The 8 Best Yoga Poses for Pregnancy 

There’s no doubt that pregnancy comes with many changes. Not only is your body changing to grow this new life within, the most obvious sign being your beautiful
growing bump. But pregnancy also comes with lifestyle changes. Perhaps you need more rest to cope with fatigue, find yourself browsing the web for the perfect crib at 2am, or having to leave a meeting because someone in the room smells so bad. You may struggle with the emotional ups and downs of pregnancy, worrying about baby, the unknowns of birth or how your new family member will come to affect the family dynamics.

To cope with the physiological, emotional and general lifestyle changes, and to prepare your body for birth and motherhood, I highly recommend Prenatal yoga. According to a study made by Harvard Health Publishing, Prenatal yoga has been shown to ease stress and anxiety during pregnancy and to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Yoga also helps to alleviate pain and physical discomforts, and improve overall quality of life during pregnancy. Who wouldn’t want that? What I love most about Prenatal yoga, and that I hear so often from my pregnant students, is that it helps you to pause the busy life for a moment to connect to your baby.

Prenatal yoga helps you to pause the busy life for a moment to connect to your baby.

What you shuold know about practicing yoga in pregnancy

In pregnancy, the body has increased levels of relaxin, a hormone that helps to loosen your muscles, joints and ligaments. This is necessary to accommodate your growing uterus and facilitate birth, but it also means that you are more prone to over stretching and injury. When practicing yoga in pregnancy, I recommend focusing on stability and strength in the postures, rather than endurance and flexibility. You also want to avoid heated classes such as Bikram yoga, as the heat raises the core body temperature which is not beneficial for mama or baby.

In Prenatal yoga, we avoid deep twists, deep backbends, and strong core exercises. In my experience, these will often feel unpleasant for many women. Instead we want to focus on creating more space for the growing belly, building strength in the legs to support the extra weight, as well as gentle stretches of the hips and shoulders to release stress and tension. 

Choosing a Prenatal yoga class

Prenatal classes are especially designed for pregnant women, focusing on postures, breathing and meditation that are especially useful for the pregnant body and as we prepare to birth our child. In these classes you also have the opportunity to connect with other pregnant women in the area where you live, your social network can be a tremendous support and resource as you embark on this new journey.

If you have a hard time getting to class, or if you simply prefer practicing yoga in the comfort of your home, these are some of most beneficial yoga postures for pregnancy. While prenatal yoga is generally considered safe, remember that every pregnancy is different. Always consult with your midwife or doctor before embarking on a new exercise program or routine.

 

Child’s pose (Balasana)

 

  1. Place a folded blanket at the center of your mat. 
  2. Come to all fours on your blanket with your knees wider than your hips and your hands under your shoulders. 
  3. Bring your big toes together, walk your hands forward and rest your hips back towards the heels. 
  4. If you need more support for your hips, you can use an extra blanket for extra padding between the hips and the heels.
  5. Stay for 5-8 deep breaths. 

Benefits: Helps to stretch the sidebody, the spine and inner hips. May help to alleviate lower back pain and nausea.

Contraindications: As your belly grows, you may need to modify your Child’s pose to make room for baby. If it’s more comfortable for you, keep your hips high instead of bringing your hips all the way to the heels.

 

Cat & Cow (Marjaryasana, Bitilasana)

 

  1. Place a folded blanket at the center of your mat. 
  2. Come into tabletop position, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. 
  3. Inhale, send your chest forward and gaze up while gently “hugging” the belly towards your spine to support your lower back. 
  4. Exhale, strengthen your arms and lift up through your heart center to round your spine.
  5. Combine breath with movement as you repeat step 3-4 for 8 breaths.


Benefits:
This is one of the most essential yoga postures as it has so many benefits for mom and baby. It brings better mobility into a stiff spine, helps to strengthen the lower back and shoulders, helps to relieve back and hip pain, and encourages baby to move into the ideal birth position.

Contraindications: If you have any neck discomfort or old neck injury, keep your head in a neutral position instead of gazing up. 

Extended Puppy pose (Uttana Shishosana)

 

  1. Place a folded blanket at the center of your mat. 
  2. Come into tabletop position, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. 
  3. Walk your hands forward in front of the shoulders, finally lower your elbows and forehead down towards the mat.
  4. Try to keep the hips centered right above the knees. However, as your belly gets bigger you may need to walk your knees a little wider to make room for your growing belly. 
  5. Inhale and try to find more length in your side body, exhale as you
  6. soften your jaw and the area between the shoulder blades. 


