Practicing yoga can calm your mind, and help prepare your body for the multitude of changes that it will undoubtedly go through in the months to come. Yoga is recommended throughout pregnancy because it tones muscles, helps to maintain integrity and balance, as well as improve blood circulation, and it’s super easy on your joints to boot!
Pair all of that with an Ujjayi breath and you have a recipe for success. Ujjayi breathing for those new to yoga is the slow inhalation through your nose to fill up your lungs, and an even slower release of that breath. This style of breathing allows your body to relax further and slow your heart rate. When practiced enough can help throughout labour to calm you, and ease through those painful contractions.
In labour our bodies produce adrenaline triggering our “flight or fight” response. This can cause a decrease in our bodies natural productions of Oxytocin. Oxytocin is integral for cervical dilation before birth, and uterine contractions during the second and third stages of labour.
For more information on the effects Oxytocin has on your body pre and post baby (breast feeding, clotting placenta attachment point, etc) visit Wikipedia. So practicing yoga and Ujjayi breathing together will help you loosen tighten muscles as you contract, decreasing adrenaline production allowing oxytocin production help your labour to progress.
*Before beginning any exercise get clear first by your doctor
In your first trimester your joints and ligaments are starting to relax and stretch making room for that beautiful baby growing inside of you. You may be feeling nauseous, or tired all the time so don’t push yourself, do what feels right for you! If you are taking group classes be sure to tell the instructor you’re pregnant and avoided any heated classes.
Yoga can be a very emotional experience, if you need to sit back into child’s pose and take a couple minutes for you do not feel ashamed to do so, take all the time you need and listen to your body.
You do not have many restrictions in your first trimester, however make sure to STAY HYDRATED this goes for your entire pregnancy. Before, during and after a workout you should always be consuming water. If you start feeling any pains or discomfort look for modifications to the pose or ask your instructor.
Things to avoid during your first trimester:
- Intense abdominal work. If you are regularly active and are comfortable by all means continue your regular workouts as long as your doctor okays it. However right now is a vital time and the most common period for miscarriage so don’t over do it.
- Unless you are a practiced yogi with experience, try to avoid inversions, backbends and intense Vinyasa. If you are doing inversions I would suggest doing them against a wall so you have less chance of falling.
When it comes to the first trimester all basic poses are perfectly safe to do.
- If you are doing a balancing posture stick close to a wall incase you get dizzy and need the support.
- Pelvic floor and leg strengthening poses are a great way to improve circulation, which can prevent cramping. So try to add a couple to every practice.
Cat-Cow is a gentle flow between two poses that warms the body and brings flexibility to the spine. It stretches the back torso and neck, and softly stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs. It also open the chest, encouraging the breath to become slow and deep. The spinal movement of the two poses stimulates the kidneys and adrenal glands. Coordinating this movement with your breathing relieves stress and calms the mind.
This sequence also helps to develop postural awareness and balance throughout the body. It brings the spine into correct alignment and can help prevent back pain when practiced regularly.
- Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward.
- Begin by moving into Cow Pose: Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling.
- Broaden across your shoulder blades and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
- Next, move into Cat Pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back.
- Release the crown of your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
- Inhale, coming back into Cow Pose, and then exhale as you return to Cat Pose.
- Repeat 5-20 times.
- Seated hip openers are also a great idea to start working on in the first trimester and continue on throughout pregnancy (as long as your as feeling comfortable). They help improve flexibility and prep you for an easy labour.
Malasana or Garland Pose, stretches the thighs, groin, hips, ankles, and torso. It tones the abdominal muscles and improves the function of the colon to help with elimination. This pose also increases circulation and blood flow in the pelvis, which can help regulate sexual energy. Improves balance, concentration, and focus. This pose is particularly beneficial for women who are pregnant, as it can later aid in childbirth.
- Begin by standing at the top of your mat in Mountain Pose, with your arms at your sides. Step your feet about as wide as your mat.
- Bend your knees and lower your hips, coming into a squat. Separate your thighs so they are slightly wider than your torso, but keep your feet as close together as possible. If your heels lift, support them with a folded mat or blanket.
- Drop your torso slightly forward and bring your upper arms to the inside of your knees. Press your elbows along the inside of your knees and bring your palms together in prayer position. Work toward bringing your hands to your heart center and your forearms parallel to the floor.
- Lift and lengthen your torso, keeping your spine straight and shoulders relaxed. Shift your weight slightly into your heels.
- Hold for five breaths. To release, bring your fingertips to the floor. Then, slowly straighten your legs and come into Standing Forward Fold.
By your fourth month the morning sickness should start to subside, and with that the pregnancy cravings beginning. You may start getting a belly now, and your boobs have definitely gotten bigger as the milk ducts are stimulated. Your pelvic joints start to loosen and your belly ligaments start to stretch (round ligament pain), all of this combined is starting to put massive strain on your back as your body tries to identify its new center of balance. So during this stage of pregnancy yoga is all about easing the discomforts.
- Avoid poses that put you on your stomach or back in this stage. Laying on your stomach probably isn’t comfortable at all by this stage, and laying on your back put all the weight of that growing baby and uterus onto your vena cava which is the vein that carries blood from the lower body to the heart this can be dangerous.
