Yoga in pregnancy promotes a woman’s self awareness, and a familiarity of the sensations of the working body. As you move into labor, you may find that the sensations of the uterus contracting and releasing will remind you of the work of the muscles in your arms or legs whilst practicing yoga.
Guidelines for safe practice
It is strongly recommended that you practice yoga with a qualified yoga instructor, who is familiar with the pregnant and postnatal aspects of yoga. The following yoga poses are suitable for beginners, as they focus primarily on structural alignment, balance and poise. These poses are safe to practice throughout pregnancy. Always conduct your yoga practice on an empty stomach and in a safe, clutter free environment.
Items that will support but are not essential for your practice:
- A yoga mat
- A yoga bolster, folded blanket, pillow or a firm cushion
- A chair
Identify with your fears surrounding childbirth. Become aware of what your needs are and attend to them. Nurture yourself as you intend to nurture your baby.
Yoga poses useful throughout pregnancy – A Yin style practice (video coming soon)
Download this sequence as a pdf
The following sequence can be used daily throughout your pregnancy. As a guide, each pose can be held for 2-3 minutes, gradually extending the time up to 5 minutes when you become more familiar with the work of the pose. Poses can also be used individually for personal needs on a day to day basis.
Allow 30-40 minutes.
As you practice yoga in pregnancy use the poses to visualize working through a contraction. Rather than tightening the face and hardening the breath, relax the face and soften the breath
Your work in pregnancy will act as a preparation for your labor.
1) Baddha Konasana (Fixed angle pose, resting with back to wall)
2-3 minutes, working up to 5 minutes.
Helps relax and open the pelvis, and encourages your baby to be head down in the pelvis. Sitting in Buddha Konasana tilts the pelvis forward, facilitating an optimal anterior position of the baby in the pelvic cavity.
- Sitting comfortably on the floor (back resting to wall) with a cushion under the buttocks
- Bring the feet together, heels close to the perineum*, and allow the knees to relax out to the side
- Focus not on forcing the knees down, but rather softening the perineum and inner thigh
- Press feet together and lift sides of the trunk and chest
- Straighten the spine, and relax the shoulders
- Allow the head to balance on the neck, soften the face
- Allow the breath to become even and relaxed
- Rest the hands on the knees (or belly)
- To release, use the hands to lift the knees and extend the legs forward
2) Cat Cow Stretch
This pose facilitates the opening of the pelvis, allowing your baby to move into an optimal position for birth, plus relieving lower back discomfort.
- Kneel on all fours, hands under shoulders (shoulder width) and knees under hips (hip width), toes relaxed
- Inhale, bring the chin to the chest, arching the spine up towards the ceiling
- Exhale, lift the chin to the ceiling and concave the spine
- Repeat this cycle 5 times, increasing to 10 repetitions with practice
3) Tadasana (Mountain pose)
Tadasana teaches you the art of standing correctly, and increases awareness of the body.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart, feet parallel and toes pointing forward
- Press you feet firmly onto the floor, balancing your weight between the ball and heel of your foot, lifting the inner arch and relaxing your toes
- Lift (tighten) your knee caps and activate your thigh muscles
- Tuck your hips under, drawing the buttocks down and under, tilting the pubic bone forward
- Extend your arms down by your side, fingers long, palms open
- Lift up through your chest and allow your shoulders to move back and down
- Balance your head on your neck and allow your chin to tilt slightly forward
- Soften the face and maintain balance
- Allow the breath to become even and relaxed (if you suffer from dizziness keep your eyes open)
4) Tadasana (Mountain pose) – with arm variations
For relief of neck and shoulder discomfort. Also promotes the circulation of oxygen rich blood to your baby.
- Stand upright, feet hip width apart, toes turning in slightly
- Activate the leg muscles, tuck the buttocks in
- Lift the chest, release the shoulders down
- Lengthen the spine
- Relax the face
- Turn the palms out; breathe arms up with an inhalation, extending fingertips up to the ceiling,
- And turning palms out, breathing arms down with an exhalation
- Repeat the cycle 5 times, increasing to 10 repetitions with practice
5) Uttanasana (Intense standing forward bend, variation with chair)
Facilitates pelvic floor awareness and strength.
- Stand in Tadasana (Mountain pose) with feet hip width
- Bring the hands to the hips
- Inhale feel the breath move into the chest, activate the spinal muscles
- Exhale bend at the hips and with the leg muscles activated, extend the torso and arms forward, bringing the hands to the back of a chair
- Rest the head between the upper arms, relax the neck muscles
- Extend the arms forward, as you extend the spine and release the buttocks back
- To come out of the pose…bring the hands back to the hips, lift the head, and inhale bringing the torso upright and moving into Tadasana (Mountain pose)
6) Adhomukha Virasana (Downward facing hero pose)
2-3 minutes, working up to 5 minutes.
A position in which the forehead is resting reduces stress, calms the nervous system, and softens the mind. Helps to relieve nausea and fatigue.
- Sit back on your heels, big toes together, and knees slightly wider than your hips
- Attempting to keep your buttocks sitting on your heels, stretch the arms forward and move the torso towards the floor (as pregnancy advances use a chair to fold the arms to create more space for your growing belly)
- Keep the arms shoulder width, spread the fingers, flattening the palms
- Rest the forehead to the floor (or forearms if using a chair)
7) Adhomukha Swatikasana (Downward facing cross-legged pose, with chair)
2-3 minutes each side.
Helps to relieve lower back discomfort and tightness in the hips.
- Sit cross legged on a firm cushion or folded blanket, soften the knees
- Lift through the side waist and chest, extending through the spine
- Exhale and bend forward from the hips
- Bring you arms forward and cross loosely in front of your head, resting on the chair (place a pillow under your arms/forehead if you require more height)
- Change the cross of your legs and repeat
8) Savasana (Modified resting pose, side lying)
Allow at least 10 minutes for relaxation.
- Lie on your side, placing a pillow underneath your head and between your knees
- Allow your legs to relax
- Relax the arms comfortably on the floor, allowing the fingers to relax
- Draw the shoulders down away from the neck
- Close your eyes
- Allow the breath to soften and the mind relax