Yoga for Pregnant Women

Yoga Provides a Wide Range of Benefits for Pregnant Women

Yoga for pregnant women is a gentle yet effective way to stay in shape and prepare your body for all the changes it will face in the months ahead. 

More and more emphasis is being put on the importance of staying healthy and active during pregnancy, but it can be difficult, awkward, or even unsafe to participate in certain activities. Prenatal yoga, unlike some exercise programs, consists of movements that can be beneficial to both you and your baby, and can be modified as you move through the trimesters.

In fact, it has become so popular that many studios now offer special yoga classes for pregnant women. Even if you are new to the practice, now is the perfect time to start. There are poses that will help with everything from backaches to nausea, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Whether you are battling physical ailments or dealing with the roller coaster emotions that come with pregnancy  hormones, yoga can benefit both your body and mind so you can enjoy your journey to motherhood.

Is Yoga During Pregnancy Safe?

Yes, practicing yoga during pregnancy can be both safe and beneficial; however – as with any physical activity performed while pregnant -  there are certain precautions that must be taken.

Before beginning any prenatal yoga program, it is important that you speak with your doctor to make sure that it is safe for your particular situation. If you are taking a class, you should tell your instructor that you are pregnant, or better yet, join a class designed specifically for pregnant women.

Some poses should not be performed at certain stages of your pregnancy, and others should be avoided altogether. So, if you prefer to practice yoga at home, it is recommended that you at least consult with a professional who can help you decide what postures and movements would be the safest.

Keep in mind that every woman is different. Size, fitness level, flexibility, and your experience with yoga will all make a difference when it comes to your ability to perform certain poses at each stage of your pregnancy. Some women are comfortable lying on their back well into the second, or even third trimester, while others find that this position can cause nausea and dizziness.

Tips for Practicing Yoga Safely While Pregnant

Prenatal yoga offers many benefits, but there are certain precautions that should be taken to avoid injury to you or your baby.

  • After the first trimester, it is generally recommended that you avoid poses that require lying on your back as this can reduce blood flow to the uterus and may also cause nausea or dizziness. However, some women find that postures such as the pelvic tilt, bridge, or corpse pose provide relief of  back pain and tension well into the third trimester. So, it is important that you listen to your body and refrain for performing any poses that cause discomfort. Most instructors suggest that these types of poses be modified and the duration shortened (don't hold them as long) to avoid any potential issues.

  • Avoid poses that provide a deep stretch to the abdominal muscles such as forward or backward bends. Pregnancy hormones that allow the uterus to stretch also soften connective tissue so you are more susceptible to strains, pulls, or tears. Plus, you don't want to upset the little one you are carrying.

  • Take care when practicing twisting poses. Any twists should focus more on the shoulders and upper back, while avoiding deep twists to the waist or abdomen.

yoga strecthing pose for pregnant women

  • Your expanding belly can affect your center of gravity and impair balance. For this reason, you may want to do standing poses against a wall or hold onto a chair for support and stability. You don't want to lose your balance and risk injuring yourself or your baby.

  • Avoid inversion poses such as handstands or headstands.

  • As your pregnancy advances, you may find it necessary to avoid poses that require lying on your stomach.

  • Avoid Bikram Yoga. Working out in excessive heat can be unsafe during pregnancy.

  • Make use of props such as blocks, straps, pillows, or towels.  These tools can provide greater stability and make certain poses easier to perform by relieving pressure or strain on your lower back, hips, or knees.

  • Be careful. During pregnancy,  your body is constantly changing and a posture that was easy yesterday  may be almost impossible next week. Sink into the movements slowly and go only as far as you feel comfortable. Once you feel you have reached your limit – stop! Even if it isn't as deep as  you were able to go before. Listen to your body and adjust your program accordingly.

Benefits of Yoga for Pregnant Women

Prenatal yoga is one of the best things you can do for yourself and  your baby. Even though it is one of the happiest times of your life, many women find that pregnancy brings with it a myriad of issues that can cause emotional stress and physical discomfort.

 Since yoga involves both the body and the mind, it is a great way to relieve anxiety, encourage peace, and manage all the challenges and changes you will face throughout your pregnancy.

Performing a short, simple program of gentle poses can really help with a lot of the common issues pregnant women experience. Just look at the benefits....

