Prenatal Yoga: Poses for Pregnancy, Benefits, Safety Tips

yoga for pregnancy
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Prenatal yoga is a gentle form of exercise that focuses on stretching, mind-calming techniques, and deep breathing especially designed for pregnant women’s bodies. It improves the baby’s health and prepares women for labor.

Pregnancy changes a woman, both physically and emotionally with so much going on with the hormones leading to leg cramps, backache, fatigue, mood swings, and what not that too for complete nine months. Besides these, it is the most crucial time to take extra care of yourself for the sake of a new life growing within you.

The best possible way to stay healthy and prepare the body for the journey of nine months and even during delivery is opting for prenatal yoga classes.

When to start yoga during pregnancy?

prenatal yoga
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Well! pregnancy yoga is not a biggie for anyone who has been practicing yoga since forever as they can continue it being a bit more cautious as soon as you know that you’ve conceived.

However, trying the modifications and props are recommended in Prenatal yoga. Also, avoiding the belly compressing poses and practicing the standing poses to strengthen the legs and improve circulation during the initial months would be beneficial.

However, if you have decided to take a Prenatal yoga session during pregnancy for the first time, then, it’s better to start it with meditation and pranayama during the first trimester.

From the second trimester of pregnancy, the body is strong and capable enough to practice yoga for pregnancy. Therefore, the second trimester is the perfect time to start pregnancy yoga“, says Bettina Rae 1, a Prenatal yoga teacher.

Prenatal Yoga Benefits

They say how pregnancy is a magical yet overwhelming time. It is like taking a long ride on a roller coaster full of emotions, bodily changes, and a lot of discomfort and disorders.

Prenatal Yoga helps the would-be mother by providing overall health benefits. These are enough to counter the side-effects and discomfort that follows the pregnancy as mentioned below:

  • Yoga poses for pregnancy involve gentle stretches that strengthen the body while promoting flexibility and endurance in pregnant women.
  • Certain yoga poses target the pelvic region which is helpful for preparing the body for normal delivery and avoid complications. 2
  • Yoga along with breathing practices helps relieve any physical and emotional stress or anxiety. 3
  • Yoga also alleviates backache or sciatica pain during pregnancy. Over 90% of prenatal health care providers recommend yoga as an alternative therapy for pain relief 4.
  • It also improves the sleep cycle which usually gets disturbed during pregnancy.
  • It is effective in lowering nausea, morning sickness 5, leg cramps, and swollen ankles.
  • Specific yoga for pregnancy can be practiced to relieve digestive disorders.
  • Yoga during pregnancy is recommended as it helps secrete endorphins, aka happy hormones which help in overcoming mood swings.
  • It also reduces the risk of preterm birth of the baby and helps the pregnant woman to recover faster post-delivery.

Safety tips for practicing yoga during pregnancy

Although practicing yoga during pregnancy is highly recommended for staying fit and healthy, there are certain precautions to keep in mind before stepping into the practice.

  • Taking consent from the doctor keeping your health history in mind is a must-follow approach for practicing yoga for pregnancy.
  • Find a specialized class for practicing yoga for pregnancy and do not rely on yoga videos or tutorials.
  • Avoid yoga poses that involve inversion or exert stress on the body.
  • Do not overstretch the muscles that might cause injury.
  • Yoga for a pregnant lady in the third trimester must not include poses that put stress on the abdomen.
  • Also, reduce the duration of holding the poses as per your endurance.
  • Practicing yoga must be discontinued during the 10th to the 14th week of pregnancy.
  • You can always use the modification in the poses at your convenience.
  • If you have opted for IVF to get pregnant, then do not practice yoga until about 20 weeks of pregnancy.

12 Yoga Poses for Pregnancy

Pregnancy can affect each woman uniquely during all its phases and even post-delivery. Hence, it is inevitable to understand and listen to the demands of your body and its limits while practicing yoga for pregnancy.

Follow this guide of different yoga poses for pregnancy classified as yoga practices for first, second, and third trimester.

