Prenatal Yoga: 17 Poses to Ease Aches, Discomforts & Stress
Pregnancy isn’t all sunshine and roses. The beautiful human growing inside you will also cause your body some discomfort and inconvenience as it grows in size. To enjoy every moment of your pregnancy, we have some prenatal yoga poses for any ailment along the road you might encounter. Read on to learn how you to decrease stress, reduce back pain and relieve those tired feet.
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Common pregnancy ailments
During your pregnancy, you’ll likely experience ailments like nausea, heartburn, and constipation. In addition to those, pregnancy hormones can cause headaches while that extra weight you’re carrying will likely lead to back pain and swollen, tired feet. This is the somewhat annoying part of being pregnant we were talking about earlier. Here is a full list of pregnancy pains you might encounter — most of which a prenatal yoga routine can relieve.
Added belly weight:This one is a given. As your child grows, so does your belly. You’ll also see that number on the scale go up as the months go by.
Back pain: With a growing belly comes a little bit of imbalance — that is, you become front-heavy. This means that your back needs to work harder to maintain an upright posture
Hip tension: During pregnancy, particularly the second and third trimester, the body releases the hormone relaxin. Relaxin does exactly what the name suggests, it allows the connective tissue to relax and soften, loosening the joints and ligaments between the bones in your pelvis. While this is great for the birthing process, it can cause pain in your hips, lower back, and legs.
Swollen feet: While pregnant your body will produce extra fluid that serves the same role as relaxin; it’s there to soften the body to prepare for birth. Swelling, also referred to as edema, is normal. Pregnant women often experience swelling in their, e.g., hands, face, legs, ankles, and feet.
Indigestion and heartburn: As the baby grows, it starts to push against the stomach and digestive organs. This can cause reflux, heartburn, bloating, vomiting — the works.
Stress: Pregnancy can prompt a great deal of stress on the body and mind. As you deal with a growing, changing body and prepare for your little one to enter the world, you might feel anxious, overwhelmed, or even irritated.
Sleepiness or insomnia: During the first trimester, changing hormone levels might lead to an increase in daytime sleepiness. This changes as your baby develops and stress or anxiety levels increase. Many women experience insomnia in their second and third trimesters as their due date approaches.
Fear not, while these ailments and discomforts aren’t favorable, they’re totally normal. In the next section, we’ll go through each pregnancy pain point again and show you two or three prenatal yoga poses to help alleviate them. Mommas-to-be, give these a go!
New to yoga? Read about the 8 health benefits of yoga.
Prenatal yoga movements
Prenatal yoga is a valuable tool for relieving tension and discomfort in the body, plus it’ll keep momma and baby healthy and happy. Grab a mat and do a few of these postures when you’re feeling burdened by aches, pains or stress. Aim to hold each posture for 10 deep breaths.
Yoga poses for added belly weight
Until you’ve lived it, it’s hard to understand what it’s like to carry a lot of extra weight on your front. On average, women gain about 30 pounds during pregnancy, and a lot of it is in the chest, belly, and pelvic region. To ease the burden of this extra weight, settle into a wide child’s pose or wide seated forward fold.
Wide child’s pose
Come onto all fours, separate your knees as wide as your mat and bring your big toes to touch. Sit your hips back onto your heels and reach your arms forward. For a more relaxing child’s pose, rest your arms by your sides.
Wide seated forward fold
Sit on the ground and separate your legs as wide as you can. Bend your knees slightly (so they’re not locked), flex your feet, and start to fold forward. If you can, rest your forearms on the ground.
This yoga combo move is good for a number of pregnancy ailments including relieving back pain brought on by belly weight. Start on all fours and then move through cow pose (letting the belly drop, lifting the tailbone, and looking forward) and cat pose (rounding the spine, looking at the belly button and creating space between the shoulder blades). Breathe in with your cow pose and breathe out with cat pose.
Prenatal yoga poses for back pain
When you think of pregnancy and back pain, an image of a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy waddling with a hand on her lower back might come to mind. But, the truth is, back pain settles in quite early in pregnancy. The following poses can relieve back tension.
Seated side bend
Start seated with legs crossed. Sit tall with a straight spine, lift your left arm up, bring your right hand off to the right, then side bend to the right. Take a few breaths before repeating on the left.
Standing forward fold
Stand in mountain pose with your hands on your hips and feet hips-width distance apart, maybe slightly wider. Start to hinge forward at the hips, keeping a straight back as you fold. When you reach your limit with a flat back, soften the knees and relax into a forward fold. Let your arms hang down or grab opposite elbows.
Ankle to knee pose
Come to a seated position. Sit tall and position your legs so that your left leg is on the bottom and your right leg is on top. Ensure that your right ankle is over your left knee and that your shins are parallel with one another. Flex both feet and fold forward with every exhale. Do you best to keep your spine as straight as possible.
