Exercise during pregnancy is very important for your overall health and well begin during and after pregnancy. Yoga is a great way to keep some of your muscles strong, flexible, and relaxed. This will help reduce the amount of pain and tightness you will experience during pregnancy, and will help ease the labour process.
If you are not experienced in yoga, it would be a good idea to take a class or two before trying it on your own at home. Prenatal yoga DVDs are also available on the market that you can follow at home. Be sure to only do the poses that are comfortable for you to do and start slow. The following are some yoga poses that are safe and that I have found to be most effective during pregnancy.
- Child Pose
*Note: If you are in your second or third trimester, use a pillow under your belly for support in this pose.
Start by supporting yourself on your hands and knees with your toes pointing backward. Your arms should be shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly more than hip-width apart. If you are using a pillow, or your belly is large, place your knees as far apart as you need to be comfortable or straddle the pillow. Slowly lower your rear and lean back, bending at the knees. Keep your arms extended straight out in front of you. Try to lower yourself until your rear is touching the backs of your heels. Use your arms to reach as far out in front of you on the floor. Relax your back, legs, and neck. You will feel a stretch throughout your back, especially in your mid and lower back. Slowly breathe in and out about 5 times. Return to the starting position, rest for a few breaths, and repeat as many times as you need.
- Prayer Squat
*Note: If you are in your third trimester, you can sit on the edge of a chair during this pose for additional support.
Start in a standing position with your feet a bit more than shoulder-width apart and toes slightly pointed out. Slowly breathe in while raising both of your arms up and over your head fully extended, slowly breathe out while lowering yourself down into a full, deep squat position. Also, bring your hands together in a prayer position and lower your hands to the level of your heart. At this point, you should have your knees completely bent and your rear should be very close to the ground (unless using a chair). Place your elbows on the inside of your knees and use them to gently push your legs outward. Try to keep your heels flat on the floor while in this pose. You will feel a stretch on the inside of both legs, especially at the top around the groin area. Slowly breathe in and out about 5 times. If you can not stand up from this position on your own, lower yourself to a sitting position and use a chair to help support yourself when standing back up. Repeat as many times as needed, or if comfortable, stay in this position for as long as you need.
- Side Stretch Squat
*Note: If you are in your second or third trimester, you can sit on the edge of a chair during this pose for additional support.
Start in a standing position with your feet spread wide to comfort, and toes pointed slightly out. Lower yourself into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the ground. While still facing forward, rest your right elbow on your right knee. Extend your left arm out with your palm up and slowly bring it up and over your head. Lean to the right and reach over your head with your left hand. You will feel a stretch on your left side. Slowly breathe in and out 5 times. Return to the starting standing position and repeat on the other side of your body. Place your left elbow on your left knee and use your right arm up and over your head. Not only does this stretch your sides and allow your lungs to expand more, but it also helps strengthen your leg muscles.
- Downward Facing Dog
*Note: If you are in your third trimester, you can use a stool or yoga blocks to place your hand on during this pose for additional support.
Start by supporting yourself on your hands and knees. Slowly start to lift your rear up and extend your knees. Keep your hands flat on the ground and your head down and relaxed. Keep lifting your rear up until your knees are completely extended. You should now be in an “A-frame” position. Try to keep your heels flat on the ground. You will feel a stretch in the backs of both legs, and possibly down into your calves. Slowly breathe in and out 5 times. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. Repeat as many times as you need.
*Note: You can use a pillow to sit on during this pose for extra comfort during any trimester.
While sitting on the floor, bring the bottoms of your feet together so that they are touching. Use your hands to grasp around your ankles and bring your heels as close in to your body as you can. Make sure you keep yourself sitting straight up, do not hunch over or lean forward. With your hands still grasping your ankles, place your elbows on top of the inside of your knees. Slowly breathe in, then while slowly breathing out, use your elbows to gently push your legs down. You will feel a stretch on the inside of both of your legs and up into the groin area. Slowly breathe in and out 5 times. Relax your arms and let your legs rest from the stretch. Repeat as many times as you need.