Top 20 Yoga Poses for Pregnant Women

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Image : © Mqdee

The moment you see those two red lines on your home pregnancy test, you get flooded with countless emotions at the same time. You will be happy, but you will also be apprehensive about various other factors like how to maintain your fitness level. The answer for all your apprehensions lie buried deep in yoga.

Benefits of Prenatal Yoga: 

Along with keeping you fit and relaxed, prenatal yoga offers a huge bouquet of benefits for you and your baby. It also prepares you, physically and mentally, for labor while bestowing goodness to your baby’s health. Before I guide you through the various yoga poses for pregnant women, here are some benefits that you can derive from yoga during your pregnancy:

  1. Eases anxiety and stress
  2. Helps you relax
  3. Improves your sleep
  4. Strengthens and improves the endurance and flexibility of muscles
  5. Eases nausea and morning sickness
  6. Helps you combat lower back ache, sciatica, carpel tunnel syndrome, edema, shortness in breath and other pregnancy related conditions
  7. Lowers the risk associated with gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, intrauterine growth restriction, and even preterm labor

Apart from these, you get to meet other mothers-to-be and bond with them, which in turn, prepares you better to cope up with post natal stress in a better way.

What to Keep in Mind While Doing Prenatal Yoga: 

I have divided the tips into three sections – first, second, and third trimesters.

1. Taking Care – First Trimester:

Even if you have been practicing yoga for a long time at the comfort of your home, make sure that you find an instructor who has in depth knowledge about pregnancy yoga. If you do not get such a trainer, then make sure you find a well-qualified yoga teacher and intimate him/her that you are pregnant. While there are no restrictions for indulging in yoga during the first trimester, please do check with your gynecologist before embarking on yoga, especially if you have a previous history of early labor or miscarriage.

The moment you feel a little discomfort, inform your instructor so that he can advise you a better way of doing the same or suggest an alternative pose.

2. Taking Care – Second Trimester:

Your tummy slowly starts showing and your joints begin to loosen up. So, be extra cautious. The expanding waistline is also bound to affect your body balance. It is advisable to avoid holding poses for longer periods. Be very carefully as you deepen your positions to avoid injuries. Avoid supine and prone positions.

3. Taking Care – Third Trimester: 

This is, by far, the toughest period during pregnancy. You will find it difficult to breathe and will even feel clumsier. Don’t worry! The little one is growing up. Opt for extremely gentle poses that you can do with support. During the last few weeks, you can try poses that can actually help to move the baby’s head down and pave way for a smooth labor.

Yoga For Pregnant Women – The Don’ts:

  1. Keep yourself hydrated.
  2. Never hold the poses too long; keep moving around in between.
  3. Never overstretch, even if you are a seasoned yoga practitioner.
  4. Avoid deep twists, such as Ardha Matsyendrasana.
  5. Avoid forward bends after six months. Alternatively, you can use a chair and do half forward bends. [Check the poses mentioned below.]
  6. Avoid prone poses such as Bhujangasana and Dhanurasana as it can harm you and your baby.
  7. Say no to jumps.
  8. Avoid powerful breathing routines such as Kapalbhati.
  9. Avoid intense backbends and inversion yoga poses.
  10. Avoid Bikram Yoga.
  11. Avoid supine poses after your first trimester.
  12. Say no to intense forms of Vinyasa Yoga.

Top 20 Yoga Poses for Pregnant Women:

The list, in fact, is quite vast. However, I have put together 20 yoga asanas, most of which can be done by yourself, if you know yoga. The poses have been modified, keeping in mind your pregnancy.

1. Tadasana – Mountain Pose:

Tadasana

Improve your physical and mental coordination by practicing this pose. It also stretches, strengthens, and tones your spine, easing your spine stiffness. Plus, the clogged spinal nerves will be cleared. It also helps in easing back pain triggered by standing or sitting for long hours.

How to Do:

  1. Stand on the mat, feet spread out at hips width. Keep your spine erect, with hands resting on either side of the body, palms facing the thighs.
  2. Stretch your hands to the front and join the palms in Namaskar Mudra.
  3. Taking a deep inhalation, elongate your spine. Simultaneously, lift your hands above your head. Stretch as much as possible, without exerting pressure on the spine and back.
  4. Balance yourself on your feet placed firmly on the mat.
  5. Tilt your head backwards, with your eyes fixed on the fingertips.
  6. Hold the pose for a slow count of 10, taking deep inhalations and exhalations.
  7. Inhale deeply and while exhaling, slowly relax, and bring your feet back to the floor.
  8. Allow your hands to rest on body sides, palms on the thighs.

