Here are 5 key yoga poses to include in your practice to support you during pregnancy. With regular practice they can help to support the changes occurring in your body as your baby grows, to nurture your own needs in pregnancy and can help you to prepare physically, emotionally and mentally for a calm and connected birth experience.
You can also check out my previous post all about why yoga is so beneficial during pregnancy and how it can impact positively on your birthing experience.
SOLE TO SOUL – The importance of finding your feet.
So firstly I have to just talk about feet! The feet are like the gateway to your whole body. Working upward from your foundation, connecting with your feet is like establishing your root system and helps you to feel grounded and stabilised. Anatomically the soles of the feet map out the whole of your body. Your feet communicate and act like a mirror to the wings of your pelvis. Awakening and activating the feet is vital to ensuring the support and integrity of the pelvis during pregnancy, birth and beyond. Connecting to the ball joints of the big and little toe and the outer edges of the heel will automatically create a drawing up of the pelvis and switch on the muscles around the hips and up to the abdomen. Take time to get to know your feet, nurture them, massage them (better still get someone else to do it!). Take some time every day to stand and explore your centre of gravity, as your body is constantly changing and evolving. This is so significant if you are experiencing any pelvic girdle pain.
For all the poses featured here let the quality of your breath be your key focus and establish a strong connection with your feet. Think about expanding the breath, creating more space and a deeper connection with your body, your baby and how things feel from the inside out, working up from your feet. Let your breath guide you through your yoga practice and if something doesn’t feel right just DON’T DO IT. Through your yoga practice you are helping to cultivate your inner knowing and learning to listen to and trust your instincts, this is one of the most invaluable parts of practising yoga during pregnancy.
Keep these words in mind when you practice;
5 beneficial yoga poses for pregnancy and birth.
HIGH (CRESCENT) LUNGE
Lunges require major activation of the gluteus (butt) muscles to achieve stability and balance. The gluteus medius is the muscle responsible for stabilising the pelvis, therefore it’s important to support the mobility of this muscle during pregnancy.
This yoga pose actively helps to stretch the psoas muscle. The psoas attaches to the spine, connects the upper and lower half of the body and plays an integral role in the quality and depth of the breath, as it connects to the diaphragm. This muscle is embedded in the structure either side of the spine and runs from the spinal column (T12) to the top of the femur (thigh) bone. As a result, it can influence the position of the baby as it enters the pelvic brim.
- Helps to lengthen hamstring and front quadricep.
- Helps open and lengthen the psoas muscle, as the origin and focus of the movement comes from the groin.
- Supports balance of the pelvis for optimal foetal engagement (aka easier engagement of baby into the pelvis).
- Improves balance and stability by strengthening the gluteus muscles.
- Great preparation for birthing a larger baby.
HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?
Stand at the top of your mat, with hands on hips step your right leg back.
Keep the back heel lifted, both feet are facing toward the front of the mat.
Step your feet wider for more stability and balance.
Inhale deeply into your chest.
Exhale bend into both knees and repeat slowly with the breath a few times to warm the knees and hip flexors (posas).
Then take a few breaths lengthening out through your back heel. Back leg can be straight or with a soft bend.
Direct your exhales down to your pelvis, the focus of the stretch is in the hips and groin.
Soften your jaw and find a comfortable position for your neck gazing forward.
Option to lengthen arms overhead shoulder width and energise through to the finger tips
Inhale press from back foot and step forward.
Do a few hips circles with feet parallel at the top of your mat.
Repeat stepping back the left foot.
REPEAT: 5-10 breaths on each leg
Take a short stance if you have any pelvic girdle pain.
If you are tired do the same poses with the back knee lowered to the mat (Low Lunge) and take padding under the knee.
If you have high blood pressure practice with your hands on your waist.
WINDMILLS (PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA)
This wide angled forward bend with an open twist is an excellent yoga pose for strengthening the spinal muscles, helping to relieve lower back discomfort, stretch the inner and back leg muscles and lengthens the hamstrings. This is a great pose to do in pregnancy to help relieve sciatic pain.
