Staying fit during your pregnancy is important. Whether you are in good health or are coping with a tough pregnancy, a little exercise can go a long way. While more vigorous exercise is often advised against, the stretching and flexibility building you get with yoga, as well as the focused meditative breathing, can be just what the doctor ordered! So what are the health benefits of practicing yoga when you’re pregnant? And what poses does your body need right now?
Yoga Keeps You Fit, Reduces Pregnancy-Linked Health Issues, And Eases Anxiety
Yoga actually trumps the usual antenatal exercises when it comes to certain health problems and psychological issues associated with pregnancy. It can ease the discomfort and aches and pains associated with pregnancy.1 It can also lower the risk of preterm labor, intrauterine growth retardation, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.2
Having a baby on board can be quite nerve-wracking. If you are wound up about managing your new circumstances, here’s some good news. Yoga can significantly ease anxiety and depression that pregnant women experience. Just don’t treat it as a substitute for treatment for a depression or anxiety disorder, which might need therapy or medication.3
Here is a ready reckoner of yoga poses or asanas that most women can do comfortably while pregnant. While they should all be safe for you to do, it is always a good idea to check first with your doctor or yoga instructor. Sometimes, a specific medical condition might make some asanas risky for you.
Cat/Cow Pose To Stretch The Spine And Ease Back Pain
The cat/cow pose is a sequence of two separate yoga poses: the cat pose or marjaryasana and the cow pose or bitilasana. Be sure to inhale as you perform the cow stretch, feeling the abdomen expand. Exhale and contract the abdominal area as you get into the cat pose with the back arched.4
The cat/cow pose is a great antidote to the typical back pain experienced during pregnancy. Both poses massage the internal organs of the belly as well as the spine gently. When you perform these asanas, you stretch the spine and ease tension by letting the belly hang. It thus aids the baby’s movement into the right position for birth. In addition, during actual childbirth, if you have intense back pain or “back labor,” the poses can help.5
Extended Side Angle Pose For Sciatica And Lower Back Pain
If your job is sedentary, the utthita parsvakonasana can be especially beneficial when you are pregnant. Because of how the asana is performed, you stretch the entire side of the body right from your fingertips down to your extended leg.
The pose helps open up your hips. It also eases any constipation you might be experiencing and reduces lower back pain. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to know sciatica pain, this is one asana that could help.6 It has also been reported to ease the sluggishness associated with pregnancy.
Triangle Pose To Relax And Ease Pregnancy Stress And Anxiety
The utthita trikonasana or triangle pose is a classic standing pose that can help you work on balance while also easing anxiety. The triangle pose uses your legs, energizes the hips, open up the shoulders, and also stretches the side of your body. If you’re feeling a little off-kilter with your new size, loosening joints, and other bodily changes, this can really help you find your feet again. And as one study found, yoga routines incorporating this pose provided stress and anxiety relief comparable to traditional relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).7
The utthita trikonasana can also ease the unwelcome backache that kicks in around the second trimester of your pregnancy.8
Balancing Table Pose For Strong Abdominal Muscles
The dandayamna bharmanasana uses core strength to keep balance and hold the position. You are essentially down on all fours, with one leg extended back behind you parallel to the ground while the arm of the other hand is extended forward. The pose is held for a few breaths before swapping sides.
