Pregnancy brings about new aches and pains in the body, and this brings your awareness to parts of yourself you never had reason to think about before! Soreness in the hips and lower back, persistent fatigue, and dizziness are all common physical symptoms of pregnancy.
Yoga can help soothe the discomforts while strengthening and toning your body in preparation for labor.
What to Avoid During Pregnancy
If you already have a consistent yoga practice, you may have to put some of your favorite postures on hold for the second and third trimesters. Listen to your body and consult with your doctor to ensure that yoga serves you in your pregnancy rather than creating more discomfort.
If you’re looking to practice yoga for the first time during pregnancy, seek the advice of a medical professional and approach your new practice with attentiveness and presence. Find a pace that feels good to you and suspend any impulses toward overachieving or ambition, regardless of what other people around you are doing.
Here’s a list of what you will want to avoid:
- Poses requiring you to lie flat on your back
- Intense abdominal exercises (like boat pose)
- Intense back bending
- Deep twists
- Lying on your belly (as in Cobra or upward facing bow pose)
Overstretching. In pregnancy, a woman’s body naturally begins to open and ligaments become more elastic to facilitate childbirth. You may be surprised to find that your body feels more flexible than before, especially throughout the hips. Don’t over do it.
Instead, try some of the following yoga asanas. Keeping a regular practice will let you continue to experience the many benefits of yoga even during your pregnancy.
1. Cat and Cow
Coming onto your hands and knees in pregnancy is a way to relieve pressure on your spine. This is also a beneficial position during labor, as it can lessen the pain of contractions and bring your baby into the ideal positioning for delivery.
Other benefits of this posture include strengthening your arms, supporting good posture and keeping your spine flexible.
2. Extended Side Angle
This pose creates a deep side stretch that feels great as your baby grows and your midsection fills up. It will strengthen your quads and open your hips to better prepare you for childbirth.
Reaching the upper arm overhead, completing the full side stretch from the outer edge of the back leg through the fingertips helps you tap into energy reserves that will be much appreciated during those slow and sluggish moments that come with caring for your prenatal body.
3. Goddess Pose
This pose will strengthen your legs and pelvic floor while opening your hips in preparation for labor.
Other benefits of Goddess Pose include encouraging the downward flow of energy, stress relief, and focus.
This deep squat soothes lower back pain which is common during pregnancy. This asana safely tones abdominal muscles and helps with digestion. It also improves blood flow in the legs, thus reducing swelling and discomfort in the lower legs during the third trimester.
5. Reclining Bound Angle
With deep expansion and flexibility into the hips, this asana can be very relaxing and serve as great pose pre-labor.
The hips are associated with the water element and the energy of creativity. Reclining Bound Angle pose offers the opportunity to engage in a slow wave-like breathing practice while meditating on how qualities of water are playing a role in the benefit of the creation of new life.
6. Corpse Pose
This asana is done at the end of a yoga class or home practice and usually means lying flat on your back. Since lying on your back for long periods of time during the second and third trimesters is not recommended, it’s necessary to use modifications. Since the inferior vena cava runs just to the right of the spine, practice corpse pose on your side.
To keep your spine aligned while on your side, place a firm pillow under your head and another pillow or a rolled-up yoga mat between your knees.
A Breath Practice for Pregnancy
Alternate Nostril Breathing (also known as Nadi Shodhana) is a balancing and harmonizing breath that brings an overall sense of well-being, reduced stress, and overall balance.