The open rotational twist in this pose is so important especially during pregnancy. But is it safe to do twists during pregnancy? Open twists where the abdominal area is not compressed are really beneficial during pregnancy. Twists help to squeeze and service the spinal column helping to improve mobility and restore vitality to your whole body. However closed twists, where the abdominal area is constricted or squeezed are not advisable to practice during pregnancy.
- Loosens the muscles around the lower back, hamstrings and gluteus muscles, helping to relieve any pressure on the sciatic nerve, reduce or prevent sciatica.
- Daily practice can help to release the sacral area and align the lower uterus with a more balanced pelvis.
- Lengthens the oblique muscles in the mid back and helps to increase pelvic flexibility to support the opening around your baby during birth.
HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?
Step one foot out so you have a wide stance, facing the long edge of your yoga mat with your feet parallel.
Take your props and place them where you can reach them once you have folded forward.
Take an inhale from standing and forward fold as you exhale placing your hands on the props or to the floor if that is appropriate.
Inhale reach your right arm up and feel the energy spread all the way to your fingertips.
Exhale lower your arm and connect with the feeling of stability and support through your feet and pelvis.
Inhale raise your left arm and continue with the breath twisting side to side.
Ensure the spine remains long and adjust props so you can avoid any rounding in the back.
You may look up toward your raised arm if it feels comfortable, otherwise look to the side or down.
REPEAT: Up to 8-10 times Daily.
If the spine is rounding, use blocks or cushions under your hand.
You can equally do this pose resting one hand on a sofa or the end of a bed, so you have more height and can lengthen the spine. If you have pelvic girdle pain take a shorter stance and use props as above.
SUPPORTED SQUAT (MALASANA)
Squats help to open the pelvis and releases the birthing muscles from the tightening effects of sitting. Squats have a really grounding quality, helping you to connect with your feet, the earth beneath you and to the downward flow of energy in the body (apana). This can be so beneficial during pregnancy as it helps you to feel connected to the earth, to mother nature and to a deeper universal support and wisdom you can call on during birth.
- Improves Joint and perineal flexibility
- Tones the entire lower body; quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back
- Stretches groin, inner thighs and hips
- Strengthens the thighs
- Stimulates digestion
- Activates and improves your birthing stamina
- Brings strength and vitality into your pelvis and back muscles.
- Opens the pelvis up to 30% more
HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?
Take your feet at least hips distance and turn your toes out.
Have your props ready in position to lower down onto (a bolster, cushions, a low stool).
Slowly with your exhale bend your knees and lower down to your props.
Knees should be roughly in line with the direction of your toes.
Use the props to offer some support but don’t collapse all your weight onto them.
Focus on lengthening and straightening your back from the crown to the tail bone.
Take a few breaths, focus on lengthening with the inhale and exhale down into your pelvis, really visualise the opening and space you have to birth your baby as you do this.
Slowly press into the feet and on an inhale, use your hands on your thighs to come up or slowly sit back
REPEAT: 30 secs to start – if comfortable you can work up to 1 min and repeat several times a day.
Do not squat if your baby is breech.
Take sufficient support and height under your seat – If the lower back is rounding, or you feel you are collapsing in the ankles, knees or chest, sit up higher.
If you have knee injuries or pelvic girdle pain, avoid this pose if there is any discomfort.
It is advised not to practice deep, unsupported squats in the last few weeks of pregnancy or if your baby is breech.
If your heels don’t touch the floor roll up the end of your mat or use a folded blanket or block.
CAT COW (PELVIC TILTS)
This pose helps to strengthen and stretch your spine and relieve common lower back ache, pain and pelvic girdle discomfort. This is a pose many women naturally adopt during labour to alleviate pressure and discomfort in their back.
- Soothes lower back ache
- Lubricates the spine to avoid discomfort
- Can help encourage baby to engage into the pelvis
HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?
Come to a table top position with a flat back.
