In my last blog I discussed postures to avoid during pregnancy. Here, I have compiled a list of postures that are especially beneficial during pregnancy. Of, course there are many other postures that may feel good, these are just a few that I found to be helpful in relieving the common ailments during my own pregnancy.
Garland Pose (malasana): The pelvis needs to be open in order to birth your baby. This posture, also known as ‘yogi squat’ or ‘frog pose’ is the most natural shape for the body to be in to give birth. It takes a lot of strength and flexibility to hold this posture for longer periods of time. I recommend that this posture be done every single day, eventually holding for up to 15 minutes at a time. To modify this you can sit on a block. Especially past 36 weeks. You may also find it more comfortable to slide a folded up blanket underneath your heels if they do not meet the ground.
Half Pigeon Pose (ardha kapotasana): This posture is a wonderful hip opener. It is great for relieving sciatic pain, which is common during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. To make space for belly: bolsters, blankets and/or blocks can be used under the front glute. Also, a bolster or blanket can also be used under the forehead or chest to prop you up. Double pigeon, also known as ‘fire log’ pose is another great hip opener. If the knees are agitated in either of these postures lie on a reclined bolster and try figure four instead (ankle over knee).
Legs up the wall (viparita karani): Swelling is nearly inevitable in the 3rd trimester. Sliding one hip up against the wall and then rolling to your back and stretching your legs up the wall will reverse the direction of blood flow. This will relieve some of the swelling, tired and cramped legs, and will calm the mind. Remember that after 16 weeks it is not recommended to lie flat on your back for long periods of time so sliding a blanket, bolster, or block under the sacrum to tilt the pelvis.
Opposite hand leg pose (also known as ‘bird dog’ pose): On your hands and knees stretch one arm straight forward and the opposite leg straight back. Keep the spine long and lift baby towards the back body. This pose will strengthen the core and glutes as well as stabilizing muscles along the spine to relieve lower back tension, which is so important as baby grows and more weight is in the front body.
Pelvic tilts: This can be done seated or in a wide legged chair variation with hands on the knees. It can also be done on your hands and knees (cat/cows). Another variation is on the back, lifting the hips with your breath, which also strengthens the glutes, which will be taking over because the core connection eventually weakens as baby and belly grow. As the baby grows and more weight is distributed to the belly the low back may begin to feel the stress. Pelvic tilts can help alleviate some of the tension and maintain mobility in the lower back.
Hip circles: Simply because it feels good. Whether standing, on hands and knees, or in a wide legged squat this can help release tension in the low back and hips.
Eagle arms (garundasana arms): It is not only the belly that grows during pregnancy. The chest becomes heavier as well. This can create extra stress on the neck and shoulders. Eagle arms can help relieve some of the tension that might be experienced in the shoulders, arms and upper back.
Standing poses (warriors 1 and 2 and variations of them): Because of the extra weight in the front body (both belly and chest) it is important to strengthen the legs. All of the standing poses will help build strength. I recommend holding each pose for 5 to 8 breaths. If you are still feeling pretty strong you can add warrior 3 (maybe with hands at the wall) or half moon with hand on a block or with the whole back body up against the wall. Side Angle pose and Triangle pose are also great leg strengtheners and give a great side body stretch as well.
Wide legged forward fold (prasarita padautanasana): Standing with feet about 4 feet apart and folding at the hips with a long spine can help relieve low back tension. Folding with the feet wider apart creates more space for baby and broadens the sacrum. Try placing hands on blocks to help support this posture.
Supported fish pose (matsyasana): Acid reflux can be a common symptom during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters due to the influx of hormones that are meant to relax the smooth muscles of the body preparing for birth. Supported fish pose can help alleviate acid reflux because it helps lift the chest taking some of the pressure off of the esophagus.
Childs pose (balasana): Especially towards the end of the third trimester, child’s pose will feel like a great alternative to down dog. It is a great lower back release. Of course, it might be necessary to use a bolster or blankets under the chest to create more space for baby and belly. Or keep the hips up over the knees as in puppy dog pose.