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Yoga Poses and Pregnancy

While most poses are safe during pregnancy, there are some which should not be practiced while you are pregnant. As with any exercise it is important that you get your doctor’s approval, and also to take note that pregnancy is not a time for excess but for moderation. Go easy despite your newfound flexibility (owing to the hormone relaxin). Breathing is central to the practice of yoga so every movement matches with deep inhalations and complete exhalations, and only then the true benefit of yoga can be experienced.

To avoid breathlessness which is very common during pregnancy, it is important to breathe in and out fully, deeply and slowly throughout the exercises.

There are certain yoga poses that can be carried out at all stages of pregnancy. The poses can be done standing, sitting, lying down or on all fours.

On all fours include Cat Stretch and Arm-leg Stretch in the Opposite Direction as described below

1. Cat stretch: Start this by sitting with your buttocks on your heels. Lift your buttocks off your heels, bend forward and get on all fours. Your back should be parallel to the floor with your hands touching the floor directly below your shoulders. Breathe in, stretch your head up but don’t let your lower back droop. When you exhale round your back, tuck in your tailbone and chin at the same time. Hold for a few seconds. Next, rest your hips on your heels and stretch your arms forward. Inhale and go back to your original position. Repeat the above steps 2-4 times. Do remember to make space between your knees for the baby. This pose benefits your back and shoulder muscles, relieves lower back pain and strengthens your limbs and abdomen area.

2. Opposite arm-leg stretch: Get into the cat stretch position first i.e. on all your fours. Breathe in and lift your left arm and right leg at the same time, ensuring they are parallel to the floor. Next breathe out and return to the original position (it’s that simple!) You may repeat the steps four times. Resume the resting position by placing your hips on your heels and resting your arms and upper body forward. This exercise helps strengthen your lower back and body.

Yoga in the lying-down position is divided into two stages, prior to the 30 weeks and after crossing the 30th week, in addition to the flapping fish pose.

1. Before 30 weeks: Support your lower limbs with some cushions or a chair. Place your hands on your tummy. Inhale from your abdomen for a few minutes and feel your aches and tension drift away from your body.

2. After 30 weeks: You can do this lying down on your left side with your right leg supported by a cushion for 5-10 minutes or longer. This exercise will help you unwind and keep calm.

3. Flapping fish pose: Benefits are it relieves constipation, relaxes your lower limbs, stimulates digestion and is the perfect position to sleep in. Lie on your left side with a pillow under your head. Keep your left leg straight as you bend your right leg and lay it on a pile of cushions or the floor as close to your elbow as you can. Concentrate on your breathing and relax all the other body parts. Change sides when you are ready.

Yoga in the Standing position includes the Warrior pose and Squat.

1. Warrior Pose: Stand with your feet apart. Next turn your right leg out such that your toes are pointing to the right, breathe in and raise both arms up. Breathe out and lower your arms to become parallel to the floor. Keeping your upper body straight, bend your right leg such that it forms a right angle with your left leg stretched out behind you. Breathing in, resume the starting position. Do this at least 4-5 times and then repeat this on the other side. This exercise will help open the pelvis and strengthen the legs.

2. Squat: Again stand with your legs apart and your toes should be slightly outwards. Raise your arms above your head. Exhale and put your hands together (in a prayer pose) and lower your body gently into a squatting position. Breathe in and return to the starting position. You can perform this exercise 5-10 times. This exercise too benefits your pelvic area and strengthens your legs.

Yoga in the Sitting position includes Twisting pose and Butterfly.

1. Twisting pose: You may choose to sit cross legged or with your legs stretched out in front of you. Sit up tall, place your left hand on your right knee (if your legs are straight out) and slowly twist around to the right as far as you feel comfortable. Look out for a nice stretch in your mid-back. Hold this pose for about 30 seconds, inhaling and exhaling moderately the whole time. Repeat on the other side and you can choose to do this 4-5 times each side. If you are in the cross-legged position, sit on a cushion and grasp your right shin with your left hand and put your right hand on the floor behind you. Twist to the right as far as you feel comfortable and hold to the count of thirty. Switch sides and repeat. This pose relieves mid and lower backache and promotes relaxation.

2. Butterfly: This pose benefits the pelvic area, stretches legs and lower spine and eases labor. Sit on a mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Hold your ankles and pull both legs inward as far as it is comfortable for you (ideally your heels should touch your pelvic area). Next, while still holding your feet or ankles, gently press your elbows down onto your knees until you feel a nice stretch in your inner thighs. Breathe deeply and slowly as you hold for 1-3 minutes. You may also bounce your knees up and down about 10-15 times, pushing your knees as far down as you are comfortable.

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