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Breaking Down Yoga During Pregnancy: Essential Poses And Tips

Nicole McCray on May 19, 2021

If you’re looking for a way to stay active and fit throughout your pregnancy, prenatal yoga is a fantastic option. It’s both gentle and low impact while offering a host of mental and physical health benefits

In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about yoga during pregnancy, including:

  • the benefits of prenatal yoga
  • 5 best yoga poses to try
  • how to stay safe on your yoga mat as your pregnancy progresses.

🤰 How Is Prenatal Yoga Different From Regular Yoga?

Prenatal yoga utilizes many of the same poses and techniques you see in regular yoga, but with a gentler approach. It emphasizes mental centering, breath awareness, and gentle stretching. A strong focus is also placed on poses that strengthen the muscles and tendons used to support pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

Some poses should be avoided in prenatal yoga, while others can be modified for safety and comfort as your pregnancy progresses. Props may also be utilized for certain poses to prevent injury and overstretching, especially in the second and third trimesters.

Twists get a bad rap during pregnancy but as long as you're not compressing your belly and listening to your body, you're good to go!

✨ The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

Keeps you active and fit

When paired with low-impact cardio exercises like walking or swimming, prenatal yoga is a great way to stay in shape and avoid unhealthy weight gain during your pregnancy. Prenatal yoga will keep your muscles toned while improving circulation, balance, and flexibility without putting strain on your joints.

Prepares you for labor and delivery

During a prenatal yoga class, you will be taught deep breathing exercises that will help you relax during labor and delivery.

If you’re stressed during labor, your body may produce more adrenaline and less oxytocin, which is the hormone that helps your labor progress. With regular prenatal yoga practice, you will be better prepared to relax, which can help you cope with pain and possibly help labor move more quickly.

A simple breathing yoga session an teach you essential coping tools for birth.

Provides relief for pregnancy discomforts

If you’re dealing with headaches, insomnia, nausea, lower back pain, or shortness of breath during your pregnancy, yoga can be super helpful. When you stretch and strengthen your muscles, you improve blood circulation which promotes healing.

Deep breathing also improves oxygen flow to your muscles, which reduces aches and pains. And the meditative aspects of yoga reduce stress, which can be beneficial on so many levels.

Offer community and support

The benefits of prenatal yoga aren’t just physical or mental. Prenatal yoga classes can offer emotional support and help you stay motivated to keep active throughout your pregnancy. It’s a great way to connect with a community of pregnant women in a supportive, positive environment.

🧘 5 Especially Helpful Poses During Pregnancy

Goddess Pose

If you can do only one pose during your pregnancy, go for Goddess. It strengthens legs and the hips, opens the inner groin, and teaches you to breathe through challenges. Plus, it turns into a real burner when held for a minute, giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Goddess Squat/ Utkata Konasana

Cat-Cow Flow

This simple flow is great for reducing tension in the spine. Do it in the morning, in the evening, and any time you need to relax and limber up.

Cat-Cow Stretch

Standing Or Seated Side Bend

This pose is fantastic for reducing tension in the lower back and torso. Plus, as you belly grows you'll start feeling more and more constriction in the ribs and intercostal muscles - one more reason to stay in this lovely stretch for a little longer.

Bridge Pose

For a little spin on traditional Bridge, try squeezing a block between your thighs. This deceiving easy variation increases core stabilization and activates the pelvic floor. It can also help relieve pain in the hips and lower back.

Crescent Lunge

This strong yoga pose opens up the hips and strengthens the legs. Feel free to have fun with it. Lower your back knee down for a gentler variation or get your heart rate up by dipping your knee and lifting it up.

Knee dips illustration

Avoid the risk of complications during the pregnancy - here are most common prenatal no-no's.

✅ 6 Essential Tips For Safe Yoga During Pregnancy

Your body goes through some pretty dramatic changes during pregnancy, and the way you exercise should, too.

When it comes to prenatal yoga, making certain modifications to your practice will help you avoid injury and keep you and your baby safe as your pregnancy progresses.

  • Talk to your healthcare professional first. Every woman’s body and every pregnancy are different. Even if you’ve been doing yoga for years, or you did yoga throughout your previous pregnancy, it’s still a good idea to talk to your healthcare professional about your plans for staying active during your pregnancy, just to be safe.
  • Stay hydrated. Some yoga instructors may ask that you do not drink water during a regular yoga class, but most are more flexible during prenatal yoga. Staying hydrated is extremely important while pregnant. Be sure to hydrate properly before, during, and after your workout.
  • Use props. As your belly begins to grow, your center of gravity will change, which can throw off your balance. Placing your yoga mat near a wall or using a sturdy chair for support during certain poses can be extremely beneficial. Props such as folded towels and yoga bolsters can also be helpful for extra support and modifying certain poses.
  • Be careful not to overstretch. During pregnancy, the body produces a hormone called relaxin, which helps muscles, tendons, and ligaments stretch to accommodate your growing baby and prepares the body for delivery. When performing yoga during the first trimester of your pregnancy, it can be easy to overstretch and pull a muscle without realizing it. Blocks can come in handy for holding a stretch without overdoing it. As your pregnancy progresses, remember that stability and strength are more important than flexibility as your baby bump grows.
  • Modify the way you do forward bends. Deep forward bends in the second and third trimesters can be very uncomfortable and potentially throw you off balance. Adopting a wider stance can be extremely helpful. You can also put blocks under your hands to reduce compression on your tummy while still allowing you to get a stretch in your spine.
  • Change the way you work your abs. You shouldn’t do full planks or sit-ups during pregnancy, but you can do exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor and help you maintain overall stability. Leg lifts on your hands and knees, cat/cow poses, and planks from your knees are generally considered safe.
You don't need to do crunches to feel your belly working. Balancing Tabletop is a great (and safe!) way to strengthen your pelvic floor and work those abs throughout the whole pregnancy.

📢 One Final Word Of Advice

If you only take one thing away from this article, it should be to listen to your body.

If a pose doesn’t feel right, stop and reassess. Maybe that pose needs to be modified to accommodate your pregnancy, or maybe it simply isn’t right for you at all right now. At the end of the day, your safety and the safety of your unborn baby are what’s most important.

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