  • helps reduce nausea and morning sickness
  • improves sleep
  • provides energy and combats fatigue
  • limits unwanted weight gain
  • helps improve digestive issues such as acid reflux and indigestion
  • stimulates the bowels and prevents constipation
  • reduces fluid retention, swelling, and cramping
  • improves balance, especially in the third trimester
  • encourages healthy circulation and blood pressure
  • helps prevent or improve back, hip, or sciatica pain
  • keeps the body supple and flexible
  • relieves tension around the cervix and birth canal, and opens up the pelvis to aid in a easier delivery
  • helps decrease stress and anxiety, which is important for a healthy mom and baby
  • helps the body recover faster after delivery

Best Yoga Poses For Pregnancy

Butterfly Stretch/Cobbler's Pose

Strengthens inner thighs, opens hips

  • Sit on the floor or mat with your legs bent, knees pointing out and the soles of the feet pressed together.
  • Lengthen your spine and neck, looking straight ahead. Make sure your shoulders are down and back, not lifted toward your ears.
  • Place your hands on your feet and use your arms to gently press your knees toward the floor.
  • Remain in this position for as long as you feel comfortable.
    Release and repeat if desired.

More on Hip Stretching

Cat-Cow Pose

Helps relieve back pain, increases abdominal strength

  • Begin on your hands and knees, with your arms shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart.
  • Your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders and your knees should be directly beneath your hips.
  • Your back should be flat, your neck in line with your spine, and your eyes looking at the floor.
  • As you inhale, lift your head, chest and tailbone up toward the ceiling and curve your spine towards the floor. Be careful not to strain your neck. Your eyes should be looking straight ahead.
  • Hold this position for a few breaths, then on an exhale, return to neutral, with your back flat.
  • As you inhale, bend your head and pelvis down toward the floor and round your back toward the ceiling.
  • Hold this position for a few breaths, then on an exhale, return to neutral, with your back flat.
yoga for pregnant women

Triangle Pose

Stretches back, shoulders, legs, and arms; helps with digestion and constipation

  • Step your legs out until they are about 3-4 feet apart
  • Raise your arms straight out to your sides at shoulder height, palms facing down
  • Turn your left foot out to a 90 degree angle. The heel of your left foot should be in line with the arch of your right foot.
  • Turn the toes of your right foot in slightly if it is more comfortable.
  • As you exhale, bend at the waist, placing your left  hand on the outside of your left leg, sliding it down as far as you can go.
  • Reach your right arm toward the ceiling
  • Do not bend your arms or your legs
  • Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, focusing on correct breathing
  • As you inhale, return to upright position with your arms straight out to the sides
  • Lower your arms, return  your toes to forward facing position
  • Repeat on other side.

triangle pose

Squatting Pose

opens the pelvis and hips, strengthens legs and thighs, increases flexibility

  • Stand holding the back of chair for support.
  • Spread your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, toes pointing outward at about a 45 degree angle.
  • Stand straight with your chest lifted, ab muscles pulled in, and shoulders relaxed
  • Slowly bend your knees, lowering your buttocks toward the floor.
  • Lower your tailbone all the way down to a full squat, keeping your weight on your heels.
  • If you are able to let go of the chair, place your palms together in front of your chest and use your elbows to gently push your knees outward, getting a deeper stretch in the hips and groin.
  • Hold this position for a 30-60 seconds, then return to standing.

**If you are unable to keep your heels flat on the floor, rise up on your toes

**Stack a few books or roll a blanket to sit on if it is too hard to support your weight 

Supported Bridge

Relieves back pain

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Keep your feet about hip-width apart and your toes pointed forward
  • Lift your hips off the floor and slide a yoga block or roll under your sacrum (base of your spine)
  • Keep your arms relaxed alongside your body
  • Make sure you are comfortable and hold this position for a few minutes. Keep in mind that poses that require you to be on your back may be difficult in the second and third trimester, so do not perform this movement if it causes any dizziness, nausea, or pain.
  • Press your feet to the floor, lift your hips and remove the yoga block.
  • Lower your hips to the floor.

** Many yoga instructors suggest that this pose be held for less time as your pregnancy advances. In the first trimester, you may maintain this posture for several minutes, but in the third trimester you should only hold the movement for  a minute or two to prevent hindering blood flow to the uterus. 

bridge pose

Lying Side Pose

This is a good resting, recovery, and relaxation pose.

  • Lie on your left or right side (whichever you prefer) with your head resting on your left arm (you may also use a blanket or pillow if it is more comfortable)
  • Bend your knees to a comfortable position and place a pillow or rolled blanket between your thighs
  • Relax in this position for several minutes.

Other Yoga for Pregnant Women Poses

  • Mountain Pose
  • Warrior I
  • Warrior II
  • Chair Pose
  • Extended Side Angle Pose

Other pages that might interest you:

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