It’s not secret that prenatal yoga can be one of the best forms of exercise for mamas-to-be. With a focus on gentle stretching and lubricating the joints, a prenatal yoga class can considerably curb the aches an expecting mom might have, including lower back pain, stiff joints, and muscle cramps. Prenatal Yoga can also help ease some of the discomfort that comes with the body adjusting to natural weight gain.
It’s always wonderful to find a local prenatal yoga class to take part in the practice and also to connect with other pregnant women. If you cannot attend a local class, please feel free to schedule a private lesson with me.
Here’s what one expecting mom said about her prenatal yoga experience:
“I just wanted to send a quick thank you for an awesome prenatal class last night. I was incredibly uncomfortable all weekend and yesterday at work and with one class I felt a million times better, slept awesome last night and still feel great today! It’s amazing how an hour class can readjust the body and mind!” –Katie
Below are some basic, gentle postures that assist in adjusting to the transitioning pregnant body. Click on the picture for a bigger view.
(Prenatal Yoga videos to come!)
Before you begin, please grab a blanket, yoga blocks and a yoga strap before beginning. You don’t need actual yoga props, you can improvise with what you have at home. If you don’t have the “yoga-specific” props, you can use two thick books and a belt.
Cat Cow These postures are great for an irritated lower back, which frequently happens during pregnancy. Start on hands and knees. Knees are in line with hips but can be a little wider than hips distance apart. Wrists are in line with shoulders but can be a little wider than shoulder distance apart. Start with a neutral spine looking forward. On an inhale, tilt the top of the pelvis forward slightly. Slightly drop the belly and arch the upper back. The shoulders drop away from the ears as the chin lifts up. Be mindful not to over-arch the lower back and to not let the belly feel unsupported. On an exhale, tuck the tailbone towards the heals, draw the belly back to round the lower. Push into the ground with the hands to round the upper back. Tuck the chin toward the chest. Move through these postures five to ten times, arching the back on an inhale and rounding the back on an exhale. Again, be mindful of not dropping the belly too low and over arching the lower back.
Forward Fold This posture is also good for the lower back. By stretching out the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus, we relieve strain on the lower back. Start with the feet at least hip-width apart (can be farther apart to make space for the belly). Bring the blocks under the hands which should be shoulder distance apart. On the inhale, lengthen the spine, straighten the arms, and look forward. Make sure to draw the belly back toward the spine and engage the lower back to prevent dropping an unsupported belly. On the exhale, soften the elbows, relax the head down, and very slightly fold forward. If there is too much pressure on the belly, raise the torso a bit more. Keep the hips reaching high so there is the feeling of lengthening through the backs of the legs. Be mindful not to lock the knees and keep them supple to prevent hyperextension.
Half Split This posture stretches the hamstrings, calf muscles, and outer hip. Because the hamstrings are being stretched, this posture also alleviates tension in the lower back. Start on hands and knees. Help the left foot forward to the outside of the left hand. Grab the blocks, bring them under the hands and begin to straighten the left leg, bringing the hips back. The hands will wind up to the inside of the left leg and the right hip should end up above the right knee. You might want to pad the right knee with the blanket to soften the pressure under the knee. Flex the left heel and draw the left hip back so the hips are in line with each other. Extend the spine, reach the heart toward the front of the room and the left hip draws back, and keep the left foot flexed to created length from the lower back to the heal. Make sure the left knee is supple to prevent hyperextension. Repeat on second side.Squat with Chest Stretch The squat feels great on the lower back and the inner thighs, especially as those adductors start to adjust with the shifting pelvis. Come to a squatted position with the heals on the ground. This is not easy for everyone, so either roll up the blanket to put under the heals for support, or just down onto the block. Even if the heals are on the ground, it might feel better to be supported by the block. Bring the right arm to the inside of the right leg and place the hand on the ground. The back of the right arm should be pushing on the inside of the right leg or knee, and the knee should push back into the arm. Reach the left arm up to the sky and then slightly back so the span across the two arms is close to one line. Reach the heart forward and up to resist rounding the upper back and to stretch across the pectorals. Bring the gaze toward the top hand. Repeat on the second side.