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.
- 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)
- 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.
- Another 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
Jacqui 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.