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Prenatal Yoga

Reviewed by
Dr. Shawn A. Tassone

Prenatal Yoga

Pregnancy and yoga go hand in hand. However, when you’re pregnant it’s extremely important to have a yoga instructor that has knowledge and experience dealing with all stages of a pregnant body. There are many benefits for an expectant mother if she chooses to do yoga throughout her pregnancy, such as:

  • Keeping you limber
  • Toned muscles
  • Improved balance
  • Improved circulation
  • Teaches deep breathing
  • Relaxation

There are some poses or exercises an expectant mother should not do while pregnant. We will discuss which poses and exercises are most beneficial for each trimester below.

Benefits of Yoga During Pregnancy

As listed above, there are many benefits to doing yoga while you’re pregnant. There are many challenges that come with labor and childbirth, and yoga is a great tool while preparing to overcome these difficulties. Like Kegel exercises, yoga helps tone and strengthen your muscles, including your pelvic muscles. This can help control the frequency of urination late in pregnancy, as well as give you the strength you will desperately need during vaginal birth. Yoga also teaches you how to keep control of your breathing, which is crucial in a stressful and strenuous time such as delivery. Being able to relax, breath, and keep control during labor and birth are just some of the benefits to doing yoga while pregnant.

First Trimester Yoga

During the first trimester, your baby is too small to be effected by the specific poses and exercises yoga requires. However, it’s important to remember that yoga at any point during your pregnancy can do more harm than good, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy. Ashtanga Yoga is not recommended for women who have experienced a miscarriage in the past. Since many women don’t find out they have a high-risk pregnancy until the second trimester or later, some health care providers suggest holding off on yoga until that time. Still, practicing yoga during your first trimester is a personal choice. The best poses for a pregnant woman in her first trimester are:

Ardha Titali Asan – Also known as the half butterfly, this is an excellent practice for loosening up the hip and knee joints. Sitting with one leg stretched out, you bend the other leg as far up the opposite thigh as possible. Breathing in, you move your bent knee towards your chest. Breathing out, you push your bent knee back down to the floor, repeating with the other leg.

Poorna Titali Asan – Also known as the full butterfly, you bring the soles of your feet together, keeping your heels close to your body. Clasping your feet with both hands, you completely relax your inner thighs. This pose helps relieve tension that is built up in your inner thigh muscles and relieves the feeling of tiredness from your legs.

Second Trimester Yoga

During the second trimester, many women find out whether or not they have a high-risk pregnancy. High-risk pregnancies can prevent expectant mothers from pursuing activities they normally do or want to begin, such as yoga. Some of the best yoga poses for the expectant mother in her second trimester include:

Matsya Kridasan – Known as the flapping fish pose, this exercise requires you to lie on your side with your fingers interlocked under your head and one knee bent sideways and close to the ribs. The bent knee takes the pressure off of the belly, and this pose is known to reduce constipation during pregnancy and help your digestive tract. Many women experience pressure and blockage of circulation later in pregnancy, and this exercise is great for women who are uncomfortable or have trouble sleeping or relaxing.

Vajrasan – Known as the thunderbolt pose, this exercise requires you to kneel on the floor, while connecting your big toes together and separating your heels. This pose also helps to regulate the digestive system, especially right after meals. This pose is also known to strengthen pelvic muscles, which is very helpful during labor and birth.

Third Trimester Yoga

Yoga that is practiced in the third trimester, especially late in the trimester, can be a hard yet very powerful tool as the due date draws closer. Although it may seem like poses and exercises are limited due to the size of your belly, yoga can still be safe if practiced correctly and under supervision. Again, this is why it is critical to have a yoga instructor who understands the risks and benefits of doing yoga with a pregnant body. These poses are safe and beneficial for the women in her third trimester:

Supta UdarakarshanAsan – Known as the sleeping abdominal stretch pose, this exercise requires you to start out lying on your back with your fingers interlocked and your hands behind your head. Bending your knees and keeping your soles on the floor, you move your knees back and forth, lowering your knees until they touch the floor. This exercise  helps with constipation, aids digestion, and relieves stiffness in your spine that is due to prolonged sitting.

Ankle Crank – Many pregnant women know far too much about leg and foot pain. The ankle crank is a great exercise for relieving stiffness and improving circulation to the feet. While bending one leg up and placing the foot over the opposite knee, you rotate the ankle in a large circle repeatedly in a slow process.

The full butterfly and half butterfly poses mentioned in the first trimester section can also be helpful in the third trimester, as they help to engage the baby’s head late in pregnancy.  However, it is important to note that the full butterfly is NOT recommended if the baby is breech. The poses and exercises mentioned above are examples of what you would learn in an actual yoga class. If you feel like yoga is for you, ask around or get a referral from someone you trust about where to go and who is a knowledgeable instructor.

    [Page updated June 2017]