By Wini Linguvic
Photographed by Mark Madeo
Yoga is a wonderful resource when you’re expecting. It has many benefits, including relief from common aches and pains of pregnancy as well as stress reduction. Yoga also provides an increased connection between your body and your breath that will assist you throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery, and motherhood.
By practicing prenatal yoga, you can broaden your awareness of your changing body and your growing baby. Even a few minutes a day offers the opportunity to focus inward during this time of great transition.
Designed to relieve and relax, this prenatal yoga sequence of poses can be done in its entirety as a stress-busting routine. Or you can practice the individual poses one at a time to address specific concerns such as tight shoulders or achy hips.
All you need is a quiet space and some folded blankets. Try to set up near a wall and a chair so you can use them if needed. And always check with your doctor before starting this or any exercise program.
This exercise increases the connection between the mind and the body and deepens your focus—essential tools for labor and delivery.
• Sit on a stack of folded blankets in a comfortable cross-legged position. Support your back against the wall, if necessary.
• Feel your sit bones, the bones beneath the flesh that you literally sit on, grounded on the blankets.
• Place both hands on the belly with the arms relaxed.
• Inhale through the nose, feeling your belly expand. Keep the breath slow and even, elongating the body as you breathe in. Focus on sensing the breath in your throat, which should be soft and open.
• Exhale through the nose, observing your belly contract, gently hugging your baby. Relax your body.
• Continue for three slow, easy breaths. Don’t hold the breath or strain.
Third Trimester Tip: If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable, sit on a chair with back support.
This pose relieves tightness in the hips and back and opens your chest and shoulders. Lifting your pelvic floor—the area that supports your uterus, bladder, and bowel—increases the tone and elasticity of the muscles used in labor.
• Sit on a stack of folded blankets. Support your back against the wall, if necessary.
• Bend your knees and draw your feet a few inches toward your hips. If your legs are tight, place your feet farther away from you and sit on a higher support.
• Place the arms on the inside of the thighs and put your hands together.
• Inhale, gently drawing up your pelvic floor.
• Exhale and relax your pelvic floor.
• Open the chest by gently pressing your hands together.
Third Trimester Tip: If sitting on the floor is challenging, sit on a higher support or chair and stay upright while placing hands together.
Kitten Child Pose
This exercise relieves upper and lower-back pain, while the elongation of the spine increases awareness. Don’t overarch the back; focus on rounding then elongating the spine.
• Begin on all fours with a folded blanket under your knees for comfort.
• Align your knees with or slightly wider than your hips, and place your hands under your shoulders.
• Round the spine gently, drawing your baby in toward you.
• Draw the hips back toward the heels, leading with the tailbone, to lengthen the upper back.
• Repeat, focusing on the back and forth motion, moving with the breath.
Third Trimester Tip: If it is awkward to kneel on the floor, do this sequence with your hands resting on a chair or table.
This pose alleviates the tightness in the upper back and shoulders that’s common during pregnancy.
• Sit in a comfortable kneeling position with folded blankets placed beneath your shins and feet and between your thighs and calves.
• Cross your arms at the elbows, placing your right arm over your left.
• Wrap your forearms around each other. If this is challenging, hug your arms across your chest and stack your elbows, then follow the last two steps.
• Bring the palms toward each other while pointing your fingers toward the ceiling, if you’re comfortable. Lengthen your lower back as you gently lift your elbows a few inches.
• Breathe into the space between your shoulder blades.
• Uncross the arms and repeat on other side.
Third Trimester Tip: Sit on a chair or birthing ball.
Use this stretch to relieve wrists that are tight from swelling. When wrists bother you at the office, try pressing one at a time gently against a wall.
• Start in basic kneeling position with a folded blanket under the knees and knees slightly wider than hips.
• Place your palms on the floor, with the hands slightly wider than the shoulders.
• Spread your fingers wide, lengthening them away from the center of your hand.
• Turn one hand the opposite way, placing the back of the hand on the mat. Feel the slight stretch in the wrists and stay relaxed in the rest of the body.
• Repeat with the other hand.
Third Trimester Tip: Standing, flex hands against a wall.
This pose may be the most important in this sequence. It relaxes and revitalizes,
while giving you a designated time to de-stress.
• Lie on your left side; this prevents pressure on the vena cava vein, which could restrict blood flow to the uterus.
• Put folded blankets or a bolster between your knees and feet.
• Place a thin blanket under your belly, head, and shoulder so you feel supported everywhere.
• Close your eyes and follow the breath traveling through your body.
In addition to being our weekly yoga instructor here at Pregnancy, Wini Linguvic is a personal trainer and has been featured in publications such as Muscle & Fitness, Cosmopolitan, and American Health & Fitness.