Prenatal Calf Cramps

by Jacqui Stix

One of the most common complaints during our weekly “check in” session before prenatal yoga class is calf cramps, especially occurring during the night. (Like sleeping isn’t hard enough, now we add a calf cramp in ?!?)

 

There are a lot of ideas on what can cause leg cramps, but they have yet to figure out the exact reason. It can come from:

  • Pregnancy weight creating poor blood circulation
  • Pressures on the nerves in the spine
  • A shortage of calcium, magnesium and/or potassium in our diet
  • An injury (one we may have forgotten about)
  • A muscle strain
  • Remaining in one position for too long (thanks office desk)
  • Not drinking enough fluids – remember that dehydration is one of the most common causes of premature labor
  • Swelling in the feet and legs

 

So we don’t know why exactly they are occurring but there are things we can do to help them, and prevent them in the future. For example:

  • Stretch your legs and feet before going to bed.
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  • Before bed, elevate your legs up at the wall. Place a blanket (about an inch and a half thick) at the wall to support and give your hips a lift. Place your booty at the far end of the blanket, giving yourself about a foot gap from the wall, and then rest with your legs up for a minute or so.
  • When the leg cramp occurs, start to flex the foot (of the cramped leg). Start with the heel, then draw the toes back to you (maybe even a gentle wiggle of the toes)p1100814
  • If you get out of bed, try Warrior 1, pressing your hands against the wall. Standing at the wall, step the cramped foot back into a 45 degree angle outward, front leg forward and nice and wide out to the side, making room for baby. Bend your knee creating a 90 degree angle (better a longer stance than shorter, with the increase in relaxin in the body we want to try not to over extend our ligament). Then lean and press into the wall – you should feel a nice stretch in the back leg.
  • p1100817Another option is table pose. Kneeling, with your hands under shoulders and knees nice and wide, extend the effected leg out and press through the heel.
  • Hot compresses or even standing on a cold tile surface might help.

 

 

Once the cramp has subsided start to work flexing and pointing the foot into your daily life routine. Elevating the feet while relaxing on the couch, staying active (dare I suggest Prenatal Yoga?), and a delightful prenatal massage or warm bath are also good habits.

 

Also try to add some magnesium, calcium and potassium rich foods into your diet. (If you want to try supplements please talk to your doctor first). Sadly our typical American daily diet is lacking in magnesium due to the amount of processed foods we eat. Diets high in sugar, and phytic acid deplete the magnesium in our body. In addition, the produce most often found at grocery stores and supermarkets are magnesium depleted, due to farmers not rotating the land, which creates soil and produce which are both lacking in magnesium.

 

The best bet is to buy organically grown produce from your local farmer or farmers market. Look for dark leafy greens that are loaded with chlorophyll like – spinach and chard – for magnesium, or collard greens, broccoli, broccoli rabe, and kale for an added boost of calcium. Low sugar yogurt or Kefir (which can also help with pregnancy constipation) is high in magnesium. Almonds contain both magnesium and calcium, and an added bonus is that they help with indigestion. For potassium, bananas, coconut water, prunes, squash and beans to your diet.

 

Life in pregnancy is different, but not that different. Look at your diet and exercise nonjudgmentally. Be observant. If you try something different, notice any change (or not.). And give things some time to create an effect (or not). Explore and continue to talk and share with fellow expectant mamas. We are here to help one another learn and grow. You don’t know until you ask/share. Needless to say, our Yoga Haven prenatal yoga classes and our Yoga Haven Mom’s Facebook page is the perfect venue to share, explore and learn from each other. It is never too early to join our YH Mom’s page, it holds a wealth of information and is a judgments free zone!

 

Looking forward to delving deep on the next pregnancy topic with you.

 

Peace and Always Gratitude

unnamedJacqui Stix is a yogi and an artist, coming from her art teaching background she views moving the body is an art form.  It is beautiful, expressive, and healthy. Her goal is to help spread the joy and love of body movement to all ages, creating a healthy, grateful and peaceful atmosphere inwardly that works it way out and off the mat.  She completed her 200 hour teacher training at Yoga Haven 2011-12.    She  apprenticed and received her Prenatal Yoga Certification with Kelly Swalis at Yoga Haven in 2015.  Jacqui teaches Prenatal Yoga on Sundays at 4:30 pm in Tuckahoe.