5 Yoga Poses for Your First Trimester

During the first trimester, the chances of miscarriage are quite high as the fetus has just begun to grow. Hence it’s important to practice gentle poses that leave relaxing effects and helps in connecting you with a budding life within you.

For this, some standing balancing poses and mild stretches are recommended that will make pregnancy a healthy and enjoyable time for you.

1. Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)

tree pose pregnancy
Image: Canva

This is a balancing posture practiced standing on foot while the other foot is pressed against the standing thigh. The arms are generally raised and joined over the head which stretches the spine.

However, during pregnancy, modification like practicing tree pose placing one hand on the wall for support is recommended. Tree pose strengthens the hip, pelvic, and leg muscles. It improves the balance of the body and also alleviates back pain during pregnancy.

Procedure

  • Stand erect placing the feet together in mountain pose.
  • Shifting the weight towards the left leg, lift your right leg bending at the knee.
  • Place the sole of the right foot pressed against the left thigh as close to groin as possible with toes pointing to the floor.
  • Gradually raise your arms and join them overhead.
  • Fix your gaze forward and hold it for 30-60 seconds breathing deeply.

2. Warrior Pose II (Virabhadrasana II)

warrior 2 pose pregnancy
Image: Canva

Warrior series poses are standing postures recommended during the first trimester of pregnancy to improve endurance.

It tones and strengthens the shoulders, lungs, and opens-up the hips and groins. Thus, it is also considered as yoga for a pregnant lady for normal delivery.

Procedure

  • Stand separating the feet more than hip-width apart.
  • Spread your arms at the shoulder-level keeping the spine erect.
  • Turn the left foot towards the left at 90° angle followed by turning the right foot to the left about 30°.
  • Slowly rotate the torso towards the left foot and bend the left knee until it becomes stacked over the left ankle.
  • Hold the stretch opening the chest and shoulders breathing slowly and deeply. Balance in this pose for about 6 breaths.

3. Cat-Cow stretch (Chakravakasana)

cat cow stretch pregnancy
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Cat-cow pose is a combination pose that stretches the arms, shoulders, spine, and abdominals by switching between arching and the curling the back muscles.

This pose helps in pregnancy by stimulating the reproductive as well as the digestive systems that often get upset during gestation period. Also, it makes the spine supple, thus alleviates backache.

Procedure

  • Begin with assuming a table-top position stacking the knees under the hips and wrists under the shoulders.
  • While inhaling raise your head stretching the neck and arching the back to sink the belly to the floor.
  • On an exhale, counter this stretch by rounding the spine upward and drawing the chin to the chest.
  • On next inhale repeat the above stretching and contracting poses for 5-10 times without straining the body in any way.

4. Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)

butterfly pose pregnancy
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It is practiced in a seated position joining the soles of the feet and drawing them towards the groin. This is followed by flapping the knees up an down.

Butterfly pose is helpful in promoting flexibility of the spine and opens up the hips and thus serves as one of the yoga pose for pregnancy. It is helpful in easing the labour.

Procedure

  • Sit extending your legs in front and keeping the arms by the sides.
  • Bending your knees to the sides on the floor to join the soles of the feet.
  • Extend your arms to grab the outside of the feet and draw them closer to the groin.
  • Stay here for a while relaxing the inner thighs.
  • Then, gently bounce the knees up and down pressing the legs down.
  • Continue holding the feet and bouncing for up to 20-30 times and then relax.

5. Side Angle Pose I and II (Konasana I and II)

Both of these yoga poses for pregnancy are standing postures practiced stretching the arms overhead and bending sideways.

Konasana is beneficial in pregnancy to stretch the spine and to release any accumulated tension in the back or neck muscles. Besides this, it stretches the abdominal organs and relieves constipation which is often a symptom of pregnancy.

