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Prenatal Yoga Basics

Yoga, an ancient Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline — which focuses on controlling breath, simple meditation, and the practice of specific body postures — can be a great asset to pregnant women. The gentle stretches, connection to self, and strength-building postures all work to help expectant moms stay relaxed and fit throughout their pregnancy.

Maintaining a regular yoga practice, even if only for 5-10 minutes a day, can be an incredible way for pregnant women to build physical and mental strength. Taking the time to get in touch with your body now can also be of great benefit later during labor and delivery.

Although the benefits of yoga can be wonderful for you and your pregnancy, be sure to speak with your doctor before starting any prenatal exercise program.

Getting started: Trimester-by-Trimester Tips

You’ll need to modify your yoga practice slightly throughout your pregnancy. Here are a few important trimester-specific prenatal tips:

  1. First trimester yoga:
    “(Until) the belly pops out, women can maintain their regular yoga practices, with the exception of Bikram and other hot yoga styles,” says author Helene Byrne, a prenatal and postpartum fitness and exercise specialist and founder of BeFit-Mom (

  2. Second trimester yoga:
    “In the second trimester, flow style yoga, as opposed to static poses, is best,” Byrne says. “This keeps mom from experiencing drops in blood pressure due to pooling of blood in the lower extremities.”

  3. Third trimester yoga:
    “This is a perfect time to listen to your body and honor its natural rhythm — which is a great practice to prepare for labor and childbirth,” advises Heidi Jae Mireles a trained birth doula and certified yoga instructor. On days when you feel strong and active, do a yoga practice that cultivates those qualities. On days when your energy is low, do a slower, gentler practice.

Prenatal yoga do’s and don’ts

Moms-to-be should always check with their OBGYN before beginning or continuing any exercise program. Be sure to speak with your doctor and discuss specific questions or ask about good modifications to try. Additionally, the following tips can help ensure your sessions are safe and effective.

Popular prenatal yoga poses

A multitude of yoga positions are beneficial and safe to practice throughout your pregnancy, says Lai. To learn these basic poses, check with your yoga instructor or ask your doctor for suggestions for safe online resources and tutorials. The following are some of Lai’s favorite poses for moms-to-be:

  1. Cat and cow.
    These pelvic tilts are good late in term; this posture helps to shift the baby's weight away from your spine, alleviating lower back pain. This pose also encourages your baby to move into an ideal birth position.

  2. Standing side bends.
    This posture gives space to the side body and rib cage.

  3. Warrior 2
    A standing pose, the Warrior 2 helps to build both strength and endurance.

  4. Downward-facing dog (regular or at the wall).
    One of the most popular yoga poses, downward-facing dog helps lengthen the spine and opens hamstrings.

  5. Cat balance.
    This yoga posture is a safe and effective way to strengthen your core.

  6. Legs-up-the-wall pose.
    If you don’t have issues with high blood pressure, this posture is very calming, reduces fatigue, and also reduces swelling in the legs.

Image: Thinkstock.

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