Poses for hip tension and pain
Take care when you stretch the hip and pelvic area. During pregnancy, the body releases extra relaxin, which softens and loosens the hip and pelvic area as you move into your second and third trimesters. Some poses that might help bring even more relief to this area include:
Bring your hips wider than your mat with toes turned out. Drop your hips down and back, but keep your spine straight and feet flat. Bring your hands into prayer position in front of your heart and keep your chest open as you breathe deeply.
Low runner’s lunge with twist
This pose is great for your hips and for your back as well. When you enter your third trimester, you might consider taking the twist out if it becomes uncomfortable. To come into this pose, start in a lunge with your right foot forward, right knee over ankle and right shin perpendicular with the floor. Use your left toes for balance, dropping the knee if you need the extra support. Take a few breaths here with your hands on either side of your right foot. When you’re ready, lift your right arm into the sky, twisting your body to the right. Hold for a few breaths before switching sides.
If both of those poses don’t feel good, a seated figure-4 stretch could be your jam. Sit on the ground with hands placed behind you. Bend the knees and plant both feet on the floor. Cross the right ankle over the left knee and flex the foot. Actively move your right knees away from you using the strength of your hip muscles. Breathe here before switching sides.
Bonus variation: Sit in a chair with feet planted on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and flex the right foot. Apply light pressure, pushing down on the thigh right above the right knee.
Yoga for swollen feet
Bring some relief to those swollen legs, ankles and feet with one pose that’s a little more relaxing and another where you’ll have to concentrate hard to find some zen — it’s worth it, we promise.
Viparita karani, or legs-up-the-wall pose, is a great restorative pose. It’ll bring sweet relief to your legs and feet as well as hamstrings and lower back. Set up the pose by coming next to a wall. Swing your legs up and scoot your bum as close to the wall as possible. If your hamstrings are tight or your back is sore, keep a few inches of space between you and the wall. Let your arms rest by your sides and breathe deeply.
Kneel on the ground and place your hands in front of your knees for support. Tuck your toes under and breathe into your feet. To get a deeper stretch in the feet, sit up and place your hands on your thighs. Close your eyes and focus on your inhale and exhale.
Yoga poses for indigestion and heartburn
Discomfort in the abdominal area is quite common for pregnant women. Here are two poses that can help improve digestion and relieve heartburn.
This pose helps stimulate the abdominal organs and improves digestion. Start by standing, facing the right edge of your mat. Turn your left toes forward to 12 o’clock and point your right toes to about 2 o’clock (approx a 45°angle). Place your right hand on your hip and reach your left arm forward. Tip over to the left and stack your right shoulder over your left. Reach the right arm to the sky and look up. Breath deeply, then switch to the other side.
Bound angle pose
Sit on the ground come into baddha konasana (butterfly pose) by bringing the bottoms of your feet together in front of you. Wrap your hands around your feet and sit tall for a few breaths. Once you settle into the pose, start to hinge forward at your hips to deepen the stretch.
Prenatal yoga poses to relieve stress
The most important yoga posture when you’re feeling stressed or anxious isn’t a posture at all, it’s pranayama. Pranayama is the practice of controlling the breath, something you’ll focus very intently on in the following two postures. We suggest breathing in for a count of four or five, then contracting the diaphragm to hold the breath in for a second. Next, exhale for a count of four or five and then keep your lungs empty for a beat. Continue this breathing pattern for 10 or so breaths.
Come into a seated position with legs crossed. Use your hands to move the flesh out from under your seat so that you can sit firmly on both sit bones. Align your spine so that you’re not leaning towards one side and ensure that your tailbone, midback, and shoulder blades are all in a straight line. Place your hands on your knees and close your eyes. Practice your counting pranayama — inhale for a count of five, then exhale for a count of five.
This one is tricky to get into, and you’ll need some props. We recommend keeping it simple if you’re new to fish pose by laying on your back and placing a rolled up blanket or small lumbar pillow under your shoulder blades, just below your armpits. Extend your arms out into a T-shape with palms facing up. Close your eyes and begin your pranayama breathing technique.
Yoga for sleepiness and insomnia
If you’re sleepy during pregnancy, the best yoga pose is… sleep! Give your body the rest it needs to allow your body to regenerate while it’s working so hard to help grow a healthy baby. For those experiencing insomnia later in pregnancy, here are some poses you can do in the comfort of your own bed before closing your eyes.
Reline and bend your knees to place your feet flat on the bed. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and flex the foot. Stay here, actively moving your right knee away from you, or grab onto your left hamstring and pull the entire leg towards you. Take 10 or more deep breaths before switching sides.
Seated forward bend
Sit up straight and extend your legs forward. With every exhale, bend forward a little more. Focus on keeping your spine straight and keeping your knees slightly bent.
Curious about other styles? Here are 8 different types of yoga to get you started.
Enjoy a pregnant pause
We want you to enjoy every moment of your pregnancy by managing any discomfort in a healthy way with our prenatal yoga suggestions. Remember to always consult your physician before beginning a pregnancy workout program or nutrition plan like 8fit’s. And most importantly, if an exercise doesn’t feel good then don’t do it.
For post-pregnancy support, here are some postpartum nutrition tips, workout ideas, and inspiration.