Experts believe that prenatal yoga can be highly beneficial and can even ease labor and delivery. It opens the hips, relaxes the muscles and helps to build strength in your back, legs, and abdominals to get you prepared for that very special day.
Bright Side selected the most beneficial yoga poses for pregnant women as well as a few that should be avoided until your sweet little darling is born.
1. Standing mountain pose
This is a good pose to start and warm up with. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed straight ahead, knees slightly bent, and roll the shoulders back. Close your eyes and place your hands in front of your chest. Try not to over-collapse your lower back and keep the shoulders relaxed. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth, and breathe slowly and deeply.
2. Warrior II pose
Place your feet wide, inhale and lift the arms shoulder-height, keeping the shoulders relaxed. As you exhale, turn your front foot at 90°, the back foot at about 45°, inhale, bend your front knee and look over your hand. Try to keep the front knee in line with your pinky. Take about 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
This is a very good pose for the legs as well as for opening your hips. If it doesn’t feel right in the last trimester, stop doing it and work on other poses.
3. Bridge pose
The bridge pose is a classic prenatal yoga pose and you should do it as long as you are still comfortable lying on your back. Get your feet hip-width apart, and your heels slightly closer to the hips than you normally would. Place your palms on the floor. It is important to work on your breathing. As you exhale, press on your feet, inhale and lift your hips up slightly. Keep looking straight, not side to side. Hold for about 20 seconds then slowly move down with a long and complete exhale.
This pose is great for opening up the hips and strengthening the core, glutes, and hamstrings.
4. Cat/cow pose
Kneel on all fours, placing the knees a comfortable distance apart while looking forward. Inhale and lift your head, neck, and chest as well as the tailbone up and back; then exhale and roll your back up gently. Repeat slowly a few times while controlling your breath.
During pregnancy, the lower back gets a bit compressed so this exercise is excellent for the spine. It stretches the spine and back muscles, stimulates internal organs including the gastrointestinal tract, opens the lungs and chest and relieves lower back pain.
5. Child’s pose (cat/cow sequence)
This pose is a continuation of the previous one but you may have to make your knees wider than you normally would – whatever feels most comfortable. Turn your toes underneath you, place your hands forward and sink your hips back to your heels. Walk your hands forward until your forehead gets to the floor. Stretch your arms and relax for 1 breath.
This pose is wonderful for opening the lower back and hips.
6. Supported triangle pose
Keep your feet wide as you inhale and lift up your arms shoulder-height, keeping the shoulders down and back. Exhale and turn the right foot 90° and the back foot at about 45°. Inhale while staying nice and tall. Then as you exhale, reach over the front arm keeping the left hip back. When you can’t reach any further, drop the right hand and lift the left hand up. Try to rotate the hips and keep breathing deeply and slowly. Do this pose on both sides.
This pose strengthens your entire body and is highly beneficial.
7. Tree pose
Start with a nice and even standing pose to begin good balance. Open your right hip by turning the right knee out to the right, lift your right foot and lean it against your left leg. Then you have a few choices: you can leave the right foot on the floor or you can lift it up as high as it feels stable and secure.
This is a very nice and relaxing pose. If you feel slightly unbalanced, go next to a wall or use a chair for extra stability.
Poses to avoid
The following poses are not recommended for pregnant women as they can do all kinds of harm to your body and even your baby, from overstretching the muscles to reducing the blood flow to the uterus. If you still want to do them though, take special precautions and consult your instructor and your doctor to stay on the safe side.
8. Poses with twists
There are lots of yoga exercises with the twist motion, some are seated and some are plank-based. Needless to say, this type of exercising focuses heavily on the abnormal area. If you are a very experienced fitness guru, you might be able to continue it during the early stages of your pregnancy, but generally speaking, you should not put too much pressure on your abs.
9. Locust pose
There are many poses that require you to lie on your stomach and they put lots of stress on your core. It is a good idea to stay away from these poses for your entire pregnancy – there are plenty of other exercises you can do to stay fit and strong and that are safe to do during this special time.
10. Plow pose
Plow and similar poses should also be avoided during pregnancy. It puts way too much pressure on your belly to get into the right position.
11. Boat pose (and other crunching poses)
Like the above poses, boat poses and the like put too much pressure on your core and lower back. There are many other poses that help to keep your back and legs strong and that don’t put so much stress on the belly.
Have we left out any other beneficial yoga poses for pregnant women in our article? Or maybe you’ve been practicing some of them during your pregnancy? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
Illustrated by Natalia Breeva and Alena Tsarkova for Bright Side