This makes one repetitions. Do 5 such repetitions.

2. Ardha Kati Chakrasana – Half Waist Rotation Pose:

Ardha Kati Chakrasana

The actual Kati Chakrasana is a back pain healer. However, you cannot do it while you are pregnant, especially if you are in your second or third trimesters. Alternatively, you can try bending to your sides. It stretches and strengthens your waist, back, and hips. It is also ideal to keep yourself relaxed.

How to Do:

  1. Stand on a yoga mat, feet flat on the mat.
  2. Stretch your legs out at hips width, hands resting on your waist.
  3. Taking a deep breath, lift your right arm, aligning it with your right ear.
  4. Inhaling and then, exhaling, bend your body and head to your left. The right hand should be aligned with the ear and should be straight.
  5. Look over your left shoulder.
  6. Breathing normally and hold the pose for a count of 10.
  7. Taking a deep inhalation, come up and rest your hands on the waist.
  8. Keep your feet firmly on the ground while bending.
  9. Repeat on the other side.

This makes one round. Do 5 such rounds.

Variation:

  • You can sit in Ardha Sukhasana and repeat the same process. 

3. Uthishta Trikonasana – Triangle Pose [Modified]:

Uthishta Trikonasana

This pose stimulates and strengthens your digestive system and massages the internal organs. It also improves the flexibility of your hips.

What You Need:
1. Two stools [preferably 2 feet tall]

How to Do:

  1. Stand erect on the yoga mat, feet together, hands resting on either side of the body, palms facing the thighs.
  2. Slowly spread out your legs at hips width. Make sure that the toes of both your legs are parallel to each other.
  3. Lift your hands until they align with your shoulders. Palms should be facing the floor.
  4. Taking a slow, deep inhalation, bend leftwards in such a way that you can balance yourself on the stool kept on your left.
  5. Simultaneously, lift your right hand upwards.
  6. Tilt your head to your left and up in such a way that your gaze is fixed on the finger tips of the right hand.
  7. Hold the position for about 10 to 20 counts, while breathing normally.
  8. Exhaling slowly, lift your body up and come back to the initial pose.
  9. Repeat this pose with your right side.

This makes one repetition. Do 5 such repetitions.

Variation:

  • You can sit in Ardha Sukhasana and repeat the same process. 

4. Uttanasana – Standing Forward Bend [Modified]:

Uttanasana

Relax and stretch your stressed out back and legs with this classic inversion pose. While inversion poses are generally prohibited during pregnancy, this one is an exemption. Take the help of a chair which has a height almost up to half your protruding belly.

What You Need:
1. A 4 feet tall chair or a dining table to support [I used the dining table]

How to Do:

  1. Stand on the mat with feet 3 inch apart. Keep your spine erect, while resting your hands alongside your body, palms facing the thighs.
  2. Take a deep inhalation and bring your hands atop your head, palms spread out.
  3. While exhaling, bend forward, allowing your body to sway away from the hips.
  4. Simultaneously, fold your hands, palms joined in Namaskar mudra.
  5. Breathing normally, hold the pose for a slow count of 10 to 15.
  6. Take a deep inhalation and lift your body away from the ground to come back to the initial position.

This makes one repetition. Repeat 5 times.

Variation:

  • At step, instead of folding your hands behind your, bring your hands down in such a way that your fingers touch the chair kept in front of you. 

5. Virabhadrasana I – Warrior Pose I:

Virabhadrasana

Stretch and strengthen your upper body with this Warrior pose. Along with opening your lungs, chest, and hips, this asana strengthen the back, ankles, legs, shoulders, as well as arms.

How to Do:

  1. Stand erect with your feet together, hands on either side of the body with palms facing your body.
  2. Spread your feet hip width apart.
  3. Holding your left foot firmly on the ground, turn yourself completely to your right, allowing your right foot to turn along. Both feet should come on the same line.
  4. Bend your right knee.
  5. Taking a slow, yet slightly deep inhalation, slowly lift the hands atop your head, palms joined together as in Namaskar mudra.
  6. Stretch backwards, without exerting pressure on your back, as much as possible in such a way that your gaze is fixed on the fingers.
  7. Breathing normally, hold the pose for a count of 10 to 15.
  8. Exhaling slowly, bring your hands down and straighten the bent knee.
  9. Slowly, turn to your left and bring your feet back together.
  10. Repeat the procedure on the other side.

This makes one repetition. Do 5 such repetitions.

6. Virabhadrasana II – Warrior Pose II:

Virabhadrasana II

This is a whole body strengthening pose which doubles up as an awesome upper body and hip opener. It also eases back pain, a commonly prevailing health condition during pregnancy, while improving fertility levels.

