Many women are drawn to yoga for the first time during their pregnancy. It may be following a recommendation from a health provider or friend, or often it’s as our bodies and focus begin to change, we seek out something other than what we may have previously been doing.
Pregnancy yoga is a great way to stretch and strengthen your body and to prepare you for labour and birth. It’s also a wonderful way to help alleviate some common pregnancy discomforts, such as pain and tightness in the hips and back or soreness and swelling in the legs and feet.
Pregnancy yoga also helps you to relax and manage any stress, tension or worries you may have. It allows you to take an inward focus and listen to your body and to connect with your baby in the womb.
If you attend a pregnancy yoga class, there is also the added bonus of connecting and sharing with other Mamas-to-be. I’ve seen many beautiful friendships begin in pregnancy yoga classes!
You don’t need any previous experience to begin practicing yoga during your pregnancy. But if you do have any health concerns with your pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to check with your health care provider first.
There are some important guidelines for safe practice during pregnancy:
- Don’t over-exert or over-stretch (remember your body is producing the relaxin hormone which makes your ligaments less stable than when you aren’t pregnant)
- Avoid any strain to the pelvic area
- If a pose doesn’t feel right, avoid it
- No strong twists or backbends
- Avoid any poses that compress your belly
Here are 7 simple pregnancy yoga poses that you can practice safely yourself at home:
One of my favourite pregnancy poses, this helps to relieve any tightness or discomfort in your back and takes away the weight of your belly which feels so good during pregnancy!
How to: Start on all fours, knees hip width apart, arms shoulder width apart, hands on your mat. Inhale and look up, allowing your back to move naturally, but not dipping deeply into the lower back/spine. As you exhale, round spine, tuck your bottom under, bring your chin in towards your chest, looking down and towards your belly. Continue to flow through both poses as you inhale and exhale, closing your eyes to take and inward focus.
Extended Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is a great hip opener and spine lengthener and gives you a gentle stretch through your hips, lower back, shoulders and arms. Its a relaxing and grounding pose and gives you the opportunity to close your eyes, go within and let go.
How to: Come to sit back on your heels with your knees slightly wider than hip width apart, lean forward slowly with your body, walking your arms out long along the mat in front of you. Make sure you are breathing as you come into the pose and are not holding your breath. You can also vary this pose by using a bolster to rest your head on, or stacking your fists on top of each other and resting your head on them. Adjusting the pose for the stage of pregnancy you are at, your belly size and how you are feeling.
Standing Hip Circles
Standing hip/torso circles will help to relieve lower back discomfort and hip pain. It is also a great posture to practice during your labour as it encourages your baby to move down into the pelvis for birth. Not to mention it feels really nice to move and sway your beautiful pregnant belly (try it with some music too).
How to: Stand with your feet about about hip width apart. Place your hands on your hips and bend your knees slightly. Tip your hips to the right then roll to the back , left and then to the front . Continue rolling in one direction 10 times, then move in the opposite direction. You can make your hip circles as small or as large as feels comfortable for your body.
The Warrior Pose is one of strength, grounding and focus. I get my Mamas-to-be to practice this pose in class as a mental and physical preparation for labour and birth. Repeating a positive affirmation to yourself whilst feeling your muscles working hard in this pose such as “I am strong” or “My body was made to do this” helps to focus your mind on the breath and your inner strength, which really comes in handy during your labour and birth.
How to: Stand with your feet hip width apart in Mountain Pose at the front of your mat, with your hands on your hips. With an exhalation, step your right foot back behind you, about 3 1/2 – 4 feet. Check the toes of your right foot are pointing out at a 45 degree angle towards the long side of your mat, your left toes straight ahead. Inhale and raise your arms up, parallel to the floor, palms facing down. Exhale lunge forward, bending into your left knee. Checking your shin is perpendicular to the floor, left knee above your ankle. Reach your left arm forward, your right arm back, keeping your torso centered. Allow your shoulders to relax. Gaze along your front fingers, feeling strong, feet grounding into the earth beneath you. Inhale to straighten your legs, exhale to release your arms. Repeat on the other side from beginning.
Variations on the pose can include sitting on a chair sideways for support.
This posture helps to open the hips and the pelvic outlet, tone the perineum and create space in the uterus for your baby. It’s a great pose to do in the last few weeks of your pregnancy (as long as your baby isn’t in the breech position) as it encourages your baby’s head into position ready for birth.
How to: Crouch down with your knees bent, bottom back and your feet about mat width apart, toes facing outwards. Put your weight into feet. Keep your back straight and bring hands together at your heart centre (chest) in prayer position. You can use props such as a block/brick under your bottom or a folded/rolled blanket under your heels for support if it’s not comfortable for you to sit in a squat unsupported. You can also sit back against a wall or lean forward onto the seat of a chair with your arms folded. Close your eyes and connect with your breath. Visualise your baby’s head coming down into your pelvis whilst releasing your pelvic floor muscles.
Seated Side Stretch
The seated side stretch will help to open through your side waist and pelvis and stretch your hip. You will also get a stretch through your hamstring.
How to: Sit on the floor, extend your right leg out to the side, bend into your left leg, bringing it into the top of your right inner thigh. Draw the toes of your right foot up towards you. Rest your right hand under your belly, inhale lift and lengthen through your spine, raising your left arm up alongside the left side of your face, exhale bending over towards your right leg. Being sure not to compress your belly, only coming as far over as is comfortable for your body.
A variation on this pose is to use a strap around the ball of your right foot, holding it in your right hand to draw the foot upwards and increase the stretch through your right hamstring.
Ahhh Savasana, the relaxation part of your practice. The blissful part where you get to completely relax, rest and chill out. It’s important to know that after your first trimester of pregnancy, you don’t want to be lying on your back for prolonged periods of time. So sidelying or supported back lying positions (such as below) are great variations to laying flat on your back.
How to: Find a comfortable supported position, either sidelying with support of bolsters or blankets behind your head and under your knee, or reclining back using blocks/bolsters for support in Supta Baddha Konasana. Close your eyes, relax your muscles, allow your breath to come naturally. Using an eye pillow over your eyes can be a lovely addition to Savasana.
As your body grows and changes throughout your pregnancy, you will find that your practice will also change. What might have felt great during your second trimester, might not be working for you as you approach the later stages of your third trimester.
Be sure to listen to your body and be gentle with yourself, your body is working hard growing another little human!
If you’d like to come along to one of my pregnancy yoga classes or workshops in the Illawarra, you can find out more here.