My 6 favorite yoga poses for pregnancy
Updated: Jan 5
Depending on where you are in your pregnancy, your needs are different. Sometimes it's a more active flow, sometimes it's pure relaxation. The 6 practices described here are a mix of both, applicable for all stages of pregnancy. Why 6? Cause I couldn't make up my mind on top 5 ;)
1. Pelvis movements
On all fours draw tiny circles with the tailbone in both directions, allow the circles to expand if comfortable and let the head and shoulders follow;
When standing with knees a little bent, keeping equal weight in the feet, hip width apart, find a slow, small circling movement with the tailbone in each direction. The circles can widen according to your comfort, then return to smaller until imperceptible.
Standing and leaning forward against the wall, rest your head on your forearms and repeat the movement as when standing with soft knees.
What I like about it most: There is so many variations! You can literally do it anytime, anywhere: doing the dishes, watching TV, ironing clothes, waiting for a coffee being made, sitting on a ball at home, office, friend’s place – anywhere anytime! But there is more! Micromovements of pelvis have so many benefits when we are pregnant:
These slower, smaller movements are great for good pelvic functioning of all body systems including nerves, lymph, blood supply, hormones.
While practicing you improve the elasticity of the pelvic muscles
And relieve pelvic tension and congestion so essentially you create greater comfort and ease for mother and space for baby
Little tip: Practice those movements as they can be practiced: anytime, anywhere. This way when you start your labor, you will naturally follow what your body is already telling you to do.. those movements can be a great relief for surges (contractions), allowing you to follow them like waves, and to work with them, not against them. You may even happen to ignore part of the labor, or not realize that you are in labor. Ture story ;)
2. Side stretch from all fours
From all fours turn one lower leg out to side at 90 degrees,
Step other leg back roughly in line with other knee and hand,
Come into side stretch with arm straight up or extending fully over head.
What I like about it most: the name says it all – side stretch ;) absolutely wonderful, relieving, easing some heaviness that comes with growing belly. And it’s accessible at every stage of pregnancy!
Little tip: Practice first with your arm straight. Then repeat and circle your arm, first synchronize with your breath (inhale up, exhale down). Later follow how your body feels – if you have any tension in one spot, stay there a bit longer, breath deeper and notice how you feel afterwards, if the tension goes away..
3. Threading the needle
Begin on all fours, hands shoulder distance apart, knees hip width or a little wider in late pregnancy. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward
On an exhalation, slide your right arm underneath your left arm with your palm facing up. Let your right shoulder come all the way down to the mat and rest your right ear and cheek on the mat. Settle in the pose for a few breaths looking to hand.
To release press through your left hand and gently slide your right hand out.
Return to all fours and repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same length of time.
What I like about it most: Tension release in the upper back, neck and between shoulders – definitely yes! But even more I loved its calming effects on my mind – observe your breath when in the pose and how it works for you!
Little tip: use blankets! Under your knees, and possibly upper body that is resting on the mat. Also, if the pose feels good, try to rest the other hand (not the one that is closer to the floor) on your lower back – it’s amazing what soft touch can do for you and your lower back!
4. Gentle inversion
Come close to the wall with one hip and swivel the legs to a 90 degrees angle up the wall.
Use support under the pelvis and head. If this is not possible (or in later pregnancy) support the pelvis with legs on beanbag or two chairs.
Breathing with hands behind the head and elbows on the floor helps open the chest.
At the moment when thigh muscles tense, reduce the angle of the open legs for prevention of pelvic joint instability.
What I like about it most:
Super relaxing – I used it sometimes as shavasana variation after finishing my practice (one of not so many variations when you can still stay on your back, not on your side in later pregnancy)
Relieving for legs – especially when swelling comes into picture
Easy to adapt in your daily routine as well – when watching your favorite series or a movie at the end of the day. You can bring your legs a bit higher either against the wall, or on a side of a couch, or a pile of pillows / blankets.
What to watch out for: high blood pressure – avoid any inversions, including this gentle one as well..
5. Nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
Technique (check video below with guidance as well):
Start by setting up yourself in a comfortable sitting position. This practice will take about 3-5 minutes, so important that you do not feel any tension in your knees if you sit cross legged – use blocks or pillows as support.
You can keep your eyes closed or if open, keep soft gaze.
This breathing practice consists of blocking one nostril while inhaling through the other nostril. You will use your right hand to do so. If you feel any tension in your right arm, support it by holding the right arm by the left hand.
In classic yoga we use Vishnu mudra, so the thumb and ring finger are used to close right and left nostrils. Note, if Vishnu mudra doesn’t come naturally, it’s best to focus on breathing and use your fingers as is comfortable.
If you are familiar with Ujjayi breath, go for it. It feels very good during this practice.
To start the breathing practice you first take 5 deep (Ujjayi) breaths.
Then follow the cycle below for minimum 5 to 10 times, depending on how much time you have at the moment:
Close the right nostril, inhale through the left
Close the left nostril, exhale through the right
Inhale through the right nostril
Close the right nostril, exhale through the left
Some tips here:
If your nose is blocked, this practice may actually help unblocking nostrils so it’s worth trying. If however, that doesn’t help, you can still go for it, but then instead of closing the nostrils, keep nose open, rest your hands on your knees and switch opening hands palm side upward when going left / right. It will still have the soothing effect of breathing practice.
This breathing practice is great for helping with headaches and anxiety by balancing fluctuating emotions, energy and hormones.
Also, if you find yourself not being able to sleep at night, try it as well! Not only when pregnant, but in general, Nadi shodhana proved to work great on insomnia..
What I like about it most: feeling of calmness afterwards.. priceless..
6. Supported Reclined bound angle pose
Build a ‘fortress’ behind you – if you got props, place two meditation pillows at the end of the mat, then a long bolster against it. If you got no props at home, use pillows and blankets – roll blankets to imitate a long bolster.
Come sit close to the end of the long bolster that is touching the mat.
You may decide to keep legs straight, crossed or bring them into Baddha Konasana pose (butterfly pose).
Lean backward on a bolster and bring your elbows to the floor.
If you plan to stay longer in the pose, make sure to use blocks or pillows / blankets to support your knees if you stay in Baddha Konasana or crossed legged position. Also, use an eye pillow and a blanket to cover yourself - you will achieve even deeper relaxation effect..
What I like about it most: everything! Super relaxing, great for opening shoulders and chest, if in Baddha konasana you also get goodies of a hip opener. But it’s mostly the calming effects that I loved the most.
Little tip: use that pose for daily relaxation with audio script or just with yourself. When in later pregnancy, we may become breathless – use this pose for a shorter period of time, and for relaxation switch to a lateral position.