A couple of simple prenatal yoga positions

By | November 26, 2012

My friend Nimisha and I have been doing yoga together since the beginning of my pregnancy. She’s a certified instructor and has been working with me multiple times per week to ensure I stay in shape and prepare for birth. It’s been a lot of fun and really has helped to make pregnancy an enjoyable experience for me.

A couple people have asked us for tips on easy yoga moves to help ease the aches and pains of pregnancy, so Nimisha and I worked together to put this post together. I hope that it helps you to start thinking about prenatal yoga and inspires you to look into it further.

If you’re at KAUST, there is a prenatal yoga class at the Harbor Sports Club a few times a week, which I definitely recommend checking out. Oh, and you should also check out the Pregnant at KAUST facebook group.

Disclaimer: Please be careful not to hurt yourself or your baby. All of the positions below should have an easing effect and should not be painful. Please just use the following as ideas and inspiration… do your research, talk to you dr, and please don’t hurt yourself.

So, take these for what you will.. and please share your prenatal yoga experiences, tips, and resources, in the comments below!

Cross Legged or Sitting Warrior

How to do it:
For cross legged – sit on your bum and cross your legs.

Cross-legged pose

OR for sitting warrior – sit on your heels with your toes flat on the floor. Ensure your back is straight and your shoulders are back. Put your palms on your knees. Elbows are relaxed.

Sitting Warrior Pose

 

For either pose: Take 10 deep inhales and exhales. You should be able to hear your breath.

Why to do it:
This pose helps you bring your mind and body into your yoga practice. For sitting warrior, you also have the added benefit of working on your ankles (which is especially good if they’re swollen).

Wide Legged Child Pose

How to do it:
While sitting on your feet (as in sitting warrior pose), open your knees as wide as your yoga mat. Lean forward, bringing your forehead on the floor. Lay your arms out straight above your head, on the floor. Try to reach your hips back towards your heels as much as you can.

Take 10 deep inhales and exhales.

Wide legged child’s pose

 

Why to do it: 
This pose opens your back, shoulder blades, and hips. It’s also very relaxing.

Cat and Cow

How to do it:
Step 1 – Table Top Position: Sit on your knees and bring your hands to the floor so that your back looks like a flat table top.  Your shoulders should be directly above (in line) with your wrists. Your hips should be directly above (in line) with your knees. Curl your toes so all 10 toes are touching the floor.

Table Top Position

 

Step 2 – Cow Position:  While inhaling deeply, arch your back down and look up. You should feel a stretch in your lower back and the front of your neck.

Cow Position

 

Step 3 – Cat Position. While exhaling deeply, arch your back up and look down towards your belly. Curl from the front of your body, and lift from the back of your body. You should feel a stretch in your back and shoulders.

Cat Position

 

Inhale into cow, exhale into cat and repeat 10 times.

Why to do this:
This is an excellent pose to strengthen your spine. It’s very helpful in warming up your practice.

Cat and Cow Side Stretch

How to do this: 
While in Table Top Position, twist to the left side and look at your left heel, bringing your hips a little to the right. You should feel the stretch on your right side. As you go into your twist, exhale, as you come back to face forward, inhale. Then do the same on your right side. Exhale as you twist, looking at your right foot. You should now feel the stretch on your left side. Inhale as you release to face forward. Repeat 10 times.

Cat-Cow side-stretch

 

Why to do this:
This position stretches your intercostal muscles and gives your lungs more space to take in more oxygen.

 

Tree Pose

How to do this:
Stand with both feet together. Lift your right foot and place it on your calf. Push your knee back so your hip bones feel like they’re are aligned and pointing forward. Bring your palms together in front of your chest (heart center) – and gently push your hands together so there is some pressure between them. Flex your thigh for strength. Balance here for 5 deep inhales and exhales. Then do the same on your left foot.

Tree Pose

Note the alignment of the knee and standing leg when in tree pose:

Proper Tree Pose alignment

If you’re having trouble balancing, try using the wall to help you. You can bring your foot to your thigh if you’re using the wall. Do not rest  your foot on your knee joint – this could create problems for your knee.

Balance assistance in tree pose

Why to do this: 
This pose is excellent for balance, strength, flexibility, and focus.

 

Half-Eagle

How to do this:
Stand with your feet slightly apart. Bring your arms up and as you exhale, swing the right arm underneath the left arm. Wrap around at the elbows and wrist, grabbing your thumb, wrists, or interlock your fingers. Lift your elbows so that the are parallel to your shoulders. Inhale and exhale for 5 breaths.  Exhale to release, then do the same on the other side.

Half Eagle prep

Swing one arm under the other

 

Grab your thumb, or place your palms together if you can reach.

 

Why to do this:
This pose will help open your joints, especially your shoulder blades. It also adds to your strength, flexibility, and concentration. As your chest grows in pregnancy, this position really helps to release the pressure from the added weight.

 

Standing on One Leg

How to do this:
While standing, put your hands on your waist and your feet hip distance apart. Lift your right foot off the ground, bending your knee and flexing your toes up. Try to lift your foot at least one foot off the ground – more if you’re able.  Keep your spine straight – don’t lean back. Hold for 5 inhales and exhales. Then repeat on the other side.