Because you work your abdominal muscles, you’ll help keep them in good order for labor. Plus, it will be easier to regain your pre-baby tummy after the birth if you’ve got strong muscles that are not sagging. If you have round ligament pain, the balancing table pose can help with that too.9
Bound Angle Pose To Open Up Hips And Ease Childbirth
The baddha konasana or bound angle pose helps open up the hips. For this pose, you sit on the ground with the soles of your feet pressed together and knees out to the sides. Your back and torso should be lengthened. Be mindful of your posture and take long deep breaths to maximize the benefit.10
The baddha konasana is often suggested as a pose to practice through pregnancy to ease childbirth because it helps stretch your thigh muscles, opens up the hips, and stimulates abdominal muscles.11 A variant of this, the reclining baddha konasana is a restorative asana, helping you relax and get into a deeply restful state. It can also help your mood.12
Corpse Pose In The First Two Trimesters For Restfulness
The corpse pose or savasana was, until recently, considered one of the taboo asanas, best avoided by a pregnant woman. That’s because it puts you on your back for lengths of time – a position not good for the baby as it presses down on an important blood vessel that brings oxygen back to your heart.13 However, if you are in trimester one or two, savasana should still be fine to do. What’s more, a study of pregnant women found that the corpse pose, along with 25 other poses, was tolerated well by the women. They did not result in any fetal heart rate changes or cause acute adverse maternal physiologic changes.14
The savasana is a restorative pose that’s great not just for the body but also the mind. It can put you in a better mood and truly relax you, giving you deep restfulness that can be so elusive. In fact, it is even suggested as part of the daily yoga regimen for pregnant women by some practitioners.15
Goddess Pose: Yoga’s Answer To Kegels To Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor
If you’ve heard of Kegels and the wonders they can work for your pelvic floor, think of utkata konasana or the goddess pose as a yoga version. Consisting of energetic locks performed at your pelvic floor just as you would a kegel, it is a very powerful standing asana in which the lower half of your body is in a wide-legged squat position with arms raised to shoulder height.16
The utkata konasana can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which in turn can help you sidestep unpleasant side effects of pregnancy like urinary or fecal incontinence arising from the added pressure the weight of the baby puts on these muscles.17
Safety Tips For Doing Yoga During Pregnancy
Yoga may be a smart choice for you but practice it safely and correctly so you don’t strain yourself too much or risk harming your baby.
- Always train and learn the yoga poses or asanas from a trained practitioner. An easy way to do this is to sign up for a pregnancy yoga class – you might even make some new friends!
- Listen to your body. If a certain pose or stretch is too challenging, stop. Do not try anything that is making you uncomfortable.
- Don’t push yourself to hold a pose longer than is comfortable. You shouldn’t try and stretch or extend yourself beyond a point that is comfortable. Pain is a signal that you have gone way too far – yoga shouldn’t hurt.
- Certain yoga poses should be avoided because the jury is still out on whether or not they’re a good idea while you’re expecting. These include poses that need you to jump and move very fast, twist, or compress your body (like the boat or moon pose), lie prone (like the wheel, fish, and camel poses), or invert yourself (like in the shoulder or headstand).
|↑1, ↑3||Satyapriya, M., R. Nagarathna, V. Padmalatha, and H. R. Nagendra. “Effect of integrated yoga on anxiety, depression & well being in normal pregnancy.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 19, no. 4 (2013): 230-236.|
|↑2||Narendran, Shamanthakamani, Raghuram Nagarathna, Vivek Narendran, Sulochana Gunasheela, and Hongasandra Rama Rao Nagendra. “Efficacy of yoga on pregnancy outcome.” Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 11, no. 2 (2005): 237-244.|
|↑4, ↑5, ↑9||5 Best Yoga Poses for Pregnant Women. National Women’s Health Resource Center.|
|↑6||Extended Side Angle Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑7||Smith, Caroline, Heather Hancock, Jane Blake-Mortimer, and Kerena Eckert. “A randomised comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety.” Complementary therapies in medicine 15, no. 2 (2007): 77-83.|
|↑8||Extended Triangle Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑10, ↑11||Bound Angle Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑12, ↑15||MUÑOZ, MARIA ISABEL ROJAS. “Pregnancy a Mystical Expression.” Image 1 (2016): 13.|
|↑13||Tiredness in Pregnancy. National Health Service.|
|↑14||Polis, Rachael L., Debra Gussman, and Yen-Hong Kuo. “Yoga in pregnancy: an examination of maternal and fetal responses to 26 yoga postures.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 126, no. 6 (2015): 1237-1241.|
|↑16, ↑17||Davies, Gemma. “The Ayurvedic Perspective and Treatment of Birth Complications.” (2015).|