Pregnancy is an amazing experience, but it definitely comes with its challenges. Many women experience pain, weakness, and fatigue from as early as 8-12 weeks. The low back and hips are trouble areas, along with whole body aching. The stressors of a new body, new baby, and new life, while exciting, can make for hectic trimester. Fortunately, yoga can help.
Using yoga throughout your pregnancy will benefit you in more ways than you may think. Yoga helps relieve stress, loosen tightness, improve sleep, benefit mood, and even prepare the body for labor. Pregnancy is such a special time for you and your baby, but it is hard to enjoy when you are suffering through aches and pains or just powering through your stressful days. Practice yoga to full embrace this season of your life and make it one to cherish.
Is Yoga Safe During Pregnancy?
Yes! Seek out prenatal classes from qualified teachers and practice simple, gentle yoga throughout your pregnancy. Because yoga is such an effective way to relieve pain, tightness, and improve stability, it is the perfect add-in to your daily prenatal life.
You’ll want to avoid some aspects of yoga, such as inversions (like head/handstands), extreme heated classes, anything that compresses your belly, and any style that makes you feel weak, dizzy, or causes pain. Keep things gentle during the first trimester, then adjust as you (and baby) grow.
Incorporating Yoga Into Your Prenatal Life
Between doctor visits, baby showers, shopping, and baby-prep (oh, and regular life!) it can seem like there is no time to dedicate to your regular yoga practice (much less start a new one). But adding yoga into your prenatal life does not require more hours in the day. If you are able to make it to prenatal classes in your local area, that is a perfect way to engage with a knowledgeable teacher, other mamas-to-be, and your baby. If your schedule does not allow for a regular class session, just incorporate the following poses into your home practice. You can use these for symptoms you may already be experiencing, or they can be used preventatively as you progress through your pregnancy. Even a quick legs-up-the-wall pose before bed can work wonders.
Yoga for Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common reasons that pregnant women seek out alternative care during pregnancy. From chiropractic to acupuncture, physical therapy and massage, there are a multitude of healing modalities that can help ease back pain and tension. However, yoga can be one of the most therapeutic forms of exercise for back pain and can be done alone or in conjunction with these other treatment plans. Yoga helps to open the spine and relieve pressure built up around the nerves from the growing baby. Yoga will also help to strengthen your back muscles and increase your stability. Use the following poses to help relieve your back pain during pregnancy.
Agnistambhasana — Ankle to Knee Pose
The ankles-to-knees, or firelog, pose is a great way to gently open the hips and allow more room for baby. This will take pressure off your low back and spine and cause a gentle stretch in the pelvic girdle. It’s also a great pose for the mamas suffering from piriformis syndrome or sciatica during their pregnancy.
Begin on the floor in a seated position with your knees bent and feet resting flat on the floor. Slide the right foot under your left knee so that the leg rests on the ground in front of you. Then bend and place your left leg on top of the right in a stacked position. Bring your palms to rest on your knees or to a prayer position at your heart. Rest here for 5-10 breath cycles. To open the hips further, slowly bend forward. Switch your legs, placing the left on the ground and the right stacked on top and repeat.
Parsva Sukhasana — Seated Side-Bend Pose
This pose will help any kind of back pain, whether mid-back, low-back, spinal, or other. The side-bend will open and stretch the muscles of the whole back and hips and this seated version is perfect for pregnancy.
Begin seated with legs either crossed or folded as in ankles-to-knees pose above. Place your right palm on the ground next to your right hip. Raise the left arm up overhead and bend towards the right side while gazing up at your hand. If you are able, lower your right forearm to the ground and rest here for a few breaths. Slowly raise back up to your seated position and repeat on the left side.
Yoga For Hip Pain
Along with back pain, hip pain is also very common among pregnant women, especially in the second and third trimesters as the hips begin to grow and widen. As the baby grows larger, there is also a much greater demand for space in the pelvic girdle and the baby can put a lot of pressure on the hips. Trouble in the hips can also lead to issues in the legs, such as sciatica, or back as well. Use these poses to help relieve your hip pain.
Ardha Kapotasana — Half Pigeon Pose
Half Pigeon Pose is a fantastic hip opener and can be a great way to stretch out sore and tired hips.
Begin on the ground on all fours, then slide the right leg towards your head. The right knee should reach the right wrist, then the leg can bend so that the right foot reaches the left wrist. Move the left leg back behind you keeping your leg internally rotated and relaxed. You may either stay upright here or gently lower yourself to rest on your forearms. Place hands in prayer position and rest your forehead on your thumbs. Rest here for several breaths or as long as is comfortable. Repeat on the opposite side.
Malasana — Yoga Squat Pose
Yoga Squat is an ideal pose for tight hips. This pose will open your entire lower body and can be very relaxing.