Procedure

  • To practice side angle I, stand tall keeping the feet together.
  • While inhaling, raise your left arm overhead.
  • Bend your torso to the right at the waist while exhaling and look up towards the left palm.
  • Breathing in come back to standing position and breathing out lower your left arm.
  • Repeat the same to the other side.
  • Later, if you’re comfortable, then, inhale to raise both your arms overhead joining the palms.
  • Exhale to bend the torso to the right and stay there for a while.
  • Inhale to return to the standing pose and exhale to lower your arms by the sides.
  • Then, repeat to the left side as well.

4 Yoga Poses for Your Second Trimester

By the second trimester of pregnancy, the body regains some of its strength, and comeover major discomforts like excessive nausea fatigue, or morning sickness are relieved.

Hence, it is the golden period of your pregnancy to practice yoga and keep your hormones in check. Also, yoga during the second trimester stimulates the circulatory and digestive system and prepares the body well for the next coming six months safely.

1. Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)

extended puppy pose
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Practicing extended puppy pose requires the practitioner to come to all fours and from there the spine is further elongated extending the arms forward and extending the sit bone upwards.

It releases the spinal tension, stretches, and strengthens the pelvic floor muscles aiding in labor. This pose also reduces the neck, back, shoulder pain.

Stretching in extended puppy pose is a mild inversion that calms the stress and also stretches the abdominals, thereby, relieving digestive issues.

Procedure

  • Begin with assuming the table-top pose and separate your knees slightly wider than the hips.
  • Curling the toes under start walking your palms forward as far as possible and then plant the fingertips to the floor.
  • Bring the forehead to the floor and press your palms to the floor.
  • Raise your sit bones to the ceiling drawing the pelvic muscles forward to increase the curve in your lumbar spine.
  • Feel the stretch in your back muscles for 30-60 seconds.

2. Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana)

thunderbolt pose pregnancy
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To come into thunderbolt pose, kneeling on the floor lowering the buttocks to the heels, and sitting upright is required. This is a relaxing pose to increase blood flow to the abdominals and pelvic floor muscles.

Thunderbolt pose prevents one of the major complaints of pregnant women, i.e. acid reflux, and strengthens the pelvic region. This assists pregnant women during labor.

Procedure

  • Begin with kneeling on the floor bringing the toes together and separating the heels.
  • Lower your buttocks on to the soles of the feet.
  • Place your palms on the thighs with palms facing down and keep the back erect.
  • Hold the pose as such breathing slowly for 30 seconds.

3. Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)

goddess pose pregnancy
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This is a standing pose which is practiced as squatting gently and slowly bending the knees slightly.

Along with opening the hips and groins, it strengthens the uterus which aids in pregnancy. It is relieving for leg cramps by improving the strength of the thighs, knees, and ankles.

Procedure

  • Stand keeping the legs more than hip-width apart.
  • Place your palms on the belly.
  • Exhale while bending the knee towards the toes.
  • Inhale to lift up through the crown of the head.
  • Repeat this squat and rise motion for about 7-10 times

4. Side Reclining Leg Lift Pose (Anantasana)

Anantasana - side reclining leg lift pose
Source: canva

This pose requires balancing the body on one while reclining on the floor with head and one leg raised off the floor.

It comes in handy during pregnancy because it has relaxing effects on the abdominals and it stretches the sides of the body. It helps in making your womb a bit more spacious place for the growing baby.

Procedure

  • Lie on your right side stacking the left leg over the right.
  • Bending your right arm place your right elbow on the floor and rest your face over the right palm.
  • Keep the left arm by the side with left hand reaching the left thigh.
  • Gradually, lift your left leg as high as possible and extend the left arm to grasp the left big toe.
  • Remain in the pose for about 6 breaths then release the leg and repeat it on the other side.

3 Yoga Poses for Your Third Trimester

Third trimester yoga poses are great to get a sense of complete groundness and control those mixed emotions. Using yoga props is very recommended while practicing yoga poses during your third trimester.

1. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

bridge pose pregnancy
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This posture is great to practice during the third trimester while lying down on your back and keeping the knees bent. From there, pressing the arms and feet on the floor the hips are raised off the floor by rolling through the spine.

