I have found yoga to be such an amazing tool throughout this pregnancy. It has helped me stay flexible, strong, and calm throughout all of the rapid changes in my body and spirit. I wanted to share with you all of my favorite poses that have benefited me greatly, and hope you can find them just as beneficial to you and your pregnancy.
Utkatsana (Chair Pose): Stand with legs hips distance and sit back as if in an imaginary chair. Imagine that you are squeezing a squishy beach ball in between your thighs to build heat. Lift arms above head in prayer position as seen in the picture. I will usually challenge myself and hold this pose for ten full breaths, but ten is not necessary. This is a great way to build heat in the body and get blood flowing, as well as strengthening the whole body.
Extended Side Angle: Stand in warrior two pose and drop your elbow that is closest to the knee down to rest upon the knee. Make sure not to let the neck collapse, but keep it active and supported. Raise your opposite arm up above and over your head. Imagine that your arm begins at your hip and feel this delicious stretch from your hip all the way up to your fingertips. With each in breath extend your arm further, and with each out breath sink into that knew found space. I LOVE this pose for pregnancy because it allows me to deeply stretch the sides of my torso which tend to get very tight when carrying around the extra weight in my belly. This is also a safe stretch for baby because their home is not being scrunched or crunched but is open and spacious.
Tree Pose: Stand with legs hips width apart. Raise one foot up to press against the inner thigh. Once you have your balance here you can attempt to raise your arms above your head and hold for as many breaths as you feel like. If you’re feeling a little wobbly then keep your hands on your hips. Repeat on the other side, with the other foot. This is a great way to work on balance and getting used to having this new center of gravity.
Triangle Pose: Standing with legs about two and half to three feet apart facing forward, turn one foot out to the side. Reach forward with the hand closest to the out turned foot, and place the hand on the shin, ankle, or block outside of the foot. (Yoga blocks come in really handy in pregnancy because they allow for modifications needed with our changing bodies) Once the hand is on the shin, block, or ankle extend the opposite arm up while being mindful not to lift the shoulders towards the ears. You can take this pose a step further and move the extended arm up and over the head for a deeper stretch. As with the extended side angle pose, pretend your arm starts at your hip and with each breath sink into it a little deeper. If things ever feel uncomfortable or painful back out of it. Yoga is about listening to our bodies and not pushing or forcing ourselves into a certain pose. Especially in pregnancy our bodies will be different everyday. What we were able to do with ease yesterday may be quite difficult today. Just listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
Spinal Twist: Sit with one leg in front of you, and one in back. Use the opposite arm to your front knee to grab the knee and gently twist the body towards the back. This is a great spinal twist during pregnancy because it doesn’t scrunch the belly and keeps babies home open. I find spinal twists a great release for upper back pain and I usually will stay here for ten deep and slow breaths. Repeat the same thing on the opposite side, but changing the front leg to the back and the back leg to the front and twisting in the opposite direction.
Downward Facing Dog: This is a great pose to stretch the hamstrings which often become tight during pregnancy, as well as stretching the lower back which also can become tight. It is also a safe inversion for pregnancy. I usually will start off in a table top position and then tuck my toes under and lift my butt back, while working towards getting my heels to touch the ground. While in down dog it is important to keep the back lengthened and to leave enough space for your babies home, but not crunching the belly in. I try to do at least one of these a day, and I feel immediately energized.
Spinal Balancing: Start off in table top position with arms directly underneath shoulders. Extend one leg back keeping the leg active and energized. If you feel comfortable you can even extend the opposite arm to the front and hold here. I like to hold for ten breaths on each side, but do whatever feels good. This is a great way to strengthen the gluteus and core, while working on balance.
Full Squat: Stand with feet about a foot apart. On an inhale ,raise your arms up and over your head, being mindful not to lift the shoulders toward the ears, and on the exhale bring the hands into prayer position while squatting like the woman pictured to the right. I do this moving meditation around ten to fifteen times, and on the last squat I will hang out here for about five breaths, or whatever fees good on that day. Be mindful to keep space in the belly and keep the back straight so the belly doesn’t get scrunched. You can use your elbows to push your legs open further. This is a great pose for during labor as well, but only if it feels good.
Sukasana (Easy Pose) Sit in a butterfly position with your knees out to the side while the feet are touching. Take a few breaths here to align and center. Place one hand on the ground while reaching up and over the head with the opposite arm. Be mindful to keep both sits bones on the ground. This will allow for a fuller and safer stretch to the side body. Take ten deep breaths here and with each in breath reach the arm a little bit further and with each out breath sink into that new found space. This is another one of my favorite side body stretches, and is safe for mother and baby. Repeat on the other side. I like to end my practice with this pose followed by a short meditation where I place my right hand on my heart and my left on my belly and use this time to connect with my baby.