs. People with tight Achilles tendons will feel an intense stretch on the back of their heels. Practicing squatting will help to ease the strain over time and give you more stability in your feet. I also found it helped me with leg cramping the further I got in the third trimester.

Having the extra weight in your belly will challenge the leg muscles while squatting, so it makes for a bit of a leg workout as well.

Relieves lower back pain. The elongation of the spine in a squat takes out the crunchy sensation and pressure in the lower back. Coming down into the squat also lowers your center of gravity and asks less of your back muscles to remain balanced upright. Keeping the head up, you should feel a nice gentle stretch all along the spine.

Meditative. Finding comfort and relaxation in the squat is extremely meditative. Close your eyes if you’re stable and breathe into it. Stay there for 5, 10, 15 or so minutes if you can. Let gravity do the work while you clear your mind.

Please don’t mind the mess in my living room!

To achieve proper form… Legs wider than hips’ distance. Feet flat. Lower your bum toward the ground. Keep the head up and drishti focused forward (or eyes closed if you’re stable). Hands in prayer position, using elbows to push the inner thighs outward. Let gravity pull your bottom downward. Relax. Breathe.

If your heels don’t touch the ground, put a rolled up towel or blanket underneath them to stabilize your balance. If you’re having a difficult time lowering into the squat due to the weight of the belly, stand against a wall and use it to help you get low without falling. Then, place a block at your lower back for stability.

The best thing I got out of a prenatal yoga workshop was the idea that my body knows what to do, and I just need to get out of the way. Each contraction is the body working to move the baby closer to the exit. Don’t tense up and fight it. Keep the pelvis open and let muscles work naturally.

So if there ever was a yoga posture that was tailor made for preparing the body for labor and delivery, the squat is it. Embrace the squat!

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  1. Brett says

    Great post! The squat was enormously helpful in the weeks leading up to delivery, especially since baby was head-down. And your advice about not tensing and letting your muscles do the work during contractions is spot on. With some of my first contractions my reflex was to sit up and forward, lifting myself off my bottom and get the weight off my cervix. Even though I was relaxed, my doctor pointed out that that was a much less productive position versus letting gravity help move pressure downward. I adjusted to do this in a sitting position but a squat probably would have been even better.

    • Terri says

      thanks! i ended up laboring on hands and knees with the bed propped up (so kind of a squat with a bed to lean on), and things progressed a lot faster that way. of course, relaxing at each contraction is always easier said than done!

      i think next time, i might try using a squat bar that attaches to the birthing bed when pushing if i decide to have a hospital birth again.

  2. devon says

    This is great- although I have to admit all of my squatting and yoga didn’t help as much as I had hoped when I gave birth!! But I recovered so quickly– all thanks to yoga!

    • Terri says

      thanks, devon! ya know, everyone i talked to at yoga classes throughout pregnancy told me recovery would be a cinch. i think they were right because i felt pretty good just a couple days after birth. glad to hear you had a similar experience!

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