At Aham Yoga, we have been teaching pregnant ladies since our doors opened 4 years ago. In the past few years, we have seen a rise in the number of women coming to learn yoga prenatal yoga. This blog covers some of our favorite prenatal yoga poses as as well as some important aspects of prenatal yoga practice.
You must know…
It is best to start yoga before you get pregnant. Get started with a regular yoga practice – months and years before you decide to have a baby (if possible). This will serve you tremendously when you do get pregnant. Over the years, I have seen women who are physically and mentally active – have a much happier pregnancy and most often an easier labor. However, many women discover yoga only after getting pregnant and that’s not a bad thing. But I encourage all pregnant women to do a lot of yoga during their pregnancy. And even more importantly, post pregnancy. It’s called postnatal yoga. But I will elaborate on this at the end of this blog post.
What kind of yoga is best for prenatal yoga?
This is simple – non-heated yoga studio with a knowledgeable teacher who has the knowledge of yoga props and can directly answer your questions. And tell you what the main plan in each trimester is going to be like. And should be able to provide modifications for lower back issues, swollen feet, fatigue, energy restoration, etc…
Prenatal yoga in the first trimester…
A lot of women avoid prenatal yoga practice in the first trimester (0 to 3 months) due to the fear of a miscarriage. However, if you are able to find a knowledgeable yoga teacher in a non-heated yoga room. You can and should get started with a yoga practice. In the first trimester, your practice should be more gentle as the body is getting accustomed to many new changes. And for many women, energy levels vary. The focus would more on gentle movement, seated yoga poses, supine yoga poses, inversions (supported) and some standing poses. This trimester should avoid – deep twists, core work, intense backbends and arm balances. Since this is the easiest trimester to move – I would encourage frequency of yoga practice if your lifestyle allows for it.
Prenatal yoga in the second trimester…
I have heard a lot of women call this the ‘honeymoon phase’ of pregnancy. And is the most comfortable phase of pregnancy. In the second trimester, the focus needs to be on strong hip opening yoga poses, standing poses that build lower body strength and mobility, seated hip openers, supine poses that work the legs and hip and some poses that relieve lower back discomfort. Inversions are completely safe for pregnant women to practice if taught well by a professional yoga teacher.
Prenatal yoga in the third trimester…
This trimester is a continuation of the second one in terms of yoga practice. However, as women get bigger, it gets harder for them to maneuver in and out of yoga poses. But if one has been consistently practicing it is easy till the date of delivery. Some women may need to drop a couple of poses due to discomfort. But overall, one should continue to practice during this trimester and incorporate more relaxing and breathing techniques to restore lost energy.
What yoga poses should be avoided in prenatal yoga?
- Deep twists
- Extreme backbends
- Extreme seated forward folds
- Arm Balances
- Core work
Other important things to avoid…
- Practice in a hot or heated room is unsafe during pregnancy as the baby cannot regulate its own body temperature. So overheating in an artificial room is not recommended in practice. It is also not good for the joints in a pregnant body
- Working with yoga props during pregnancy is a great idea. Try to find a yoga studio that can give you a bit of movement and relaxation
Top 5 prenatal yoga poses
Malasana (Garland Pose)
This pose is essentially a deep squat. Something we don’t do in the western world. This yoga pose is excellent for women who prefer a vaginal birth. The picture below has a rolled blanket supporting the heels. You can also do this with your feet flat or sit on a block (or two) against a wall for a more gentle variation. Hold the pose for as long as comfortable. You should not feel any strain on the knees in this pose.
Baddhakonasana (Bound Angle Pose)
This yoga pose is great for any prenatal yoga stage. It is easy to get into and one can hold for extended during of time. In a seated yoga pose, bring the soles of the feet together and feet as close to you as possible. Knees open out to the sides. Gently press the inner thighs down and focus on your breath. If your knees are higher than your hips, add additional height under your buttocks. In the more advanced stages of pregnancy, one can add blankets or blocks under the outer thighs or knees for support. If breathing is challenging in the forward fold. Sit upright with hands behind the body. Using the arms to keep you upright.
Upavishta Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)
This pose can be done as a continuation of Baddhakonasana (mentioned above). Just reach the legs out to the sides. Flex both feet evenly. Work from the hips to the feet. Keeping the toes and legs active. You can do this by pointing the knees and the toes up to the ceiling. Lift from the lower spine. Place hands behind you if sitting upright is challenging.
Supta Padangushtasana 2
If you know me, you know this is one of my most favorite yoga poses. Read more about this pose here.
This is like a yoga spa. It is one of the best yoga poses to restore, relax and rejuvenate the entire body and mind. All you need is a bolster (or rolled blankets), a blanket for your head, blocks for your knees (optional) and 10 minutes of your day. Just lie back on the bolster. Buttocks stay off the bolster. Entire spine is supported. The neck is supported too. Just allow yourself to rest in this pose for a minimum of 5 minutes to feel the awesomeness of this yoga pose.
When to resume yoga after childbirth?
- 2 months post delivery if it’s vaginal birth
- 3 months post delivery if its a cesarian
A note about postnatal yoga…
Postnatal yoga practice often gets neglected. The main reason for this being – adjusting to a whole new life and schedule. I have met many women, who do not come back for years and often decades as they get caught up in being a mom and managing everything else. But in order to care for others, it is important and necessary to care for yourself too. So do your best to make pockets of time that you can use for yourself. Postnatal yoga specifically should focus on building back strength in the core, stability in muscles, breathing, chest opening, upper body strength, and restoration. This is best done sooner than later.
I wish I could add more yoga poses to this list. There are many more wonderful prenatal yoga poses out there. But for now, if you are an expecting momma, make sure to get yourself started with some prenatal yoga. If you are local, come join us for a class.