Hot Topic

I’m going to tell you something you may not already know, so bear with me. I want you to know you have options. I want you to know that you should expect more from your yoga class and your teacher than you currently do.

I’m writing this because I took a terrible class the other day. The teacher walked around the room and made no effort to give alignment corrections, but simply yelled out poses. There were a few breath cues here and there, a couple lighthearted comments too, she was likeable and maybe her heart is in the right place, but the cues she gave for the poses were misinformed and some of them were downright dangerous. I looked around at the 30 or so others with me and only one of them looked focused or at ease in the challenge. The faces of those closest to me looked desperate just to make it through the class. Now, I’m all for sweaty and intense practices, I have been known to throw down a few myself, but what I’m not for is shoddy teaching. When half the class is on their knees shaking out their sore wrists, maybe it’s time to stop with all the downdogs and chaturangas. Maybe it’s time to teach how we can use our hands to stop the wrist pain and to properly build the strength needed for such a vigorous practice.

I know there are some good studios out there (I took a class in one recently) and some great teachers; change your life teachers; alter the way you move teachers. I also know that there are a lot of mediocre teachers too. Yoga studios make good money with teacher trainings and it seems that a few of them out there care nothing about the quality of the teachers they’re letting loose, but just want to churn out more and more of us. So, here’s the rub, there are a lot of people taking classes in big, hot studios and they’re struggling to keep up. They’re taken from pose to pose, getting sweaty (YES!) but not really connecting with their breath, or their bodies for that matter. Sure, they’re moving, but they aren’t getting stronger because they’re not being told the intricacies of the poses and the muscles that are used to support them.

We can sit and argue what “yoga” is, and really, I believe yoga is what you want it to be. You can hike and do yoga, drink beer and do yoga, hell, you can do yoga with your rabbit. I support however you want to get your yoga on. What I don’t support is lazy teaching. What I don’t support is an army of students flailing through class from pose to pose with no true idea of what their yoga practice could be. Frankly, just the thought of it makes me mad.

If you’ve ever been to a class and not understood what you were doing, if you’ve stumbled through a thousand and one sun salutations and on the thousandth one, you’re soaked in sweat but you still don’t know what proper shoulder alignment in chaturanga is, then there is something wrong. If you step into a studio and the teacher merely stands at the front of the room on his or her own mat and doesn’t engage with you, or they pace around yelling out poses without the thought of helping you to connect on a deeper level, then you shouldn’t go back to that class. If, on more than one occasion, your teacher has said “and if you can do (blank) pose here and you’d like to, then go for it” without even attempting to teach those of you in the room who have no idea wtf (blank) pose is, then you should be mad. How is your practice supposed to evolve if you have no true guidance? You deserve that much don’t you? Yoga isn’t cheap. Yoga gear isn’t cheap. Your teacher shouldn’t be cheap either.

There are a ton of studios around Rochester, so go to a few. Find a place that resonates with you, a teacher that speaks to you. Don’t just go to the studio where everyone else goes, do your homework. The teacher that your best friend loves may just be ho hum to you. Find a teacher who moves you, not just one who makes you move. Find a teacher who introduces him or herself to you before starting, one who wants to know if you have injuries, one who is curious about why you’re there, what your goals are and where you want your practice to lead. Find a teacher who is willing to stop the flow to answer your questions, one who actually wants to teach you.

Yoga is a gift. It is a practice that helps us to connect with who we are, it shows us our weaknesses (not just the physical ones) and it gives us the tools to build stronger, more awake and more present (happier!) versions of who we are. Yoga is a way to reclaim our bodies and our souls; a way to look at ourselves with love and understanding so that we may look at others through the same compassionate eyes. Sure, yoga is about finding your strength and it can be used to get fit, but yoga is so much more than powering through a sequence of positions just to make it to the end of your 75 minute “workout.” You should expect more than that. You deserve more than that.

 

katevKnown for her fun, yet challenging vinyasa flow classes, Kate has always found joy in connecting with her students. She believes that the traditional practices of yoga still hold powerful benefits today and she strives to bring those benefits to her students while keeping a sense of humor about the process. Kate taught at Yoga Haven for 6 years before moving to Rochester and opening her own studio, Cycle Swami.