7 PRENATAL YOGA BASICS FOR BEGINNERS
7 Prenatal Yoga Basics for Beginners is the perfect guide for those who want a quick go-to on some poses you can do safely at home. It's perfect for those days when you can't make it to class - or for those without access to a regular prenatal yoga class. Originally I was asked to write this article for kidspot (the corresponding Pinterest pin has been shared more than 40K times!)
To keep your yoga practice safe during pregnancy - avoid any poses which cause compression or squashing your baby and please seek medical advice before undertaking any kind of exercise program during pregnancy. If in doubt - skip it out!
1. Baddha Konasana (Cobbler’s Pose)
Sometimes known as butterfly or cobbler’s pose, Baddha Konasana is a prenatal yoga staple for many women and for good reason. It is great posture to help stretch out the adductors or inner thighs. As a sitting qnd meditation position it is perfect for heavily pregnancy women as there is lots of space for baby. It’s also great as a way of being able to give yourself a massage for tired and aching feet! If you only have time for one pose, this is it! Combine it with gentle focus on the breath and a favourite mantra and you’re ready to go (e.g. breathing in long and deep – breathing out and letting go).
Practice tips: You can add a forward fold as a way of relieving back and neck tension as long as you can maintain space for your baby. If you feel like you need more freedom, elevate the hips on a folded blanket.
2. Ardha Salamba Malasana (Half Supported Squat)
This is an elevated variation on the deep ‘birth’ squat a prenatal yoga pose that you see in most pregnancy and natural birth books. If you’ve ever looked at those full squats and thought ‘no way’, then this is the variation for you! Many women (especially beginners) simply do not have the hip or calf flexibility to sit in a deep squat unsupported. So by elevating the hips on one or two blocks or some stacked cushions you can make more space for your baby (squashing your baby is not a good idea!). Having one leg up and one leg tucked back helps to stabilise the balance and allows for some opening through the front of the thigh that is down. This is a great position for early labour as well if baby is head down and in a good position. In early labour you can bring some movement to the pose by using a rocking action with the hips.
Practice tips: Be sure to repeat this on both sides to encourage balanced posture. Once you come into the pose, focus on relaxing the mouth, neck and shoulders with every breath out.
3. Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose) or Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Technically these are two poses with slight differences, but they look similar and both are great for pregnancy. Puppy Pose (with the hips up) is the perfect combination of Downward Dog and Child’s Pose. It’s a great pose to help create a feeling of length through the torso. As a super gentle inversion (hips above the heart) it’s also fantastic if you need a break from your baby using your bladder as a trampoline! Alternatively, Child’s Pose is a more meditative version with the hips low to the heels (inset). If you are more heavily pregnant, you can come onto the elbows as shown for some more space.
Practice tips: Hold for five to 10 slow breaths and focus on bringing your awareness inward. Choose the variation that feels right for you today. If you experience wrist pain in Downward Facing Dog – or are close to your due date and your baby is already engaged – then choose Puppy Pose or Child’s Pose instead. Downward Facing Dog is great at the end of your pregnancy if your baby is breech – as it gives your baby space to move up and out of the pelvis.
4. Trikonasana (Supported Triangle)
This back to basics pose is a wonderful way to encourage length through the spine, stretch out the hamstrings and create balance. Using a block under the supporting hand (or even bringing the hand higher up the leg to the shin) is a great way to encourage maximum length through the torso on underside of the body. You can also do this pose with your back to a wall for extra support.
Practice tips: Hold this pose for five breaths and repeat on the other side. Make sure you activate your quads to strengthen the legs (think of lifting the knee cap up and feel the quads draw up toward the hips).
5. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
Embrace your birthing warrior woman with this pose that is fantastic for strength, stamina and focus. Variations on this pose are sitting sideways on a chair – which is a great option for mums having twins or for those with symphysis pubic dysfunction (a common condition which can cause discomfort is poses where there is weight bearing on one leg, or the stance is too wide).
Practice tips: Choose a mantra such as “I can do this – I AM doing this” and hold this pose while saying your mantra for five to 10 breaths and you’ll be well on your way to focusing on your inner strength. As you gaze down past your fingers, choose a focal point with your eyes and then sink a little deeper for an extra challenge. Make sure your ankle is under your knee (not behind).
6. Standing Glute Stretch
Better than Panadol for tight glutes and achey hips! This is a no-nonsense pose that most women love as it stretches out stabilising muscles of the hips that when tight can lead to sciatica in pregnancy. In this picture, Jen is balancing on her own, but I recommend doing this one at the wall with support for both hands. Stretching out the deep glutes also encourages a sense of letting go.
Practice tips: Keep the lifted foot flexed to help protect the knee. Keep the chest lifted. For those with pelvic separation or pain when trying one-legged balances (common during pregnancy), you can do the same pose sitting on the floor with the hands supporting your bodyweight behind.
7. Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolving Head to Knee Pose)
With your growing bump, gravity weighing everything down & focus on the front of the body – this is a magical pose to help lengthen through the sides of the body. The result is usually a feeling of more space & freedom, as well as an energy boost. This is a great pose to do on days where you feel sluggish – as you can stay sitting down and focus on breathing into the side ribs. You’ll also feel a stretch in the hamstrings and open into the hips.
Practice tips: Hold for five to 10 breaths on each side. If your hamstrings feel tight, you can use a strap or belt to help reach the toes. Focus on revolving your body to face out and upward toward the ceiling with every breath out.
To finish, take some quiet time to breathe with your baby, give thanks for the blessings you have in your life or just enjoy the stillness.
A huge thank-you to my beautiful friend & doula client Jen - who agreed to model for these pictures and welcomed a beautiful little boy Eamon just a few weeks after these prenatal yoga pictures were taken.
What to do now!
1. Click here to pin/save our prenatal beginner basics pin (already shared by more than 40k women)
2. Share this sequence with a fellow preggy friend or your online moms group (use the social share buttons below)