Standing on one leg pose

 

Why to do this:
This pose will help with your balance, strength, and concentration. It also strengthens your thighs which will be important when you’re giving birth.

 

Squat

How to do this:
Open your feet mat distance apart (much wider than your hips). Put your palms in heart center (prayer position), take a long inhale, push your hips back, and as you exhale, sit down so your bum hovers just above the floor. Ensure your heels stay on the floor and hold your knees back with your elbows.

If you find it difficult to hold up your body or keep your heels on the floor, try doing this pose against a wall for added support.

Hold this pose for 2 minutes or as long as you can. Gradually work your way up to 4 minutes if you can.

Preparing for your squat

Entering your squat

 

Proper Squat alignment

 

Proper Squat alignment

Why to do this pose:
This opens your pelvic floor which helps you to give birth more easily. It also helps with water retention in your feet and ankles and can help reduce swelling.

Seated Side-twisting pose

How to do this pose:

While sitting down, stretch your right leg out straight 45 degrees from your hip. Fold your left leg so your foot is on the root of your thigh. Sit up straight and take a deep inhale, then put your right arm up to the sky, exhale your right palm to your right ankle, as far as it will comfortably reach. Then take a long inhale, reach your left arm up to the sky, and exhale as you bring it down to your right side.

You should feel a stretch in your lower back and/or side body and/or hip. You may also feel this in your hamstring.

Hold for 7 breaths.

Repeat on the other side.

Why to do this pose:

This opens your obliques and intercostals and creates length/opening/stretch in your spine. It also lengthens and strengthens your hamstrings. Believe it or not, it also stretches your kidneys!

It’s also my favorite pose because it makes my back ache less :-)

Happy Baby Pose

Happy Baby Pose (no laughing at me, please!)

 How to do this pose:

While lying down on your back, lift your feet , spread your legs, bend your knees, and grab your feet from the outside. There should be pressure between your palm and foot, so you feel the stretch in the space between your hip and your leg. If this makes your back uncomfortable, you can gently rock from side to side (without hitting your knees on the floor). Hold or rock for 10 breaths.

Why to do this pose

This pose will help open your hips and pelvic floor which will help you give birth.

Legs up on the wall/ Supported Shoulder Stand

Supported Shoulder Stand

How to do this:

This one is easy! Put your bum against the wall, lift your legs up so your heels rest on the wall, and spread your feet hip-distance apart. Relax your shoulders, and leave your arms by your side, or for a deeper stretch in your upper body, reach your hands above your head.

Hold this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Why to do this:

This is good for blood circulation in your legs. When you’re pregnant, you have a much greater volume of blood in your body, which can lead to swelling. This will help prevent and reduce swelling. It will also help relax and de-strees!

Savasana

Savasana

How to do this pose:

Important: This pose is only for first and second trimester. In the the third, it will hurt your back, so you’ll need to lie on your side instead.

Lie flat on your back. Spread your feet around mat distance, wherever is comfortable. Spread your arms away from your body, wherever is comfortable. And close your eyes. Lay here and breath calmly for 3 to 5 minutes.

This pose is also called corpse pose – for obvious reasons :-)

Why to do this pose

This pose is the best way to close and absorb your practice, sealing the benefits of all your hard work. It also helps to relax and de-stress.

Okay, that’s all for now! Please share your prenatal yoga experiences, tips, and resources, in the comments below.

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  • Fruitful Fusion

    Great post! I started yoga during one of my pregnancies. It’s so relaxing. But hey, Claire, we’re thinking of making trocheted (crocheted out of plastic!) yoga mats!!! Maybe you can test one out? :)

  • Cool idea! I have a trocheted water bottle holder that I got in Jordan which is super cute… when I can figure out where I put it, I’ll send you a photo :-)

    I’d love to test out a yoga mat. Just let me know how I can help!

  • Fruitful Fusion

    Wonderful! Can’t wait to see it! And will definitely let you know once we have a sample of the yoga mat! :)

  • Aidanora

    Thanks for sharing! I am a Bikram Yoga Instructor and so I have continued with the 90 minute series regularly during my pregnancy. I have just had to modify some postures. I have felt great my entire pregnancy and I credit the yoga. I didn’t do it for 4 days and my back started to feel achy. As soon as I took class again everything felt great. It helps with alignment and balance especially as your body is adjusting to the extra weight.

  • I’ve been following along on your facebook – it looks like you’re doing great!

    I have to agree that prenatal yoga really helps with alignment and balance, and I would add that this is both physical and mental. I attribute my yoga practice to why I can say “I love being pregnant!”.

    I was recently advised by my doctor to stop all exercise because the baby is looking like it might want to come early. Ever since I stopped my practice, my body has been achy and my mood has shifted. I was practicing for an hour 3-4 times per week before, so the sudden stop has really thrown me for a loop. Once I reach full-term I might pick back up a few simple stretches… I’m just miserable without my yoga!

    Do you have any other simple poses you’d recommend for new yogis that we missed here?