This year I was enrolled in my 200RYT Yoga Teacher training. By the end of the training, I found out I was pregnant, and also in the later weeks after the training came to a close, fell off the wagon a little bit with my at-home yoga practice. This proved to be illuminating to how important this practice actually is for my mental health and my physical health. With pregnancy being arguably the biggest change a body can go through, the consequences of not practicing were immediately clear. I gave myself a break, and I don’t regret that, part of our yogic practice is to listen to our bodies, but I knew that inching back towards a daily practice would be so beneficial to my pregnancy. So that’s what I did (after taking a nap, of course).
During the end of my first trimester, I felt my pelvic bones shifting, and possibly the early symptoms of sciatica. As I inched my way back into my practice, I delved back into my recently acquired knowledge and did a little digging to find some of the best poses to that served my new, changing body.
Here are my go-to yoga poses for pregnancy:
- This pose is wonderful for reducing sciatica pain and relieving stress in the low back. I recommend doing each side for a minute each, two minutes if that’s available to you. This pose stretched deep into the glutes, relieves pain on the piriformis (a small muscle in the buttocks), stretches the groin and the psoas. Doing this pose daily provided a ton of relief to my low back and buttocks.
- To come into this pose, start in a comfortable seated position, and swing the front leg forward at a right angle, and swing the back leg, straightening as much as is available to you.
Note: this pose has a lot of variations, and the two I posted, depending on where you’re at in your practice and also in your pregnancy, might not work for you. I posted the two that have been most helpful to me. Here are some more options for this pose if these aren’t working for you or if you want even more variation. One thing to consider for this pose is to keep the leg in the front at a 90 degree angle to keep the pose safe.
- Hips tend to tighten up during pregnancy and when we sit it may feel better to have some type of hip opening stretch.
- To get into this pose, come into a lunge, knee over ankle, and slowly inch the forward foot to the side, lift the back knee (if this isn’t available, leave the back knee down and use a blanket underneath if the pressure is too much), and come onto the forearms, using blocks if necessary.
- Okay, but when you’re pregnant, how can you NOT do a pose that embodies how you feel (okay, I don’t always feel like a Goddess, but I think every woman+every pregnant woman IS a goddess).
- To come into Goddess pose, start in Tadasana, Mountain pose, and step out to come into a wide stance (approximately four feet apart) with toes pointing outward from the body, helping the hips open. Breathe in, and as you exhale, come into a squat knees bent directly over ankle with cactus arms, or hands in the prayer position. Hold this for a few breaths and repeat.
- Child’s pose is a wonderful option that is accessible for most yoga levels. It’s benefits include stretching the hips, thighs and ankles. It also releases stress and is a great pose if you need a break between poses
- To come into child’s pose, come onto hands and knees, and spread your knees keeping your feet touching. Then, sit back onto your feet and fold forward with you head resting on the mat or a block
Table Top/Arm and Leg Extension Flow
- One of the great things about this sequence of poses is that it really helps balance both sides of the body. During pregnancy, I learned through a midwife talk about the importance of balancing our bodies during pregnancy for optimal baby positioning for birth. Doing poses on both sides of the body encourages the baby to move to the natural position they were most optimally designed to be in for vaginal birth.
- To come into table top, come onto hands and knees, shoulders over wrists, wrists over ankle, hip distance apart. Once you feel stable in this position, try to outstretch one arm at a time forward as you move the gaze forward. Then try to extend each leg outward parallel to the ground. If you feel stable doing both of these things, try to extend one leg out while outstretching the opposite arm out. Exhale, draw both in, and repeat with other leg and arm in a fluid motion.
Table Top/Fire Hydrant Sequence
- The importance of hip opening during pregnancy is profound. Our hips feel much tighter and if we have jobs that require us to sit for prolonged periods, its important to open up those hips. This sequence not only does that, but also strengthens the inner thigh.
- Come into table top as mentioned above, and this time, inhale the leg up at a 90 degree angle parallel to the floor, and slowly exhale it back down. Repeat this for as many times feel comfortable to your practice on each side. Try to make sure each side is even
- Balancing is so important during pregnancy. This pose is good for using both sides of the body, relating once again to baby positioning, and really connecting back to our sense of balance.
- For this pose, because our centers of gravity are a bit thrown off by this new emerging life inside of us, we may want to use a wall to make sure we are grounded. Start in Mountain pose, and slowly raise one leg up parallel to the ground, knee bent. Turn the knee outward so that the inner foot is facing the opposite inner leg. Place the foot either below the knee on the calf or ankle, or above the knee (never on the knee). If you feel stable, draw arms upward and maybe introduce a small wave of the arms, or prayer hands, continue the breath and find a focal point. Draw upward from the center of the body and think of firmly rooting the feet and toes on the ground. If you feel unstable, continue to use a wall to help stabilize yourself in this pose. Repeat on either side.
- Warrior poses are strong poses. They help us bring out our strength and courage. This is an empowering pose that builds strength and opens the hips.
- To come into Warrior II stand in Mountain pose facing the short end of your mat. Step back with one leg wider than hip distance apart. Turn the back foot to face the long edge of the mat, and allow the hips to open toward that end of the mat as well. Raise your arms to be shoulder height and outstretched, and bring the gaze towards the front arm’s fingertips.
These poses are some of my favorites. I have other poses I try out and see what works for my changing body on any given day. I practice Isvara Pranidhana, a Niyama integral to the practice of yoga translating from Sanskrit to mean, “surrender to a higher power.” Remembering that yoga is not a religion, we can take these ancient wisdoms and apply them to our own spiritual lives. I surrender to God and I remember that my body is a beautiful creation that currently houses another beautiful creation. I choose to cherish that and surrender any frustrations I have of any limitations this new body has and instead remain in the bliss of what God has blessed me with. I remember to set an intention with my practice, and often times it is to be grateful for my healthy body and to find deeper connection with this child growing inside of me.
*Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor or midwife before introducing any type of exercise during pregnancy. These are merely my experiences and while I think they were beneficial to me, make sure that based on your specific health, that these are safe for you.