Yoga is the perfect low-impact activity for women during pregnancy.
Trying to get into that forward bend with your baby bump and finding it more difficult than usual? That’s totally normal! Yoga is the perfect low-impact activity for women during pregnancy if you know how to modify the poses to keep you and your baby safe and comfortable. In this video, Health contributing expert Kristin McGee demonstrates the best modifications for your favorite asanas like child’s pose, bridge, and pigeon, and the best yoga moves for pregnancy so you can keep working out while staying focused on you and your baby’s health.
Don’t have time to watch? Read the full transcript:
Hi, I'm Kristin McGee. As an expecting mother myself, I want to share some yoga tips and modifications that you can be armed with when you go into a yoga class during your pregnancy. A lot of moms-to-be are afraid to do yoga while pregnant, but the practice is actually one of the most beneficial forms of exercises you can do when expecting, since it’s low impact, opens up the hips, strengthens the legs, and is great for bringing blood flow to the pelvic floor region. Plus, yoga is a wonderful tool for rest and relaxation and maintaining the mind-body connection. Here are helpful tweaks you can make when practicing yoga while pregnant.
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Tadasana: As you get bigger, it's hard to find balance when the feet are zipped together in tadasana, or mountain pose, during sun salutations. Expecting moms can widen their feet to a hip-width stance, which makes it easier when lifting the arms up. When you're diving down into a forward bend, the room between the legs gives the belly more space to come through.
Chaturanga: Moms can try different variations when they’re flowing through chaturanga. If you're in a plank and you can't lower down to your belly, just drop to the knees and bend the arms halfway for a modified chaturanga. Another tougher option is a chaturanga push up, where the arms bend straight down and then up, before you return to your downward facing dog. If want to skip your chaturangas altogether, simply flow from a plank position to an upward facing dog with flexed feet, then return to a downward facing dog.
Downward Facing Dog: This is a great pose for expecting moms because it’s a gentle inversion that strengthens the entire body. That said, if you ever feel dizzy or light-headed while in down dog, come down and rest in a wide-knee child's pose. Feel free to place a block beneath your forehead so that your head is supported and your belly stays elevated.
Twists: As you get larger, twists are contraindicated, so you don’t want your belly to cross the midline. For example, instead of swiveling the body across the midline for a lunge twist, which pushes the belly up against the knee, you can do an open twist, placing the elbow on the inside of the knee and keeping the belly open as you twist. The same can be done in a seated spinal twist. Instead of twisting across the midline, just twist away from the bent knee towards the open side. The one twist that you can do throughout your entire pregnancy is in a seated or standing straddle position, because nothing is crossing the midline and everything stays open. You’ll get a great stretch along the inner thighs and the entire hip region.
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Belly Down Poses: Expecting moms can't lie on their bellies as they get into their second and third trimester, so it’s best to tweak bow and locust poses by staying on the hands and knees. Get on all fours, raising the right arm and left leg. Reach the hand for the ankle for an all-fours bow pose. Moms-to-be can also do cat cow while the rest of the class does full bow pose on their bellies.
Camel: Another great exercise for expecting moms is camel because they can stay standing on their knees while they get a supported back bend. If they feel open enough, they can do a full camel, reaching the hands behind them to rest on the ankles with the feet pointed or flexed.
Bridge: Some pregnant women feel uncomfortable lying on their backs. If you feel comfortable lying down, place a block under your sacrum while in a bridge pose. This provides a restorative stretch, as opposed to a full wheel that could overstretch the belly. You can also place two blocks or a bolster under the head to keep it elevated above the heart. Moms-to-be can also press the soles of the feet together to get a stretch along the inner thighs, or extend each leg straight towards the ceiling, pulling them in towards the body for a deep hamstring stretch. Feel free to gently twist to each side with the knees falling low towards of the mat.
Pigeon Pose: There are two ways mommies can do a pigeon pose. The first is to place a block under the front hip, which elevates you enough so you're lifted and your belly feels supported. If you want to bend forward for even more of a hip opener, you can. You can also modify pigeon pose by placing a block under the front of the back thigh. This gives the belly a lot of space so that you can fold forward.
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All of these poses are also good in the first trimester for nausea, or for when you feel fatigued. Even just a short, ten-minute yoga flow, can make you feel so much better and can also help with balance. If you ever feel off-balance, feel free to go to a wall when you’re doing standing balances. If you're practicing at home, put your hand on a chair while doing balancing poses, like tree, dancing Shiva, or eagle pose.