Prenatal Yoga for Pregnancy and Labor
January 18, 2016
Yoga is a particularly good fit for women during pregnancy because it is a low-impact exercise and an excellent stress reliever. As you experience hormonal changes and swelling during pregnancy, the connection between your body and breath, which is emphasized during yoga, can help you stay balanced and calm. Plus, the movements associated with yoga get your heart pumping and your blood flowing, which can help reduce swelling or inflammation.
Below are some of our favorite prenatal yoga poses. While these poses should be safe for most pregnant women, talk to your health care provider before beginning a yoga regimen. If you experience any discomfort during yoga, you should stop doing it immediately and talk to your doctor to make sure yoga is a good fit for you during pregnancy.
Pose 1 – Seated Head Rolls1
The Benefit: Seated head rolls are an excellent warm-up for your prenatal yoga routine. They can help relieve tension and get your body and breathing in sync (a much needed technique during labor).
The Move: Sit with legs folded and your palms together in front of your chest. Sit tall with a straight back. Be sure your shoulders are not rounded. Slowly tilt your head to the right until you feel a stretch in your neck. Then slowly roll your head in a counterclockwise motion, until you have completed three rotations. Inhale and exhale with each rotation. Then reverse to a clockwise motion for three more rotations. Keep your breathing slow while you clear your mind.
Pose 2 – Sitting Side Stretch1
The Benefit: This pose is great for opening the sides of your waist, pelvis and hips. Your belly will continue to expand with each day, and this pose helps to create as much length as possible in the midsection.
The Move: From a seated position, extend your right leg straight out and fold in your left leg. Reach with your right arm toward your toe and extend the left arm over your head and feel your ribs expanding. Take 3 to 4 slow inhales and exhales in this position. With each inhale, open your chest up and exhale to reach a little further and to lengthen your side. Be sure to switch so you get the same stretch on both sides.
Pose 3 – Cat Stretch1,2
The Benefit: The cat pose is an excellent pose to strengthen your back, lengthen your spine and increase circulation. It also helps shift the weight of the baby away from your spine, giving you some much needed relief from back pain during pregnancy.
The Move: Kneel on the floor with your knees under your hips and your palms under your shoulders. Inhale deeply while tilting your head backward and lifting your chin. Be sure to raise your tailbone as your back arches downward slightly. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 90 seconds, while taking deep breaths and engaging your navel and glutes firmly. Next, exhale deeply and transition bringing your chin to your chest. Relax you glutes and arch your back upward as far as possible. Hold cat pose for 10 seconds to 15 seconds and return to the initial position.
Pose 4 – Supported Squat2
The Benefit: Supported squat is an excellent pose to help prepare for labor. In addition to strengthening your body and breath connection, it also opens your hips as you prepare to give birth. Please note that this move is not recommended for anyone showing signs of premature labor.
The Move: Start by placing a stack of pillows behind you on the floor. Stand with your legs a little wider than your hips. Bend your knees and go into a deep squat, until you are sitting comfortably on the pillows. Bring your palms together at your chest and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing, and as you exhale deeply relax your pelvis to the floor. Do this for 10 breaths.
Pose 5 – Side-lying Savasana3,4
The Benefit: Relaxation is an essential and vital part of any prenatal yoga routine. The corpse pose will help you fine-tune your ability to relax on cue … which will be important during labor and delivery.
The Move: Grab several blankets and pillows before starting the pose. Gently lay down on the floor so that you are resting on your left side. Arrange blankets and pillows around your right knee, right arm, head and belly to ensure that all parts are supported. Remain in this position for 15 minutes to 20 minutes as you focus on your breathing, calm you mind, and relax.