- By this point in your pregnancy you know what your body is capable of, so use any prop available to you for assistant when something doesn’t feel quite right. Have some pillow, blankets, blocks handy. Use a chair for balancing postures, whatever you need to do to make this the best and productive yoga experience for you.
- Chest and hip openers are best for this stage of pregnancy, so keep up on your Garland pose and add in some extended side angles
Extended side angle relieves stiffness in the shoulders and back. It provides a deep stretch to the groins and hamstrings, and it also improves stamina. This pose strengthens the legs, knees, and ankles, while also stretching and toning the abdominal muscles. It is known to be therapeutic for constipation, infertility, sciatica, menstrual discomfort, and low backache.
This pose requires and builds strength throughout the entire body, and is therefore best practiced closer to the beginning or the middle of a standing pose sequence. It helps reduce swelling in the feet in the last trimester of pregnancy. Through this asana, your hips and chest open up. It allows for blood circulation and stimulates the abdominal organs. Your back and spine are stretched and massaged, and pain is reduced.
- Begin in Mountain Pose. Turn to the left and extend your arms sideways to shoulder-height, palms facing down. Step your feet as wide apart as your wrists. Align your heels.
- Turn your right leg and foot outward 90 degrees so your toes point to the top of your mat. Bend your right knee until your right thigh is parallel to the floor (you may need to widen your stance). Keep your right knee directly over your heel. Turn in your left toes slightly. Align the heel of your right foot with the arch of your left foot. Keep your back leg straight. Inhale and draw your left hip slightly forward.
- Keep your torso open to the left; do not turn your body in the direction of your right leg. Gaze out across the top of your right middle finger. This is Warrior II.
- Exhaling, lower your right arm so your forearm rests on your right thigh.
- Reach your left arm up towards the ceiling, and then extend your arm over the top of your head. Your left bicep should be over your left ear, and your fingertips should be reaching in the same direction your front toes are pointing. Keep your chest, hips, and legs in one straight line, extended over your front leg.
- Turn your head to look up at the ceiling. Keep your throat soft and your breathing smooth. Relax your face.
- For a deeper chest and shoulder opening, place your front hand on the outside of your front foot. You can also rest your front hand on a yoga block.
- Make sure your front knee does not drop inward. Keep your front thigh externally rotating with your knee drawn slightly toward the baby toe of your front foot. Press firmly through the outer edge of your back foot.
- Hold for up to one minute.
- To release, press firmly through your back foot. Then, exhale as you slowly come up to a standing position with your arms extended at shoulder-height. Turn your feet and body so they face the same direction, and then step your feet together. Repeat on the opposite side.
Your third trimester can be a relatively stressful one, as your countdown to baby gets closer and closer. You’re probably having trouble sleeping, and moving can be uncomfortable. There is more pressure on your internal organs as the baby size increases causing, shortness of breath, constant urination, heartburn, cramping, the list could go on. It is important to divert your thoughts from the negative and focus on staying positive and letting your body do what it is made to do!
The best part of yoga is that it is here to help you relax, so don’t over do it and make sure to use props when needed.
- Your balance is off now so make sure any balancing postures, there is a wall near for you to use as support, a fall would not be good right about now.
- Keep up those hip openers, they will help relieve lower back pressure and help alleviate the pain.
- Pelvic tilts will help push the baby down, and get them in the right position for delivery.
- Try to focus on your breathing in this trimester.
There are so many wonderful and healing yoga poses for you to utilize during pregnancy, I can’t list them all or this would be a never ending post. The best advice I could give you is listen to your body and breath, the rest will follow.
Yoga is about practice, repetition and patience so just enjoy it. I personally enjoy doing my yoga at home where I can practice at my own rate, and because the yoga in my small town is mostly offered in heated classes which are not ideal for pregnancy.
However now that I am pregnant I do this with caution. I have slowed my practice down and make sure to only do what I am comfortable doing, using props when necessary. I am going to attach some links to some good yoga videos on YouTube for anyone interested to check out. If you have any questions or you would like more information, please feel free to leave me a comment below!
Thanks for reading everyone!
xo – Stephanie
I have really been enjoying this sequence with Yoga with Adriene. There are a couple postures that I have to modify as this is not specifically for prenatal, however it has so many healthy poses for pregnancy that I am recommending it anyways! If you want to check out Adriene’s Prenatal classes, and more of her amazing content that is not available on YouTube, you can join her community here. She has an entire yoga series for pregnancy and walks you through step by step. Really love her content!
Sarah Beth Yoga, has an amazing playlist of prenatal videos as well. She has an informative “do’s and don’t” video along with a short 20 minute bedtime practice to relax and get you ready for a sound sleep. You can purchase her whole program through the link on her YouTube video if it’s something you are interested in. I would suggest going through at least one of her videos with her first just to know if you’ll enjoy it.
Ali Kamenova Interval Yoga, has pregnancy yoga videos for the more experienced yogi’s. I wouldn’t try these if you are just a beginner. I haven’t ventured into her videos as I like slower paced yoga to really stretch everything out, but this is for you and what you feel comfortable with so choose the best program for yourself.
Saregamawellness has a really nice soothing prenatal video on youtube. Good for any trimester.
Yoginiology has a lot of great content for all mommies. Anywhere from a quick 10 minute flow to a whole hour, so you can pick your poison.
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