Poses to try -- and to avoid
Many of the poses taught in a prenatal class are geared toward the specific needs of pregnant women. However, there is no set of poses that is right for everyone. Women who have previously studied yoga, for instance, will probably be able to do more -- although this depends on how the pregnancy is progressing. Women with a low-lying placenta, for instance, should avoid certain poses, such as squats. It's important to discuss your specific situation with your instructor or doctor.
In the first trimester, says Christine Reeves, head of the prenatal and postnatal yoga program at The Yoga Studio in Toronto, women should take it easy. "It's the riskiest time," she says, "and most women feel tired or sick. Let your body have as much energy as possible for the baby."
She recommends being gentle during this time, giving yourself more time to rest, and maintaining light physical activity while avoiding strenuous postures. In the second and third trimesters, you can probably do a bit more, but it's still important to be cautious and listen to your body. Reeves suggests attending a prenatal yoga class as soon as you can in order to learn how to adapt postures for your pregnant body.
Here are a couple of poses you can try at home. Remember to be gentle and to stop doing anything that causes pain or discomfort. If you have any questions, see your doctor or a qualified yoga instructor.
Sit with back against the wall and place soles of feet together in front of you. Bring feet toward you until you feel a gentle stretch in the inner thighs. Don't bounce the knees or force them down -- just let them relax toward the floor. Try putting a cushion under each knee for additional support. Reeves recommends sitting tall in this position for up to 10 minutes a day.
• Increases the mobility of the joints of the pelvis, preparing the bone structure to open up for birth
• Stretches the inner thighs
• Helps the pelvic floor muscles to relax so that they can prepare to release, stretch and open to let the baby out during birth
Cat and dog stretch
Get onto hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. If knees are sensitive, put a folded blanket under them.
Cat: With slow movements, while exhaling, tuck tailbone under and lower head, curling the middle back upward and loosening the spine.
Dog: While inhaling, push your palms into the floor, lifting your chin and chest toward the ceiling and move the pelvis and tailbone into a slight upward tilt. Be careful not to overarch the back. Repeat several times, using gentle and fluid movements.
• Releases the pressure of a heavy uterus off the low back, sacrum and pelvic floor
• Can release backache and relieve legs tired from standing
• Improves circulation as the weight comes off the lower aorta, allowing blood to flow more freely
Already have children? Try our animal yoga for kids to keep them moving!
Photos courtesy Christine Reeves