Prenatal Yoga: 6 Pose Modifications for Pregnancy

Charmie Stryker
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Let’s face it – giving birth can be the most intense physical, mental, and emotional journey for moms-to-be. Prenatal yoga is a great way to prepare your mind and body for the challenges that you will face during pregnancy and labor.
 
Yoga asanas can help moms-to-be stay in shape as well as decompress tension in the back, hips, neck and shoulder to help reduce pain and discomfort that can arise throughout your pregnancy.
 
Meditation and breathing exercises are great tools to help reduce stress and help you stay calm during labor. Above all, prenatal yoga also helps you become more attune with yourself, along with the growing life within you. Due to the uniqueness of our bodies, there is no one-size-fits-all prenatal yoga practice.
 
Below are six yoga poses and modifications that are beneficial and safe for moms-to-be:
 

Triangle pose (Trikonasana)

Place your mat perpendicular to the wall. Walk your feet apart until your left foot is flush against the wall. Turn your right leg and foot to the right, so that your toes point toward the top (short end) of your mat.
 
Triange-pose-prenatal
 
Modify this pose with a block beneath your bottom hand, which allows more space for your growing belly!
 
Here’s how to modify: Place your block behind your right foot. Raise your arms to shoulder height. Extend all four limbs and extend your torso. Keeping this extension, place your right fingertips or hands on the block. Repeat on the left side.
 
The benefits: Triangle pose is a beneficial prenatal pose by strengthening the core, opening the hips, as well as stretching legs and shoulders. A great way to engage your entire body – safely!
 

 

Arm Extension in Hero pose (Parvatasana in Virasana)

Bring your knees hip-width distance to start, and slowly begin to lower your seat down in between your heels. This is a deep stretch for the knees, so take it easy! Spread them wider for a gentler stretch, or bring them closer together for a deeper stretch. Interlace your fingers to the webbing and extend your arms overhead, palms facing up.
 
Hero-pose-prenantal
 
Modify this pose with a block or bolster to make the stretch more gentle.
 
Here’s how to modify: Sit on a block or bolster with feet by outer hips. Toes point toward the back of the mat.
 
The benefits: Performing Heroine pose is a great way to relieve swelling and alleviate tired legs by stretching the thighs, knees and ankles gently. It’s important to be extra gentle with your body during pregnancy to ensure you’re not over-stretching certain areas, which is why incorporating the bolster is an ideal prenatal modification.
 
 

Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Down Dog is a classic and foundational yoga pose that you’ll find in the vast majority of yoga classes that you attend. It’s a great pose because it’s all-levels friendly, and offers full body benefits.
 
Down-dog-prenantal
 
Modify this pose by using a chair!
 
Here’s how to modify: Put a chair against the wall. Place your palms and fingers on the chair seat, walk your feet back (about four feet, but play around with what feels best for your body) and hinge at the hips to create a shape similar to the traditional Down Dog. Keep your arms and legs straight. Extend your torso completely, and breathe deeply.
 
The benefits: This is a great stretch, especially for pregnant women with back pain. Downward dog decompresses the spine, while stretching arms, shoulders, and legs. Using the chair helps you get the full spinal stretch and decompression, while also working more into the arm and shoulder stretch – safely.
 
 

Gentle Spinal Twist (Baradvajasana)

Spinal twists are an important part of any yoga practice because they decompress the spine and bring fresh blood flow to the entire spinal column, which is healing. However, pregnant women should avoid deep twists and extra pressure on their abdominal area.
 
Gentle-Spinal-Twist-prenantal
 
Modify by using a chair to sit in and making it a gentle, restorative twist as opposed to a deep twist.
 
Here’s how to modify: Sit in a chair facing forward and then shift your legs and torso to face the right edge of the chair. From there, twist your torso further to the right and place both hands on the back of your chair. Take a deep inhale, and with your exhale, gently turn your head to gaze over your right shoulder. Hold briefly and then slowly come back to center. Repeat on the left side.
 
The benefits: When deep twists are replaced with a gentle chair twist during your pregnancy, it helps you maintain normal spinal rotation and also reduce back pain.
 
 

Legs Elevated (Viparita Karani)

Legs Up the Wall pose is a fantastic pose for stress relief. Just spend 30 seconds in it and you’ll see why! Getting the legs elevated above the heart is incredibly calming physically and mentally.
 
Legs-Elevated-prenatal
 
Modify with a bolster (or blanket) and chair to make this pose more comfortable and gentle.
 
Here’s how to modify: Place folded blankets or a bolster under your buttocks and your calves on a chair (or couch). Your mid back, shoulder, neck and head are resting on the ground. Tuck your shoulders under. Allow your arms to spread into a “T” position, palms facing up, and rest.
 
The benefits: To keep legs healthy from varicose veins, blood clots, and swelling ankles and feet, pregnant women should regularly elevate their legs to keep blood circulating as well as relieve pressure and weight off their legs.
 
 

Deep Relaxation (Savasana)

Final resting pose, otherwise known as Savasana, is one of the most important poses of your yoga practice, prenatal or otherwise! However, during the second and third trimester, the weight of the baby can put too much pressure on the large vein that runs along the spine, therefore it is advised for pregnant women to lay in either a supported or sideways savasana.
 
Savasana-prenatal
 
Modify with two bolsters or a stack of blankets.
 
Here’s how to modify: Stack two bolsters (or the equivalent of blankets) on a mat. Stagger the top bolster so that it is slightly apart from the lower bolster – like a small step. Lay down over the bolsters and put a blanket beneath your head. Adjust the height of the blanket as needed so that your forehead is higher than your chin. Relax your entire body. Breathe softly and smoothly. Stay in the pose for 5 minutes or longer, and come out slowly.
 
The benefits: Savasanas are especially beneficial for moms-to-be, allowing them time to calm their busy brains, relax, and help subside stress hormones.
 
 

General tips for keeping your Prenatal yoga practice effective and safe:

In general, it’s best to avoid the following:

  1. Positions in which you lie on your belly (ex. cobra, locust)
  2. Poses in which you lie flat on your back without support (ex. corpse)
  3. Deep backbends (ex. camel, bow)
  4. Postures and actions that contract the abdominal muscles (ex. boat pose)
  5. Holding poses for longer than 5-10 breaths
  6. Deep twists that compress the abdominal area
  7. Deep forward bends or hip openers
  8. Avoid advanced pranayama or holding the breath

 
Most importantly, tune in with your body and your baby. Take it slow and love the ever-changing body that you are in. Drink plenty of water when exercising and take as many breaks as needed.
 
We hope you found this article helpful. Feel free to share your prenatal yoga experiences with us – we love hearing from you. Happy pregnancy!!
 

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Charmie Stryker

A wanderlust at heart, Charmie started her yoga teaching path during her travels through India. Her practice has been nicknamed as “shakti sway”. “Shakti”, meaning divine energy, and movement and “Sway” because of her love for flow, or the fluidity of movements. Currently she is pursuing her bliss of yoga, travel and design blurring the lines between work and play.

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