Begin on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Bend the right knee and bring it close up to your buttocks but out slightly to the right. Repeat with the left leg. Gently ease your weight on your feet and into a low squat. You can adjust your foot placement here to find the most comfortable position, but it should be a wide stance. Bring your hands together at your heart and press your elbows into the inner knees. If needed, use a block beneath your seat for some added support.
Parivrtta Sanchalasana — Low-Lunge Twist Pose
Open and easy, comfortable twists can be great in pregnancy, as long as you don’t ever feel too crunched or squished in your middle. These twists can be a great way to help with blood flow and ease tension in the hips and spine.
Begin this pose on all fours. Bring the left foot forward and place on the ground near your left palm with knee bent 90 degrees. Extend the right foot back behind you and straighten the right leg to come to a low lunge. Shift your weight on to your right hand and lift the left arm above you and gaze upwards. Rest here for a few breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
Yoga For Belly Weight
As the body changes and grows during pregnancy, the belly can become a big source of tension and sometimes pain for some women. Allowing the body time to rest without carrying this weight is important to maintain a healthy, comfortable pregnancy. These poses below will give you a much needed break and a time for relaxation.
Salamba Balanasana — Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is an amazing resting place for anyone, and a modified wide-angle version is perfect during pregnancy. This pose will take all the pressure off the belly and give you some much needed rest.
Start by kneeling on the ground with your bottom resting on top of your heels. Open your knees to slightly wider than hip-width apart. Gently lower your chest and belly to the mat and adjusting your legs to rest comfortably. Bring your arms out in front of you and rest your forehead on the mat. You can also rest your arms at your sides.
Upavistha Konasana — Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose
A wide angle seated forward bend gives you a nice stretch in the back and hips all while allowing you to take a break from a heavy belly. Sit as wide as is comfortable and rest here for several breath cycles.
Begin in a seated position with your legs out in front of you. Bit by bit, widen your legs until you find a comfortable stretch. Keeping your back plat, lean your torso forward and bring your forearms to the ground between your legs. Rest on your forearms and feel the stretch in your hips and the release in your lower belly.
Marjaryasana — Cat/Cow Pose
Cat-Cow is a class pose that can be used for so many different ailments. In pregnancy, cat-cow shines in its ability to stretch the spine and open up the belly. This will take pressure of the lower belly and open up the entire abdomen, giving both you and baby space to breathe.
Begin on all fours with your knees bent directly below your hips and your palms planted firmly on the ground below your shoulders. Inhale and look up while gently bending your back. Try not to bend too deep in the lower back. Exhale and draw your back up, roll your shoulders, tuck your head down, and feel the spine open up. Repeat several times, taking slow and easy breaths.
Whole Body Relief
Sometimes, your whole body is just aching. So many changes are going on during pregnancy that all kinds of things can feel out of whack. The following poses are great choices when you feel you need a whole-body tune-up.
Matsyasana — Supported Fish Pose
The supported fish pose will open up the back, release the hips, and give your whole body a comfy supported rest. You’ll need two yoga blocks for this one.
In a seated position, take one of your yoga blocks and place in a few inches behind you on the lowest height. This will be to support the mid-back. Place the second block a few inches further behind that one on the middle or highest height to support your neck. Bring your legs into a butterfly pose, placing the feet sole-side together with the knees bent out towards the sides. Lower your back gently onto the first block, then your neck and head to the second block. Adjust the blocks to find the best position, then rest your arms to your sides. Lay here for several minutes.
Viparita Karani — Legs Up the Wall Pose
This pose is a fabulous restorative pose that will not only give your back and abdominals a rest, but will increase blood flow to your entire abdomen. This pose is great to use before bed or whenever you feel you need a little break.
Begin seated next to a wall. Lie down, face up, with legs raised to rest on the wall. Flex the feet and adjust your seat so that your bottom is close to the wall. You can place your hands on your belly or one hand on your heart and one on your belly. Rest here for several minutes.
Yoga For Birth Preparation
Did you know that there are yoga poses that can help prepare the body for labor? These poses will help to strengthen the body, clear the mind, and open up the hip girdle.
Malasana — Supported Squat Pose
The supported squat is similar to the yoga squat used above for hip pain. In this version, however, a support such several cushions or a thick folded blanket is used to help open the pelvis without placing too much strain on the body as the belly can be quite large by this point. This pose will help to open the hips and can be used to stimulate labor when the baby is overdue.
Stack several pillows or cushions behind you and stand with your feet wider than shoulder width apart. Slowly bend at your knees to lower yourself into a deep squat and rest on the pillows as a seat. Bring your hands to heart position and rest here for several deep, slow breaths.
Support Your Pregnancy Through Yoga
Yoga has so much to offer pregnant women; it supports and strengthens the body, prevents pain, relieves tension, calms the mind, and can even be used to help support the transition into labor and beyond. Whether you find yourself in a studio class or engaging in a home practice, incorporate yoga into every stage of your pregnancy to feel your best. This is a special time for you and your baby and you deserve to feel happy and healthy all nine months of it!