Prenatal yoga is an excellent way to prepare for pregnancy and birth by helping to deal with fatigue, stress, aches and pains. Practicing yoga during pregnancy requires a constant reminder to be present in the moment, and to honestly assess where you are physically and mentally each day.
The following yoga poses show a number of modifications which are especially useful during the third trimester. Modifying poses is a way to compensate for the extra weight of the uterus, make space for the baby, and to be cautious of the softened and relaxed ligaments due to hormonal changes.
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Downward dog is a safe inversion to practice during pregnancy for short periods of time. It feels good to lengthen the spine, strengthen the arms, back and shoulders, as well as to stretch the backs of the legs. This staple pose may not agree with everyone during pregnancy, as it might induce or aggravate lightheadedness, nausea, heartburn, or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Pigeon Prep Variation
Hip openers help relieve aches in the lower back and create space around the pelvis, but it’s easy to overdo it, so don’t hold this stretch for too long. Having the pelvis supported on blankets allows the hips to remain balanced, and supporting the forearms on blocks allows extra space for the baby.
Extended Side Angle
Standing poses are good for strengthening the legs and pelvic floor. However, take only a moderately wide stance in order to protect the relaxed ligaments and joints. This variation provides an opportunity to connect with your baby by supporting your belly with your lower hand.
Familiarity and comfort with this pose can come in handy when experimenting with different positions during labor. This pose may be practiced against the wall to rest the lower back.
This pose helps to strengthen the spine and broaden the pelvis. Rest your bottom palm on a block for support, and to keep spine and pelvis lifted. If balance becomes more challenging, practice this pose against a wall to be safer and avoid compression of the uterus.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold
This is a great pose for relieving low back pain, stretching the backs of the legs, and widening the pelvic region. Place hands on blocks to keep the spine stretched forward and make space for the baby.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold With Twist
Twists are beneficial in relieving back pain and stiffness. Add a twist to this forward fold by keeping the spine long and chest expanded.
For this twist, it’s helpful to sit one hip (in the direction of the twist) on the corner of a blanket in order to keep the hips level. Open twists that do not compress the abdomen are safe to practice during pregnancy. To twist safely, it’s important to first raise your spine in order to rotate with a lift and keep an open chest.
Intense Side Stretch
This pose stretches the sides of the chest in order to broaden the pelvic and abdominal regions, and relieve tension in the back. Extending your arms over the back of a chair helps achieve even more elongation of your sides.
Shoulders tend to get tight during pregnancy and that will continue after pregnancy from carrying your baby around. This pose can be practiced with or without a block between the hands, and can also be done while standing with the elbows resting on a counter top or windowsill.
During the second trimester, women should start to lie down on their left side, which avoids putting weight on the vena cava vein. Support the top knee and foot on either a bolster or blankets, as well as the head and upper arm. Final relaxation is a vital pose to practice during pregnancy, and a wonderful time to connect with your baby. Learning how to relax on cue will be invaluable during labor and delivery.
Sitting on a bolster in hero pose may be more comfortable than cross-legged pose, since the pelvis is lifted and tilted forward more. It’s a good pose to open or end a practice. If lying on your side causes heartburn or nausea, this is a comfortable alternative to end your practice while doing breath work or meditation.