Prenatal Yoga: What Poses Can I Do?

After last night’s class, a new student asked me about some of the poses we had practiced. She was confused that we did some twisting poses because she thought that twisting was off limits during pregnancy. She also told me how good it felt to do a fair amount of standing poses. Again, she was under the impression that during pregnancy, the class needed to be modified to an extremely gentle pace. I have put together a basic list of poses that can be safely and confidently practiced during pregnancy.

Safe Twisting

Deep twists during pregnancy are contraindications because of the possibility of straining the abdomen and uterus. However, twists that focus on movement initiating above the belly, at the upper back/rib cage area, can be a huge relief for the pregnant mom. Twisting poses can release tight back muscles and gently open the side seams of the body and chest, while also encouraging the mother to create more length in her spine. Remember when putting together the prenatal yoga cannon, the practitioner should only include “open twists”, twisting away from the leg.

Poses on all fours

Poses on all fours keep the spine and hips mobile, increasing circulation in the pelvis and legs. They also keep the baby off of the mother’s spine, creating more room in the abdominal cavity and encouraging the baby into the optimal birthing position. This is very helpful if the baby is in the posterior occiput position, meaning the baby’s head and spine is towards the mother’s front.

Standing poses

Standing poses strengthen the legs and gluteals that attach to the knees and pelvis. These joints are vulnerable during pregnancy because of the softening effect of relaxin (check out Yoga in the 1st Trimester to read more about relaxin), on the ligaments. Strong supporting muscles will help prevent injury. Most importantly, standing poses help create endurance and confidence in the mother that she can use during the marathon of labor.

Hip openers

The pelvis goes through tremendous change and compromise during pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to include poses that will help bring balance and stability to the muscles and joints. To do this, remember to include poses that work the hips in all directions, not just external rotation, which is most commonly associated with hip opening poses. The full family of hip openers access the full range of motion of the hip joint: internal rotation, external rotation, adduction and abduction, and flexion and extension.

Forward Bends/Seated Poses

These are great hip openers, but very often pregnant women collapse through the spine, and little hip opening is achieved. Sitting up on either a bolster or folded blanket will help prevent this collapse from happening and the lower back from rounding. Propping the hips up will also emphasize that the pelvis tips forward from the hip sockets and weight moves to the front of the sitting bones, out of the lower back. Also, remember to lift collar bones and heart to achieve a long, open spine.

Gentle Backbends/Chest Openers/Shoulder Openers

During pregnancy, the curves of the spine become more exaggerated, leaving the shoulders prone to rounding forward and the chest sinking in. Gentle backbends, chest and shoulder openers invite the upper body to move into a more open position. Also, since the mother tends to feel very breathless and “crowded” in the torso, this group of poses gives her temporary spaciousness in the chest and a feeling of fuller breaths.

I hope this list helps clarify all the possibilities that are still available for the pregnant mom. Enjoy and keep practicing!

This entry was posted in Prenatal Yoga: What Poses Can I Do? and tagged by Deb. Bookmark the permalink.

About Deb

Debra is a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music with a degree in Musical Theater. She has spent most of her life performing and was introduced to yoga through a choreographer in 1997. After several years as a yoga student, she decided to continue her education and became certified as a Bikram Yoga instructor. In 2001 Debra headed out to Seattle to study with renowned prenatal yoga teacher Colette Crawford, R.N., at the Seattle Holistic Center. Debra has received a certificate for Vinyasa Yoga from Shiva Rea, with whom she continues to study. Debra has also been certified in the Maternal Fitness Method with Julie Tupler. In 2004, Debra completed the OM Yoga advanced teacher training with Cyndi Lee. Debra currently studies with Cyndi Lee, Genevieve Kapular, and Susan "Lip" Orem. After being witness to several "typical" hospital births, Debra felt it was important to move beyond the yoga room and be present in the birthing room. In 2003, Debra attended her first birth as a DONA certified labor support doula. In that short period of time, Debra has attended about 40 births. She is continuously in awe of the beauty and brilliance of birth. Most recently, Debra received her certification as a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. Drawing on her experience as a prenatal yoga teacher, labor support doula and childbirth educator, Debra looks to establish a safe and effective class for pregnancy and beyond.

4 thoughts on “Prenatal Yoga: What Poses Can I Do?

  1. Pingback: Prenatal Yoga Benefits, But Which Poses Are Safe for Baby? Yoga Benefits

  2. Pingback: prenatal yoga: information/links (+ my get-strong-again plan)

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