How to Do: 

  1. Stand on the mat with feet close together and touching, spine erect, hands resting on either side of the body, palms facing the thighs.
  2. Move your right foot away from near your left foot to a distance of about 4 feet.
  3. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to your right. Bend the right knee making a perpendicular to the floor while left foot points straight.
  4. Stretch your arms outward, in opposite direction, making an 180 degree angle with the floor.
  5. Taking an exhalation, push your pelvis down without exerting pressure.
  6. Tilt your head to the right and keep your gaze fixed.
  7. Hold the pose for a count of 10.
  8. Inhaling, slowly relax, and come up.
  9. Repeat the same with the left side.

7. Utkatasana – Chair Pose – Half Squat Pose:

Pregnant women should relax completely, which in turn enables the pelvis to open up. You can practice this half squat pose for opening up the pelvis. As your tummy starts rolling out and you feel heavier, take the help of a chair to support as you squat. Practicing this pose during the last weeks enables faster labor.

How to Do:

  1. Stand on the floor, with feet firmly planted to the floor.
  2. Slowly, spread your feet outward at hips width, toes pointing outward.
  3. Holding onto the chair kept in front of you and taking a slightly deep inhalation, push yourself into a squat, until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  4. Tuck in your core muscles and lift your chest while your tailbone moves closer to the floor.
  5. Balance yourself on the legs held firmly.
  6. Breathing normally, hold the pose for a count of 10 to 15.
  7. Taking a deep exhalation, push your legs firmly to come back to initial position.

Do 5 such rounds, relaxing for 15 seconds in between repetitions.

Variation:

  • Deepen the pose with Malasana – Complete Squat – Garland Pose.

How to Do:

  1. Stand on the floor, with feet firmly on the floor.
  2. Slowly, spread your feet outward at hips width, toes pointing outward.
  3. Inhaling and then exhaling, lower yourself into a complete squat.
  4. Bring your upper arms inside the knees.
  5. Bend your elbows and join your palms in Namaste or Anjali mudra.
  6. The joined palms should be aligned with the heart, while forearms make a 180 degree line with the floor, opening up the knees a little.
  7. Keep the spine erect while relaxing the shoulders.
  8. Close your eyes and hold the pose, breathing normally, for a count of 5 to 10.
  9. Taking a deep inhalation, relax, and come back to initial position.

Do 5 such rounds, relaxing for 15 seconds in between repetitions.

8. Utkata Konasana – Goddess Pose:

This is a hip, groin, and waist opening pose, which also helps in faster labor during the final days of your pregnancy.

How to Do:

  1. Stand on the floor, feet together on the ground.
  2. Keep your spine and head aligned and erect, hands straight alongside your body, palms resting on the thighs.
  3. Slowly spread your legs, until they are hips width apart.
  4. Now, twist your feet outwards making 45 degrees angle with the ground. Your toes should be away from the body while heels towards the body.
  5. Taking a deep inhalation, bend your knees slightly to make a 90 degree angle with the ground.
  6. Slowly, sink your tailbone until it is parallel with your knees.
  7. Keep your spine and head erect.
  8. Lift your arms to align with the shoulder. Bend your elbows so that your forearm makes a 90 degree angle with shoulders.
  9. Spread your fingers in such a way that their tips face the roof.
  10. Taking a slow, mildly deep inhalation, tuck your core a little while pulling the tailbone down.
  11. Breathing normally, hold the pose for a count of 10 to 15.
  12. Exhaling slowly, bring your hands down, raise yourself from the squat position and come back to the initial position.

Repeat three to five times, pausing for 15 seconds in between,

9. Sukhasana – Easy Pose:

Sukhasana

It is a very gentle and comfortable sitting pose, which you can use for meditation. Or, just relax yourself and ease your back pain with this pose.

How to Do:

  1. Sit on the mat, spine erect, back supported with a wall.
  2. Keep your legs stretched out to the front, while palms rest on the ground.
  3. Fold your right knee and tuck the right foot beneath your left thigh.
  4. Fold the left knee and tuck the left foot beneath your right thigh.
  5. Let your hands now rest on the thighs.
  6. Close your eyes and hold the pose as long as you are comfortable.

Variations:

  • You can place pillows or cushions beneath your knees to make yourself more comfortable. 

10. Parvatasana – Mountain Pose:

Parvatasana

It helps in improving the body posture while offering relief from the lower backache experienced during pregnancy.