Hands are under shoulders with your middle finger pointing to the front of your mat.
Knees hip distance or slightly wider if more comfortable.
Inhale deeply here feeling breath expand and lengthen the front body and open the chest.
Exhale round your back, tuck your chin and letting your abdominals hug baby in, feeling everything move toward your spine or back body.
Inhale return to a flat back then exhale repeat as above, rounding your back.
Rhythmically move your body at your own pace through this sequence up to 5 times with your breath.
REPEAT: 5 times synchronising with your breath.
You can take padding under your knees or wrists.
If your wrists are very tight or aching take them slightly forward of the shoulders or rest your fore arms on a block/bolster/cushions.
SUPPORTED WIDE LEGGED FORWARD FOLD (UPAVISTA KONASANA)
This supported wide legged forward fold helps to increase pelvic mobility and is really beneficial during pregnancy as it helps to relax the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvis is stabilised and anchored in this pose helping you to feel grounded and supported.
Regular practice can help you to connect and feel confident about your body’s ability to open, widen and soften, trusting the space you have in your pelvis to birth your baby
lengthens the spine and helps to relieve tension in the lower back
Stretches inner thighs, hips and groin.
Can help to alleviate pelvic girdle pain
Enhances the release of tension through the spine, shoulders and neck.
Widens the diameter of the pelvic canal – helping to establish a feeling of openness.
Lengthens and releases backs of legs and inner thighs
HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?
Sit comfortably taking something under your seat so you can lengthen through the spine.
Have your props in reaching distance (cushions, bolster, blocks or a rolled blanket).
Draw the legs out to s comfortable distance, lifting the toes up and connecting heels toward the ground.
Inhale to sit up tall and slowly as you exhale settle forward.
Gently rest your head onto your prop so you can relax and release with your breath.
Each inhale find length in the spine and roll the thigs up and back gently.
Draw the chin in slightly to lengthen the back of the neck and actively relax throat, neck and jaw with the exhale.
If repeating you may have space to take the legs wider – but go gently, respect your body, let go of competition or a need to do more and feel into what is right in the moment, knowing it will change every time.
REPEAT: 5-10 Breaths (option to repeat 2ndround).
A folded blanket, or cushion under your seat can help to create length and space in the lower back if you feel you are rounding.
Keep the legs closer together if there is any discomfort in the backs of the knees or if I pelvic girdle pain.
You can also take some soft support (a folded blanket), under the knees if you feel discomfort there.
If you are feeling tired you can do this pose upright leaning against a wall to support the spine and leave out the forward fold.
TO FINISH THE MOST IMPORTANT POSE OF ALL TO FINISH YOUR PRACTICE...
RELAXATION - SHAVASANA
Relaxation involves letting go, surrendering and allowing both your body and mind to release. This is the time when you can seal in all the benefits of your practice and allow your body to absorb and integrate all that you have learned. I could write a whole post about this and will do at some point but for now lets just say....DONT LEAVE THIS ONE OUT!!!
- Helps soothe the nervous system
- Focuses and calms the mind
- Relaxes the physical body
- Balances Emotions
HOW DO I DO THIS POSE?
At the end of each practice make time for relaxation.
Ideally give yourself 10 minutes, 5 minutes as a minimum if possible.
Lie on your left side with support under your left knee and ankle, your right leg can be straight or bent.
Draw your right shoulder blade forward so you are resting on the shoulder blade NOT the edge of your shoulder.
Place a cushion under your head and make sure your spine and neck feel supported (you can place a bolster or cushion behind the spine).
Take your time to get settled and really comfortable, then focus on the natural rhythm of your breath, in and out.
Don't worry if your mind wonders or thoughts come into your head - acknowledge them and then return your attention and focus to the breath.
To finish, draw your attention back to your baby maybe placing a hand there and feel your breath in your belly around your baby.
Tae some time to deepen your breath and only make small movements when you feel the urge.
Come up slowly.
ENJOY MAMAS x