Best yoga poses for pregnancy

The following poses promote health in the body during any season of life, and they are especially helpful in preventing or relieving the common discomforts of pregnancy, such as low back pain and sciatica, hip discomfort, loss of balance, and fatigue.  Remember that your body knows best when you are engaging in any physical activity during pregnancy; if you experience any dizzyness, nausea, sudden pain, difficulty breathing, or other odd reactions, stop or modify the activity.

You can practice these poses in the order presented, or choose particular postures that suit your needs at the moment.

Cat/Cow

(also known as marjaryasana and bitilasana)

Begin on hands and knees, with wrists under your shoulders and knees under hips.  On your inhale, allow your belly to drop toward the floor and your hips and shoulders lift, and lift your head slightly to keep the neck in line with the extension of the spine.  On your exhale, round your back, pressing down into your hands and knees as you drop the head.  Let this be an undulating motion, rolling from hips to head with each breath.  Repeat 10-15 times to keep the spine flexible and healthy.

Downward-facing Dog Pose

(adho mukha svanasana)

Begin on hands and knees, or at the top of a push-up.  On your exhale, press your hips up and back to extend the spine.  Allow your shoulders to rest flat on the back.  Your knees may be bent, and your heels may not reach the floor.  Downward-facing dog stretches the entire back body, releasing through the shoulders, back, hips and legs.  It also encourages optimal positioning for your baby as you approach childbirth.

Warrior I

(virabhadrasana I)

Take a lunging position with your back heel pressing down into the ground and foot at a 45-degree angle.  Bend your front knee over your front ankle and square your hips toward the front.  This pose builds strength and lengthens through the back of the front leg to prevent sciatica and lower back pain.

Low Squat

(malasana)

Take your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and sit low with your hips reaching toward the floor, spine extending straight toward the sky.  If your heels don't reach the floor, you can place a rolled towel or block beneath them.  To increase the stretch through the inner thighs and hips, bring your hands together at your heart and press your elbows into your knees to widen them.

Child's Pose

(balasana)

Begin on hands and knees.  On an exhale, draw your hips back toward your heels, keeping your arms outstretched.  As your belly grows, you can bring the knees wider to let your torso sink toward the floor between your thighs.  Child's pose is a restorative position that gently stretches the back.

Bridge Pose

(setu bandha sarvangasana)

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor.  On an inhale, press into your feet to lift your hips upward.  You may able walk your arms underneath your torso, using the pressure of your shoulders against the floor to lift higher through the chest.  This back-bending pose can be done throughout pregnancy to stretch the front of the body and increase energy.

*The following three poses involve reclining on the back.  As your pregnancy progresses, the weight of your growing baby may compress a large vein called the inferior vena cava, leading to feelings of discomfort,including dizzyness, increased pulse rate, difficulty breathing or other symptoms of low blood pressure.  If you experience any of these, that is a message from your body to change positions.  Sometimes, simply elevating the right hip a few inches with a pillow, rolled towel or folded blanket will be enough to prevent the discomfort and low blood pressure.

Reclined Bound-Ankle Pose

(supta baddha konasana)

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor.  Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall out to the sides.  This pose gently stretches the hips and inner thighs and widens the pelvis.

Legs-up-the-Wall Pose

(viparita karani)

Lie on your back with your legs extended up the wall.  Try to bring your sit-bones to press into the wall so that your legs are at a 90-degree angle to your back.  In addition to gently stretching the back of the body, this pose relieves achy, tired legs and feet and can help reduce swelling in the feet.

Relaxation Pose

(savasana)

Lie on your back, with feet wider than your hips and arms at your sides, palms up.  A rolled blanket or pillow under your knees can help relieve the back.  This restorative pose allows the mind and body to completely relax.