Benefits:
Lengthens and stretches the spine and side body helping to create space for the growing belly. This pose also helps to relieve back and hip pain, while encouraging baby to move into the ideal birth position.

Contraindications: Always avoid straining yourself as you come into a shape. If Puppy pose is too intense, try Polar Bear pose instead, with the elbows directly underneath the shoulders and the forearms fully supported.

Warrior ll (Virabhadrasana ll)

 

  1. Begin at the top of your mat with your feet parallel and hip width apart.
  2. Take a large step back with your left foot and turn the back toes slightly out to the side. 
  3. Bend your right knee until the knee is right above or slightly behind your front ankle. 
  4. Reach your arms out over the legs, stretching from the shoulders out towards the fingertips. 
  5. Press down through the front big toe, and the outer edge of the back foot to activate your legs. 
  6. Inhale lift and lengthen both sides of your ribcage, exhale tone the lower belly to support your lower back (imagine gently hugging the belly towards your spine). 
  7. Hold for 5-8 breaths before switching sides.

 

Benefits: Strengthens the muscles of the legs, arms, shoulders, and back, while stretching the calves, upper body, and hips. Helps to promote inner stamina, direction and confidence.

Contraindications: Make sure your front knee doesn’t fall in towards your inner ankle, instead aim the inside of the front knee toward the pinkie-toe side of the front foot. To increase a sense of balance and support, setup near a wall with the outer edge of your back foot pressing against the wall. 

Seated Side bend (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)

 

  1. Place a folded blanket at the center of your mat
  2. Come to sit on your blanket straddling both legs in a wide angle. 
  3. Tilt your pelvis forward by lengthening the pubic bone down and making sure both your sitting bones are steady and rooted on your blanket.
  4. Bring your left foot to the inside of your right thigh. 
  5. Inhale lift both arms up towards the sky, exhale as your slide your right hand down your right leg and reach the left arm over your head and alongside your left ear. 
  6. On each inhale, create more length and space around the ribcage, exhale release and soften your face and jaw. 


Benefits: Lengthens and stretches the spine, hips and side body helping to create more space for baby. May also help to alleviate lower back pain, anxiety and fatigue.

Contraindications: Avoid going your deepest in this shape. Instead work on finding steadiness down through the hips, length into your side ribs and use the breath to create more length and space.  

Yogi’s squat (Malasana)

 

  1. Walk your feet hip width apart with your heels turned in and your toes turned out. 
  2. Bend your knees and lower your hips down.
  3. You may want to pad your heels with an extra blanket to support your ankles.
  4. If you are carrying multiples, are approaching the end of your pregnancy, experience a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor, inner groins or thighs, support your hips with a block. 
  5. Bring your hands to your heart center as your broaden the chest and lengthen the spine. 
  6. Stay present with your breath and baby in this shape for 2-5 minutes. 


Benefits:
Works to strengthen your legs while stretching the hips and inner groins which together help to support the growing belly and prepare for birth. This pose also increases circulation to and opens up the pelvic area helping your body prepare for labor ad birth.

Contraindications: Make sure you don’t experience any strain here especially in the back or abdomen. Use blocks to support your hips to make this shape more comfortable and to avoid any strain. 

Bound Angle pose a.k.a. Butterfly pose (Baddha Khonasana)

 

  1. Come to sit on a double folded blanket
  2. Bring the soles of your feet together and open your knees to the sides.
  3. Hold on to your ankles, lift and create length around your ribcage as you breathe in.
  4. Soften and release your shoulders down from the ears on the out breath. 

 

Benefits: This is a wonderful pose in pregnancy as it helps to open up the pelvis and is said to improve the health of our reproductive organs. This asana improves our circulation and helps to calm the mind for turning inwards.

Contraindications: As our joints are especially loose during pregnancy make sure not to overstretch into this shape. Avoid pushing the knees down towards the floor and slide the heels forward to make the shape less intense, especially if you experience a lot of sensation into the inner thighs and groins. 

~

I want to wish you a happy & healthy pregnancy. Happy practicing!

Karin Karlsson
Certified Prenatal Yoga Teacher

If you have any questions or want to learn more about yoga in pregnancy, visit www.karinmariayoga.com or dm Karin on Instagram.

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