Prenatal yoga can not only help you ease the aches and pains of growing a tiny human inside of you (aka pregnancy), studies have shown that it can also help you have an easier birth. Here are 5 yoga poses that should be part of your daily movement practice during pregnancy.
Numerous studies have confirmed over and over how beneficial prenatal yoga can be not only for the mother, but also for the child. A more recent study conducted on 75 pregnant people confirmed that practicing yoga twice a week (each session lasting 75min) reduced chances of getting an induction, an episiotomy, and reduced the overall duration of labour.
It also had a significant effect on normal birth weight and delivery at the appropriate gestational age and there were significant differences between the Apgar scores of the infants of moms who practiced yoga against those who didn’t.
With that said, the following poses are extra helpful because they not only help your nervous system regulate (aka make you feel relaxed), but they also support your body, especially your pelvis and pelvic floor muscles in making room for baby to descend into the birth canal when it’s time.
I highly recommend you practice them every day, for at least 5 deep breaths each. Ideally in the following order.
1. Hip circles on all fours
This movement might not really be a traditional yoga pose, but it is SO helpful to create space in your pelvis, release the lower back and help you connect with your core.
Come on all fours, hands below your shoulders, knees below your hips.
Start doing circles with your hips. You can do big ones, bringing your hips to your heels, or you can keep them centralized on your hips.
Move as you feel like. Feel free to close your eyes and focus on how your body feels when you move in this pose.
This is a movement you can do during labour to help you cope with the contractions. All fours is also a common pose people tend to give birth in.
2. Lizard Pose - Modified
Lizard pose or runner's lunge is also a very common pose doulas and midwives recommend for childbirth. It opens the hips and inner thighs and makes you feel so good.
From all fours, bring either foot to the outside edge of your hand, trying to keep the toes facing forward as much as you can. If that’s uncomfortable, then go ahead and allow the foot to face a bit towards a 45° angle, making sure your knee is aligned with your foot.
Circle your hips, feeling the stretch in the inner thigh, and feeling the back of your hips open. It’s such a yummy pose!
3. Warrior 2 - Modified
Its name says it all, you’re meant to feel like a warrior when practicing this pose. You’ll feel grounded, focused, strong. It strengthens your core, legs and stretches your hips and inner thighs, and on your upper body, it opens up your chest and strengthens your arms and shoulders.
If you’re not familiar with this pose, I recommend you start with the modified version with one knee on the floor and work up to the standing variation. If you’re on your third trimester and aren’t fully trusting your balance, have a chair or something to hold on to next to or in front of you.
Standing on your knees, bring your left foot and knee to face the front of your mat, making sure the knee is on top the ankle.
Find that point of balance in your body where you’re not placing too much weight on either leg.
Imagine you have a string on the crown of your head and someone if pulling it up towards the ceiling, lengthening your spine upward.
Your head, shoulders and hips are aligned.
Lift your arms at shoulder distance, parallel to the floor. Imagine someone is pulling you from both arms so they're straight and strong.
Look past your left middle finger and breathe.
Stay here for 5 to 10 breaths and slowly come out of the pose to repeat on the other side.
4. Goddess pose
This is such a powerful pose! It strengthens your legs, hips and core and at the same time stretches your hips and inner thighs. By bending your elbows at shoulder height, it opens the chest, and overall, this pose will make you sweat and stimulate your cardiovascular and respiratory system. I don’t know about you, but this pose always makes me feel fierce and strong. Like I can face anyone and anything. I loved practicing it when I was pregnant.
Please make sure you’ve done the poses I've described above before you try goddess to ensure your muscles and joints are warm enough to truly benefit from this empowering pose.
With your legs wide apart, turn your toes outward about 45 degrees and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor, making sure they’re aligned with your toes and doing your best to not let the knees drop inward or outward.
Aim your tailbone towards the floor by slightly tucking your tailbone forward.
Bring your arms up and bend the elbows at shoulder height, bringing the shoulder blades together to get a nice, open chest. Breathe.
You can stay in this pose for 5 to 10 breaths or combine it with side-to-side movements or squats.
If you want evoke your true fierce goddess, try lion's breath during the pose by inhaling through the nose and exhaling fiercely through the mouth, sticking out your tongue. It feels really good. Try it!
5. Child’s pose to Puppy Dog pose
Child's pose is also great to open the hips, release the back body and at the same time release stress and anxiety. I love this one at the beginning, at the end or in the middle of any yoga practice to take a break.
From all fours, bring your hips to your heels, opening the knees as much as you’d like.
Lower your torso and forehead on the floor. If your belly is too big, use cushions to elevate your forehead or just go straight into puppy dog pose
To go into puppy dog pose, lift your hips to come just above your knees and release the forehead on the mat.
Your arms are active in this posture.
For both poses, you can use cushions or a block under your forehead for extra support.
Bonus Pose: Side-lying Savasana
Learning to truly let go and relax is a skill that you'll need for labour and birth. When those contractions start getting more intense by the minute, you’ll need to recruit all of your Zen to allow the body to stay relaxed and do what it needs to do. When we're in pain or feel tension, we tend to clench and tense even more, which can be counterproductive for labour. Savasana is a great way to get your relaxation practice going.
You’ll need a thick blanket or long pillow to place between your knees and ankles.
Lie on your left side, bending the knees and placing the blanket or pillow in between.
Use any other cushions or blankets for your head, underneath your belly and behind you to support your back.
You can also place a towel or eye pillow on your eyes and cover yourself up with a blanket. Make it extra comfy.
Close your eyes if it feels good for you and allow your body to fully surrender and melt into the floor. Breathe normally.
Stay here for at least 5 to 10 minutes to truly absorb all the benefits of your yoga practice.
It is one of the hardest poses in yoga, learning to surrender and do nothing. Luckily, practice makes perfect 😉
While in traditional yoga, falling asleep is not the aim of this pose. In pregnancy I say you’re allowed to cheat, so that’s your queue to drift into a power (or longer) nap if you need it.
Combine this short prenatal yoga sequence with other pregnancy safe exercises and voilà, you'll have the perfect combination between strength and relaxation to prepare you for birth and labour.
In my 1:1 private pregnancy and postpartum yoga programme we address your specific needs from an integrative perspective so that you have the best possible birth and postpartum experience. Click here to learn more.
Book a free 1hr discovery session so we can address any aches and pains and get you feeling strong, more energized and ready to take on your motherhood journey.
The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any exercise.