It’s no secret that staying active during pregnancy is key. For moms-to-be, prenatal yoga not only relieves stress, but can contribute to a healthier pregnancy. Dr. Emily Kiberd, Celebrity Chiropractic Physician and Founder of Urban Wellness Clinic shares her insight on the top 8 yoga poses that every pregnant woman should know!
Dr. Kiberd suggests easing into the routine with the cat pose by inhaling as you arch your back and exhaling as you round out. Warm up your muscles with the bird dog pose. Push yourself into a full squat to prepare for pushing during pregnancy. Warrior pose maintains balance and aligns the body properly. When practicing, avoid deep twists and bends, as those positions can result in back pain and heartburn!
Prenatal Yoga Sequence
Start pulsing between Cat and Cow pose, inhaling as you arch your back and exhaling as you round out. Cow pose is a good gentle modification for a backbend. At first the diaphragm right under the ribs and the ligaments in the lower belly will feel tight. Breathe into these areas and honor your boundaries of what feels good. This is a great way to warm up the spine with your breath.
Next warm up the core muscles, specifically the internal and external obliques and the spine stabilizers (multifidii) with Bird Dog. Picture there is the finest glass of wine on the base of your pelvis and you don’t want to tip it. Avoid swaying side to side or any rocking. Take 4 counts to reach out and then 4 counts to place the hand and knee back down and alternate sides. The slower the better!
Push yourself back into a Full Squat pose, this is essential since this will prepare you for pushing during labor. The toes can turn out, but wherever the toes go, the knees follow. Track those knees over the toes and push your thighs out with resistance of pray hands and elbows. Feel the bowl of your pelvis relax here.
Stand and take a wide stance into Warrior 2. As the belly grows, shorten the width of your stance to help keep your balance and avoid any pulling of your adductors (inner thighs muscles) on the pubic symphysis. This could lead to inflammation of the cartilage of the pubic symphysis called osteitis pubis. Keeping your feet here, move into Extended Side Angle. Push down through the back edge of your back foot, feel a deeper stretch through your waistline. So much of our day is spent sitting and collapsing our waitline, it is nice here to bring space between the ribs and the hip bone. Feel a lengthening here and breathe into this space.
Think of your belly as rays of the sun and you don’t want to close off these rays.
Take a Wide Legged Forward Fold with hands on blocks, this is a great way to open the inner thighs and hamstrings in a forward fold without feeling like you are crushing the baby.
Finish with a seated Figure 4 to stretch the external rotators of the hip. As the baby gets bigger toward the end of the third trimester, increased pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause pain down the back of the leg. Figure 4 stretch can help relieve this pressure on the nerve.
What to avoid in your practice:
1. Deep forward bends: The feeling of “squishing your baby to be” in the lower abdomen in a forward fold tells you when to stop. Folding forward can compress blood vessels and nerves connected to your uterus. Try a Wide Legged Forward Fold with hands on blocks to make space for your growing belly to sit between your thighs.
2. Deep twists: Think of your belly as rays of the sun and you don’t want to close off these rays. Twists can also decrease circulation to the uterus. Reversing the twist into an open pose is a good modification.
3. Lying on your back: Once second trimester arrives, avoid lying on your back for extended periods of time (like Savasana). The weight of the baby can crush the vena cava, the highway for blood flow from the lower body to the heart, causing lightheadedness and decreased blood flow and nutrients to your developing baby. This pressure can also cause low back pain and heartburn. Prop your torso up on blocks and a bolster instead of lying flat, or a good alternative is taking Savasana lying on your side.
4. Extreme backbends: Advanced yoga practitioners can play with their practice of backbends because their spine is already supple and used to these intense poses. Newer yogis, with a less flexible spine, can overstretch their abdominal muscles with trying deep backbends. This leads to a higher risk of diastasis recti or separation of your rectus abdominus muscle down the midline. Stick to gentler backbends like Cow Pose or Camel with hands on the gluts.
5. Inversions: Yoga poses that put you at risk for falling on your belly and injuring you or your baby are off the table during pregnancy. As your belly grows and your balance is thrown off, inversions can become dangerous. Toward the end of your third trimester, once your baby gets into the head-down position, you’ll want to avoid doing anything, like inversions, that could cause them to turn into a breached position.
6. Hot yoga: Save this style of yoga for after pregnancy for two very valid reasons. It takes your baby twice as long to cool down after getting hot as it does mom which can lead to neural tube defects, delayed fetal growth, and increase incidence of cleft palate. Plus the combination of all the hormones relaxing your ligaments and heat during your yoga practice can lead to instability of your sacroiliac joints of your pelvis and intense back pain.