When I was pregnant I was desperate to find a prenatal yoga class. Sure, I could take any yoga class (and I did, for a little while anyway). Yoga wasn't new to me, so it was safe to keep practicing and I was pretty good at listening to my body – modifying when I needed to. If you decide to take a class that’s not specifically prenatal always let your instructor know before class so they can offer safe modifications.
But as the months went on and my bump grew, some of what was natural to me started to feel uncomfortable. I began to feel self-conscious in classes trying to fit my bump between my thighs in child’s pose and I moved my practice home.
These ten yoga poses were exactly what my body craved
(and some of these photos are from way back then). They shift the weight from the belly, hips and pelvis and allow gravity to take over, releasing tension in the lower back and sciatic pain, creating space in the hips and space for the baby.
Sometimes I linked them all together for a simple practice, but sometimes I would simply take a mid-day forward fold or put my legs up a wall after a long day at work. Try them on your own, but always remember to listen to your body and consult with your physician.
1. Puppy pose
Even child’s pose started to feel weird toward the end of my pregnancies. Puppy pose felt better. Come on to all fours, bring the knees hips width (or slightly further) apart leaving space for the belly. Now begin to walk the hands forward and lower your heart center and forehead to the mat. Keep the hips high, stacked over the knees.
2. Cow pose
Come back to all fours. Bring the shoulders directly over the wrists and the knees directly below the hips. Come into cow with an inhale and allow the belly to drop, lift the tailbone and look forward as you broaden through the collar bone.
3. Cat pose
From cow pose, begin to round the spine as you exhale coming in to cat pose. Bring your chin to chest and find space in the shoulder blades. Follow the breath and come back into cow, repeat this for a few rounds of breath.
4. Tabletop with leg extension
Extend the right leg behind you. Keep your hips square and touch your toes to the mat. Stay here with the toes touching or engage your glute and lift the leg parallel with your mat. Hold for a few breaths, then switch to the left leg.
5. Standing forward fold
Stand tall and bring your feet hips width apart (maybe slightly further apart depending how far along you are). Hinge at the hips and begin to fold forward, soften the knees and let your head hang heavy. You have the option to let your hands hang heavy or maybe your hands grab opposite elbows.
6. Runners lunge
This is great for hip and back pain. Settle into a lunge with the right foot forward, drop the back knee and untuck the toes (or keep them tucked for added balance). Stay here with the hands on either side of the front foot. Blocks under than hands are so helpful and help you extend the spine as you sink into the hips. Hold for a few breaths and don’t forget to switch sides!
7. Lizard pose
For a deeper hip stretch, from runners lunge bring the hands to the inside of the front foot. You can walk the front foot out a few inches to make room for baby. Stay with the shoulders stacked over the hands or maybe bend the elbows bringing the forearms to blocks or your mat. Sink into the hips. You can even rock from side to side, making whatever movements feel good to the body.
8. Straddle forward fold
Stand with your legs wide, toes point in slightly and the heels point out. Bend your knees slightly (so they aren’t locked) and bring your hands to the hips. Find length in the spine and begin to take the fold. Let the head and the arms hang heavy and let gravity pull tension away from the spine.
9. Legs up a wall
This is a great restorative pose that will bring relief to swollen legs, ankles and feet. Come close to a wall and lie on your back, swing your legs up and scoot as close to the wall as possible. Let your arms come by your sides or maybe to your belly, close your eyes and breathe deeply.
10. Seated meditation
Calm the mind and connecting with baby. Come into a seated position with the legs crossed. Sit on a block if you have one. It will lift the hips and help you sit a little bit taller. Sit tall and pull the shoulder blades together behind you. Place your hands on your knees or belly, close your eyes. Bring your attention to the breath, inhale and exhale through the nose for a count of five. Stay here for as long as you’d like, and give yourself a compliment to finish your practice.
We’re bringing prenatal yoga to our Dartmouth studio every Monday through October (starting Oct. 7). The classes go beyond simply modifying poses and are uniquely designed to support a healthy pregnancy and an empowered birth experience.
Larissa is an E-RYT500 yoga teacher and birth doula. She combines the art of yoga with her love of science, the human body, and sense of humor. Her focus and knowledge on breath, body awareness and self-care take a therapeutic approach to yoga and the birthing process.
Email us for more information!