Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 12:34 pm
Prenatal yoga focuses on meditation, breathing exercises and postures that will help you to adapt physically as well as emotionally for the changes during pregnancy and childbirth. Practising yoga regularly will teach you to influence your body and mind in a positive way. It’s important to stick to the guidelines and work with modifications as you move from one trimester to the next, in order to get the most out of these exercises for both you and your baby.
First trimester (weeks 1 – 14)
Whether or not you’ve practised yoga before, keep it easy and simple for the first 14 weeks of your pregnancy. Focus on breathing and relaxation rather than movement.
The bridge pose
This pose strengthens the leg muscles, especially the inner thighs, which helps you to support the extra weight of your baby as the pregnancy progresses. It also stretches the muscles around the groin area, opens the chest, and frees the diaphragm for deeper breathing.
How to do it: Lie on your back and place your feet flat on the floor near to your buttocks, hip-distance apart. Stretch your arms alongside your body, palms down, for support. Breathe in and raise your pelvis off the floor. Continue to breathe deeply a few times in this position, and then breathing out, slowly lower your buttocks to the floor. Repeat several times.
Twisting promotes flexibility and strength of the spinal column and improves circulation, thereby nourishing the spine. It relaxes and stretches the muscles which support the breasts and the intercostals muscles between the ribs.
How to do it: Sit upright, keeping one leg straight and the other knee bent, with your foot on the floor. Place the hand on the side of the straight leg behind the sacrum (bone at the base of the spine), on the floor. Then take the elbow of the opposite arm to rest on the inner knee of the bent leg. Pushing gently with the elbow, slowly rotate the neck around to look over the shoulder of the straight leg. Hold the posture, breathing all the time. Then change legs and do the same on the other side.
Second trimester (weeks 14 – 28)
While you should be feeling stronger and your energy levels pick up as you move from the first into the second trimester, it’s important to bear in mind that ligaments need to be stretched gradually and naturally without hurry or force. This is especially true in pregnancy, when special hormones gradually soften your ligaments so that they will stretch naturally to allow your baby to be born.
This pose lengthens the spine and increases spinal awareness, while strengthening the muscles in the upper back, arms and hands. It also improves circulation and releases tension across the shoulders, and in the neck and face.
How to do it: Make a right angle with your body by placing your hands and feet on the floor and walking your hands forward (shoulder-width apart. Keep your knees bent. If you feel that you can’t take your hands all the way to the floor, you can use a stool for support. Straighten your legs (feet hip-distance apart) on a breath out, bringing your heels toward the floor. As you breathe in, stretch through the spine and arms, holding the pose for a few more breaths.
While there are many balancing positions one can try, it must be remembered that in pregnancy one’s centre of gravity is constantly shifting, so be patient with yourself. You’ll find that there will be better days (and sides) depending on where you are at. Practicing balancing assists with being grounded and feeling centred, and works with concentration, thus helping with inner focus in labour, by detaching from the pain and working positively with the body to birth the baby.
How to do it: Stand straight, raise your one foot and rest it on the inside of your other thigh. Make sure you keep your base foot straight and resist swaying to the side of your swaying leg. You may need the assistance of a wall at first. Place your hands in the prayer position in front of you. You can then lift your arms up and open your hands as well as your fingers out to create the image of a tree. Hold this position, and continue to breathe deeply while imagining you’re a tree growing towards the sun. Then bring your leg down gently and try the same position on the opposite side.
Third trimester (weeks 28 – 40)
This seated position assists the urinary tract and helps prevent infections, which are common during pregnancy, while improving circulation to the groin area. It also increases flexibility of the hip joints, widening the pelvic inlet, and helps to correct the tilt and position of the pelvis.
How to do it: Sit on the floor whenever you can instead of lounging on an easy chair. You may wish to place cushions under your knees to begin with, until the groin ligaments stretch and relax naturally. Gently placing the hands or elbows on the knees, press down gently and hold for a number of breaths. Then relax and bounce your knees gently a few times to prevent cramping, repeating if desired.
Squatting regularly helps to increase the mobility of your hip joints and bring your pelvis into the right postural position in relation to the spine. Not only will squatting support your baby in a good position for birthing, but regular practice will help you to feel at ease in this position so that you can use it comfortably when you’re in labour.
How to do it: While there are many variations of squats, as a rule of thumb, stand straight, keeping your feet parallel or slightly turned out in the same direction as your knees. Then slowly drop your weight towards your heels, attempting to keep your feet flat on the floor and your spine lengthened. To make it fun, you can try practicing this with a partner, building on the number of repetitions as your body gets stronger and ready to birth.