How to Do:

  1. Sit on the floor, cross-legged, spine erect.
  2. Taking a deep inhalation, lift your hands overhead in Namaskar mudra.
  3. Close your eyes and try to focus your mind on your breathing.
  4. Sit until you feel completely relaxed while breathing normally.

11. Chakki Chalanasana – Churning The Mill Pose:

This is a tonic for your nerves. It also helps in strengthening the abdomen, uterus, and pelvis during pregnancy.

How to Do:

  1. Sit on the mat, with legs stretched out to the front.
  2. Keep your spine erect while palms rest on the floor.
  3. Stretch your hands out in front of the body at chest level and interlock the fingers.
  4. Sway to your left and make wide circles over your feet, stretching forward and backward as much as possible.
  5. Do this 10 times and then repeat the same with your right side.

This will make one set. Take a break for 60 seconds and then repeat one more set.

12. Supta Udarakarshanasana – Sleeping Abdominal Stretch Pose:

Along with toning your hips and waist, this pose can help you combat pregnancy-related constipation issues by easing your bowel movements.

How to Do:

  1. Lie on your back, head and knees supported by cushions, if required.
  2. Bring your hands beneath your head, interlock the fingers, and place your head on the interlaced fingers.
  3. Bend your knees, allowing the feet soles to rest on the floor.
  4. Taking an exhalation, bend your legs to your right allowing the knees to touch the cushion kept on your right.
  5. Simultaneously, tilt your head left, ensuring that your spine gets a uniform stretch.
  6. Hold the pose for a count of 5.
  7. Inhale and come back to the initial position.
  8. Repeat on the other side by bending your legs leftwards, and head to the right.
  9. Relax and come back to initial position.

This makes one repetition. 10 such repetitions make 1 set. Do 2 such sets.

13. Kashta Takshan Asana – Chopping Wood Pose:

Relax your pelvic girdle and tone your pelvic muscles with this simple yoga asana.

How to Do:

  1. Squat completely on the floor, feet 1.5 feet apart from each other.
  2. Interlock your fingers and allow the palms to rest on the floor.
  3. Keeping your arms straight, tuck your elbows within the knees.
  4. Lift your arms as high as possible over and behind your head, spine stretched, as if you have raised your hands to bring down and chop wood.
  5. As you bring your hands down back to the floor, make a ‘Ha’ sound, expelling the air from your lungs.

This is one repetition. Practice 10 such repetitions.

14. Vajrasana – Diamond Pose:

Vajrasana

This yoga exercise is considered safe during the third trimester of pregnancy. It is the ideal pose to improve your digestive process and ease various digestion related issues, including constipation and heartburn. Plus, it eases your back pain and strengthens your thighs.

How to Do:

  1. Sit on the yoga mat with your thighs and buttocks resting on the heels.
  2. Let your palms rest on your thighs in Gyan Mudra.
  3. Keep your head, neck, and back erect.
  4. Hold the position for a count of 30 to 60, while indulging in deep inhalations and exhalations.
  5. Taking a deep exhalation, stretch your legs outward.

Relax with hands resting on the floor.

15. Marjariasana – Cat Pose:

Marjariasana

Stretch yourself and breathe like a cat to strengthen your spine. Along with improving spine flexibility, the pose strengthens your shoulders and wrists. This asana is helpful for improving your blood circulation levels. Plus, it tones the female reproductive system. It can be safely practiced during the first 26 weeks of pregnancy.

How to Do:

  1. Kneel on the floor, with knees under your hips and palms under the shoulders. Keep your head straight.
  2. Inhaling deeply, lift your chin while pushing your head backwards slightly. Your navel should be pushed downwards while raising the tailbone.
  3. Hold your buttocks firmly, so that you can experience the tingle.
  4. Breathing deeply, hold the pose for about 30 to 90 seconds.
  5. Exhale completely, bring your chin to the chest while relaxing your buttocks and arching the back to the maximum possible extent.
  6. Hold this pose for a count of 10 and then gradually return to the initial position.

This pose should be repeated as many times as possible, with a relaxation period of 15 seconds, to reap the maximum benefits.

Variation:

  • You can keep blocks or cushions to place your palms for added support.
  • A blanket can be placed beneath your knees to alleviate pressure. 

16. Meru Vakrasana – Simple Twist:

Meru Vakrasana

This pose stretches the spine, improves digestion and relieves constipation. It also stretches the legs, hands and neck muscles. Twist to the right and then to the left without any jerks, to improve spinal flexibility and mobility.

