During your pregnancy, it’s important to stay active while also prioritizing rest. Prenatal yoga offers you the chance to get in touch with your body as you build strength, improve flexibility, and develop balance.

These benefits can help promote mental and physical relaxation, ease pregnancy symptoms, and create positive mental patterns. You’ll also learn how to adapt to all the changes that occur during pregnancy.

Read on to learn about prenatal yoga in each trimester, the benefits, and the precautions.

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During the first trimester, you can maintain your usual physical activity as long as you modify appropriately. Focus on building strength and releasing tension, especially in your low back and hips.

During the first trimester, you should avoid:

  • intense backbends, twists, and forward bends
  • strong or forceful abdominal contractions
  • inversions (unless you’re very experienced)
  • jumping, hopping, or bouncing
  • hot yoga

Head-to-Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana)

This forward bend strengthens your back muscles, stimulates digestion, and promotes relaxation. It stretches your back, hips, and legs.

  1. Sit on the edge of a cushion, block, or folded blanket with your left leg extended.
  2. Place the sole of left foot against inner right thigh.
  3. Inhale as you reach arms overhead.
  4. Exhale to fold forward slightly, lengthening the front of your torso.
  5. Place your hands on your body or the floor.
  6. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

Modifications:

  • Place a cushion or block under either knee for support.
  • Avoid bending too far forward.
  • Use a strap around the ball of your foot.

Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)

This pose increases flexibility in your low back, hips, and legs. It builds strength in your spine, low back, and pelvis.

  1. Sit on the edge of a cushion, block, or folded blanket, with your legs out to the side, allowing your pelvis to tilt forward.
  2. Reach arms overhead.
  3. Bend at your hips as you fold forward.
  4. Place hands in front of you or take hold of your big toes.
  5. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.

Modifications:

  • Bring your legs in closer if your toes point out to the sides.
  • Place cushions or blocks under your knees if you have tight hamstrings.

Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana to Bitilasana)

This gentle backbend relieves tension, improves spinal mobility, and boosts circulation. You’ll feel a nice stretch in your neck, shoulders, and torso.

  1. Start on all fours.
  2. Inhale as you arch your spine, lower your belly, and gaze upward.
  3. Exhale as you draw chin into chest and arch spine upward.
  4. Continue this gentle flow for up to 1 minute.

During the second trimester, your body starts to produce higher levels of the hormone relaxin. It relaxes your tendons, muscles, and ligaments to prepare your body for birth.

Since this may cause you to become more flexible, be careful not to overstretch. To prevent discomfort and injury, don’t go all the way to your edge.

During the second trimester, you should avoid:

  • intense backbends, twists, and forward bends
  • strong or forceful abdominal contractions
  • inversions (unless you’re very experienced)
  • jumping, hopping, or bouncing
  • hot yoga
  • lying on your back or your right side

Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)

The butterfly stretch boosts circulation, stimulates your digestive organs, and promotes relaxation. It improves flexibility in your low back, hips, and inner thighs, which helps prepare your body for delivery.

  1. Sit on the edge of a cushion, block, or folded blanket, allowing your pelvis to tilt forward.
  2. Press the soles of your feet together.
  3. Bring feet in toward hips to deepen the stretch.
  4. Root your lower body into the floor as you lengthen your spine.
  5. Interlace fingers under pinky toes or place hands on your ankles or shins.
  6. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  7. Repeat 2–4 times.

Modifications:

  • Place cushions or blocks under your thighs or knees for support.
  • Place a high stack of cushions behind you. Lie back in a supported reclined position, keeping your head elevated.

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

This relaxing pose stretches your shoulders, chest, and low back. It increases flexibility in your spine, hips, and thighs.

  1. Start on all fours.
  2. Touch big toes together and spread knees wide.
  3. Lower your hips back onto your heels.
  4. Reach arms in front of you.
  5. Breathe deeply.
  6. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute.

Modifications:

  • Place a cushion or folded blanket under your forehead for support.
  • Widen your toes if you feel discomfort in your knees or need more space for your belly.

Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

This strengthening pose gives you a burst of energy while relieving neck and back tension.

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than hips.
  2. Turn left toes forward and right toes in at a slight angle.
  3. Raise your arms so they’re parallel to the floor with palms facing down.
  4. Reach left hand forward as you tilt your hip to extend your torso forward.
  5. Place left hand on your leg, the floor, or a block.
  6. Extend right arm up with palm facing away from your body.
  7. Hold this pose for up to 30 seconds.
  8. Repeat on the other side.

Modifications:

  • Do this pose next to a wall for support.
  • To improve balance, shorten your stance.
  • For neck comfort, gaze straight ahead or toward the floor.

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

This pose relieves tension and promotes inner calm.

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than hips.
  2. Hinge at your hips to fold forward.
  3. Keep knees slightly bent.
  4. Place hands on the floor or a block or hold opposite elbows.
  5. Hold this pose for up to 30 seconds.

