Imagine a friend asks you to sign up for a triathlon to take place next May. The only catch is you’re not allowed to prepare. No training schedule, outdoor swims, or weekend bike rides for the 9 months leading up to the event. I’d venture to guess you wouldn’t sign up.
Many women argue that labor and delivery is the most physically and mentally intense experience that we can put our bodies through. So why would we not prepare? We’re told to indulge in ice cream and prop our feet up, but why not work also to strengthen our bodies, calm our minds, and prepare for welcoming our babies into the world?
Practicing yoga during pregnancy is a powerful way to support your growing body and baby both physically and mentally.
It’s a time of constant change and yoga provides a space for understanding, exploration, and finding calm. Even medical studies illustrate the positive effects of practicing prenatal yoga - attending regular classes can lessen pregnancy discomforts and decrease depression during pregnancy.
Beyond the aspects we can see and feel, maintaining a yoga practice can actually improve birth outcomes. Women in a study in India who practiced yoga postures, breathing, and meditation saw improved birth weight and a decrease in preterm labor as compared to women who simply walked 30 minutes twice a day.
It’s best to attend a prenatal yoga class or work one-on-one with a certified instructor to ensure you are practicing safely. Prenatal classes are also a wonderful way to connect with other mamas-to-be and build a community to support your pregnancy, labor, and little one after his or her arrival.
It is important to check with your doctor or midwife before starting a prenatal yoga practice. Once you have the all-clear, get started with the following simple 10-minute sequence you can try at home (or on the beach!).
Bound Angle Pose / Baddha Konasana
To practice bound angle pose, sit on the ground with the soles of your feet together. Sitting on a folded blanked can provide a little extra comfort. To bring a little movement into your spine, place your right hand behind you and your left hand on your feet. Keeping your belly facing forward, turn your upper chest toward the right. Take a few breaths then switch sides. Avoid twisting too deeply - the spine should just move from the bra line up.
This pose is excellent for opening the hips, finding grounding, and working on deep breathing. Adding the gentle twist in the upper spine can help to create space across the chest and in the shoulders.
Tree Pose /Vrksasana
Stand near a wall to ensure you’ll have something to hold onto - balancing can be tricky when you’re pregnant! Start by standing on two feet feeling steady and strong. Slowly lift your left leg and place the sole of your foot agains the inner right leg either below or above your knee. Hold onto the wall if you need to for balance, or if you are feeling steady you can rest your hands on your belly or reach them up toward the sky. Hold for at least 5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Tree pose builds strength in the legs, improves balance, and requires steady concentration. Focusing on even breaths of deep inhales and complete exhales calms the mind during the challenge of standing on one foot.
Side Angle Pose / Parsvakonasana
Stand with your feet wide apart and parallel, then turn your right toes to point to the short end of your mat. Bend your right knee deeply and tilt your torso forward so you can press your right forearm to your right thigh. Turn your chest away from your leg, lift your left arm up overhead and stretch your fingers to the sky. Hold for 5-8 breaths. To switch sides first lift your chest up, then straighten your right leg, turn the toes in, and pause. Then point your left toes to the opposite end of your mat and repeat the pose on the left side.
Side angle opens the hips and chest, stretches the spine and strengthens the legs. It’s an excellent pose for opening the body and providing relief from low back pain.
Goddess Pose / Utkata Konasana
Stand with your feet about 3 feet apart and toes pointing out to the corners of your mat. Bend your knees deeply and hug your baby in using your abdominal muscles. You can rest your hands inside your knees, place them on your belly, or lift them up into a U-shape. Take 5-8 deep breaths then straighten your legs to release the pose.
Goddess pose is great for building endurance and learning to breathe through discomfort- it’s a lot of work in the legs!
It also opens the hips and strengthens the core muscles. See if you can stay a little longer in the pose each time you practice, working up to holding it for a full minute (the length of a contraction!).
Child's Pose / Balasana
Start on hands and knees so you can bring your big toes to touch and your knees wide apart. Then rest your hips toward your heels and let your chest and belly fall between your legs. You can rest your forehead on your mat or on a blanket. Take full deep breaths as you relax into the pose.
Enjoy this pose as a well-deserved rest after your hard work. It will continue to open the hips and provide a release for the spine.
It’s also calming and a chance to practice slow, gentle breathing. At the end of the sequence you can take a supported savasana or just sit with your legs crossed for a short meditation.
Disclaimer: This is an informative article and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your care provider about all exercise and health concerns during pregnancy.