How to Do:

  1. Sit with your spine and head erect, while legs are stretched in front of you.
  2. Taking an inhalation, rest the left palm on the right side of the body closer to your right buttock.
  3. Exhaling, bend your left knee and allow the heels to come as close as possible to your left butt.
  4. Keeping the spine erect, turn gently to your right and look over your right shoulders.
  5. Hold the pose for a count of 10.
  6. Taking an inhalation, come back to the initial position.
  7. Switch the sides and repeat the same.

This makes one repetition. Do 2 sets of 5 repetitions.

17. Dandasana – Staff Pose:

Dandasana

Correct your posture and give your body a good stretch with this pose. It also eases tension, both physical and mental. It also stretches, strengthens, and tones your back and spine, preparing your body for a normal vaginal delivery.

How to Do:

  1. Sit on the mat, with back supported on a wall, legs stretched out to the front.
  2. Holding your thigh muscles firmly, flex your feet.
  3. Keep your back and neck erect, while palms rest on the mat.
  4. Stack up your shoulders atop hips.
  5. Gently lift the heels off the floor making a 30 degrees angle. Hold the pose for 15 counts and relax to come back to starting pose.

18. Kandharasana – Shoulder Pose:

Kandharasana

It is not a very commonly practiced pre-natal yoga pose as it is a little difficult. Make sure you have your guru nearby you as you practice this. Plus, take the help of proper cushions and pillows to avoid straining your back and neck. This pelvic tilt eases the tension and strain experienced by your back muscles. This position is ideal in cases of low lying placental conditions and pelvic pain. It is especially recommended for women who have a history of miscarriages.

How to Do:

  1. Lie on the mat in supine position.
  2. Bend your knees, while feet rest flat on the floor, heels touching the buttocks.
  3. Spread out your knees and feet at hips width, while hands rest alongside your body.
  4. Allow your ankles to come as close as possible to your hips so that you can touch them with your hands.
  5. Taking an inhalation, push your buttocks off the floor and gently arch backwards.
  6. Keep the navel and chest as high as possible, balancing your body with your feet and shoulders.
  7. Hold the pose for a count of 5.
  8. Exhale, bring your torso back to the floor, release the ankles, and relax.

Caution:

  • This is not advisable if your baby is in breech or transverse position.
  • Should not be done in advanced stages of pregnancy. 

Variations:

  • Place pillows beneath your back for additional support. 

19. Baddha Konasana – Cobbler Pose – Outward Bound Angle Pose:

Baddha Konasana

This strengthens your inner thighs and pelvic region. Plus, it is ideal to kick off labor and hasten the process. Practicing this pose as your due date comes closer will enable the baby’s head to lower and enable cervix dilatation.

How to Do:

  1. Sit on the mat with spine erect, hands resting on the sides, and legs stretched out in front of you.
  2. Push your knees outwards and bend them in such a way that your feet rest sideways on the floor, soles in contact with each other.
  3. Keep the feet away from the body at a comfortable distance, so that you do not put excess strain on your knees.
  4. Keeping your spine erect, press outer edges of feet firmly.
  5. Hold the pose for a count of 10 before exhaling and coming out of the pose.

Variation:

  • Support your back by propping yourself against a wall.
  • Place cushions beneath your knees to avoid strain. 

20. Matsya Kridasana – Flapping Fish Pose:

Matsya Kridasana

This asana serves as an excellent relaxation pose, apart from the numerous benefits it gives your body and mind. This is the most comfortable way to relax and rest as your tummy grows bigger and bigger.

How to Do:

  1. Lie onto your left side with your head resting on a folded blanket.
  2. Roll another blanket and place it between your thighs to give additional support to your hips.
  3. Inhaling, bend your knees slightly while your right arm is folded across your belly.
  4. Close your eyes and relax in the pose as long as you feel comfortable.
  5. Exhaling, stretch your legs, and slowly lift your torso off the floor.

When to Start Prenatal Yoga? 

If you have been practicing yoga since before you became pregnant, then you can continue right from your first trimester. However, if you experience mild back ache during implantation or any other discomforts during the first few weeks of pregnancy, please do check with your consultant before moving further.

For the newbies, the same concept applies. If you have had a previous case of miscarriage during the first trimester or any other complications during your previous pregnancy, then you can wait and watch and then, decide whether you should go ahead.

However, the generally accepted view is that pregnant women can safely indulge in yoga after they complete the first 14 weeks.

Yoga is a journey; as is motherhood. When the two come together, the journey becomes a memorable one, with many sweet moments to be cherished.

Have you ever practiced yoga during pregnancy? Or, if you are expecting now, do you plan to enroll in any prenatal yoga class? Do let us know if we have missed out any yoga poses for pregnant women.

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