Because your baby is now taking up more space, you may have more difficulty breathing and moving with ease. Take it easy, move gently, and rest as much as you like.

In the third trimester, you should avoid:

  • intense backbends, twists, and forward bends
  • strong or forceful abdominal contractions
  • inversions (unless you’re very experienced)
  • jumping, hopping, or bouncing
  • hot yoga
  • lying on your back or your right side
  • arm balances
  • squats if you’re prone to prolapse

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior II improves circulation, strengthens your whole body, and opens your hips. It also relieves neck and back pain. This pose allows you to experiment with your center of gravity as you align your body.

  1. From standing, step left foot back and turn toes out to the left slightly.
  2. Align the inside of left foot so it’s in line with right heel.
  3. Open your hips to face the side.
  4. Raise your arms to be parallel to the floor, with palms facing down.
  5. Bend right knee, making sure it doesn’t extend past your ankle.
  6. Gaze over your front middle finger.
  7. Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
  8. Repeat on the other side.

Modifications:

  • Do this pose next to a wall for support.
  • Place a chair under your front thigh.
  • To reduce the intensity, decrease the bend in your front knee, shorten your stance, or step your back foot out to the side slightly.

Garland Pose (Malasana)

This deep squat opens your hips and boosts digestion. Avoid this pose if you’re prone to prolapse.

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than hips and toes turned out at an angle.
  2. Slowly bend knees and lower your hips.
  3. Lift your heels or place them on the floor.
  4. Press palms together at the center of your chest.
  5. Press elbows into knees.
  6. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.

Modifications:

  • Sit on a block or stack of cushions for support.
  • Position yourself near a wall or chair for balance.
  • Place a folded blanket under your heels for support.

Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

This classic seated pose lengthens your spine, opens your hips, and promotes mental clarity.

  1. Sit on the edge of a cushion, block, or folded blanket, allowing your pelvis to tilt forward.
  2. Cross right leg over left leg.
  3. Place hands in any comfortable position.
  4. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.
  5. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Modifications:

  • Place cushions or blocks under your knees for support.
  • If it’s more comfortable, place one leg in front of the other.
  • Sit with your back against a wall to support your spine.

Side Corpse Pose (Parsva Savasana)

This restorative pose relieves fatigue and enhances relaxation.

  1. Lie on your left side.
  2. Keep left leg straight.
  3. Bend right knee and support it with cushions.
  4. Place a cushion under your head.
  5. Relax in this position for 15 minutes.

Yoga provides mental and physical benefits that can improve your overall well-being during pregnancy. You’ll develop awareness that allows you to be conscious of the changes to your body and mind (1).

Research points to the effectiveness of prenatal yoga in reducing anxiety levels (2).

Plus, several studies have suggested yoga helps alleviate fatigue and improve sleep, so you’ll feel more energized (3, 4).

Prenatal yoga builds strength and endurance, which prepare you to meet the demands of pregnancy and delivery.

The results of the present study showed that yoga exercises could lead to a normal birth weight and improve the infant’s Apgar score and reduce emergency CS, labor duration, induction of labor, and preterm labor (5).

Several poses stimulate your digestive organs, which have less space due to your growing baby. Yoga also helps improve circulation, which reduces swelling and inflammation, especially in your joints.

Body awareness can help you become more conscious of your movements. You’ll strengthen your spine, which promotes good posture and lets you carry the weight of your baby. You’ll also develop balance and stability as you learn to adjust as your center of gravity changes.

Follow all the prenatal yoga guidelines, including modifying or avoiding certain poses. You are your own best guide, so tune in to what feels most appropriate each day. Take it easy and avoid pushing yourself too hard or overheating. Do a slightly lower intensity than you’re able to.

Choose classes and poses that are strengthening yet still offer a chance for relaxation. Move in and out of poses slowly, avoiding breath retention. Make sure you can breathe easily during all poses.

When twisting, always twist at the shoulder or chest level. Don’t twist from the base of your spine or your belly since this puts too much pressure on your stomach. During forward bends, avoid dropping your head down. Instead, prop your head using your hands or props.

Skip any pose that feels uncomfortable or requires you to put too much pressure on your belly. If you experience pain or a pose doesn’t feel right, modify it or avoid it. Use a wall or chair for support during standing or balancing poses.

If you experience any unusual symptoms during or after a yoga session, talk with your doctor or a qualified yoga instructor before continuing.

Stop your practice if you:

  • feel nauseated or lightheaded
  • are overheated
  • feel dehydrated
  • experience unusual vaginal discharge, spotting, or bleeding
  • have numbness

Yoga can be a useful addition to your self-care plan during pregnancy. Listen to your body and pay attention to how you’re feeling, especially in your back, abdominals, and pelvis. Rest whenever you want a break and don’t push yourself beyond your limits.

Talk with your healthcare team before starting prenatal yoga, especially if you have a high risk pregnancy, if your baby is breech, if you’re carrying twins, or if you are new to fitness, take medication, or have medical concerns.

With careful consideration, yoga can help you thrive in pregnancy and beyond.