As you reach the third trimester, your pelvis and lower back are under immense pressure. Therefore, elevating the hips in bridge pose along with opening the vertebrae helps relieve some of the pressure from the pelvic bowl.

Using block as a prop under the buttocks makes the pose easier for pregnant women as it supports the weight of the hips.

Procedure

  • Lie on your back bending the knees and placing the feet on the floor.
  • Place the arms by the sides of the body with palms facing down.
  • Pressing the arms and feet against the floor lift your hips and lower back rolling through your spine.
  • Keep raising the back until your body is lifted on your shoulders.
  • Stay here for three to five breaths then slowly lower your hips to the floor.

2. Wide-legged Child’s Pose

This is a yoga pose for pregnancy that allows you to dive deep into relaxing mode and helps in regaining the energy in the body. It is practiced kneeling on the floor separating the knees wider than hips and lowering the forehead to the floor.

To make it a bit easier and more relaxing, a bolster can be placed underneath and head is turned to the right resting the left cheek on it. It helps in easy balancing while stretching the neck and shoulders in this pose.

Procedure

  • Begin with coming to all fours keeping the wrists under the shoulders and knees under the hips.
  • Bring your toes closer and separate the knees wider than the hips.
  • While exhaling lower your hips towards your heels and keeping the arms extended in front lower your forehead to the bolster placed horizontally under the torso.
  • Take six to eight long breaths in this pose.

3. Side-lying Corpse Pose (Shavasana)

Side-lying Corpse Pose
Image: Canva

Side-lying corpse pose is practiced lying on the floor to one side of the body extending the alternate arm under the head and bending the corresponding knee over the bolster beside you.

This is one of the yoga poses for pregnancy that helps you relax as well as leaves calming effects when practiced between contractions during labor.

Procedure

  • Lie down on your mat on your left side.
  • Place a bolster beside your legs horizontally.
  • Extend your left arm and rest your head over it.
  • Bend you right knee at 90° to rest the knee, shin, and foot over the bolster.
  • Close your eyes and relax your body for 5-10 minutes.

Yoga Poses to avoid during pregnancy

Though yoga is a gentle practice for a pregnant woman providing relaxing, energetic, and other health benefits, there are some intense poses that might cause adverse effects.

Avoid the below-mentioned poses from your yoga practice while you are pregnant.

  • Do not practice twisting poses like Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, as it compresses the abdominal organs as well as uterus that you must avoid.
  • Avoid deep back bends such as Wheel Pose or Bow Pose. These poses stretches the abdomen intensely and bends the back to the maximum range, that doesn’t aids on easing the pregnancy.
  • Avoid poses like Cobra and Locust that requires involves backbend while lying on your belly.
  • It is best to avoid inversions like headstand or shoulder stand.
  • Poses like Boat and Plow pose also pressurizes the internal organs that your body must not experience while you are pregnant.
  • Hot yoga poses that raises the temperature of the core must be prohibited while you are pregnant.
  • It is best not to engage in any such poses that involves sudden transitions or jumps to keep the positioning of the fetus intact.

Conclusion

Make your pregnancy journey an enjoyable time practicing yoga and helping your would-be child to enter the world safely. Yoga for pregnancy helps both the mother and child to stay healthy and strong.

Take this article as your helping guide and join the pre-natal yoga classes for staying fit during and post-delivery along with providing your child the best health that you possibly can.

References

  1. When you should start doing pregnancy yoga https://www.bettinarae.com/when-should-you-start-pregnancy-yoga/
  2. Effect of Antenatal Exercises, Including Yoga, on the Course of Labor, Delivery, and Pregnancy: A Retrospective Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7432001/
  3. Prenatal yoga for young women a mixed methods study of acceptability and benefits https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-019-2564-4
  4. Pregnancy and low back pain https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12178-008-9021-8?error=cookies_not_supported&error=cookies_not_supported&code=e1bf727b-c0b7-40a2-bb93-631cf5b7706a&code=b6510f3a-a020-4dd3-9014-f331d6f259a7
  5. The Influence of Yoga to Decrease Emesis Gravidarium (ijsr.net)

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