Pregnancy stretches you in every way possible. Physically, mentally (hello, pregnancy brain!), and emotionally. And all of that growth and change makes being flexible, both figuratively and literally, more important than ever. Yoga poses and other pregnancy stretches can help you adjust to the major shifts pregnancy brings and prepare your body for labor and motherhood.
In this article, we’ll cover:
Note: Be sure to get your doctor’s approval before beginning any exercise routine.
The Best Stretches and Yoga Practices for the First Trimester
During the first trimester, when your body is adapting to a host of changes and early pregnancy symptoms, prenatal yoga and pregnancy stretches can help soothe your body, as well as calm your mind. Here are some safe pregnancy stretches to incorporate into your routine during the first trimester.
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Ujjayi Breathing
A ubiquitous breathing practice in yoga, ujjayi, is the one you’ll most often use during yoga classes. It can be done any time you need to calm your mind. Many women find this gentle breathing practice is also helpful for morning sickness relief.
- Exhale through your mouth as if you were fogging a mirror, slightly constricting your throat. You can place your palm close to your mouth so you can feel your breath. Pay attention to the sound and sensation coming from your throat. Repeat this a few times.
- Inhale again, this time exhale through your nose but aim to make the same noise and create the same sensation in the back of your throat as you did when exhaling through your mouth. Alternate between the inhale and exhale, repeating for 5 to 10 minutes a few times per day.
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Child’s pose
Child’s pose is a gentle way to stretch your hips and lower back. It’s also a great way to calm the nervous system and instantly feel more serene.
- From all fours, bring your big toes together and your knees open wide.
- Exhale, release your hips back toward your heels.
- Walk your hands forward and rest your forehead on your mat. Close your eyes.
- Stay in the pose for 1-5 minutes.
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Bound Angle
This pose gently opens your hips and encourages blood flow to the uterus—something that’s so important as your body builds the placenta.
- Take a seat on your mat and place the soles of your feet together in front of you.
- Allow your knees to fall away from one another, thighs moving towards the ground. Breathe deeply. Stay in the pose for one to five minutes.
- Extend your legs in front of you and gently shake them out.
The Best Stretches and Yoga Practices for the Second Trimester
During the second trimester, many mamas-to-be find that although early symptoms recede, common pregnancy aches and pains, like sciatica and round ligament pain, increase. Try the following pregnancy stretches to get some relief.
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Cat Pose
Similar to cow pose, cat pose is great for spine and back health. It also reconnects the mind, body, and breath when practiced with cow pose.
- From cow pose, exhale and tilt your pelvis and the crown of your head down as you round your spine.
- Inhale, flow through to cow pose.
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Goddess
A core and lower body strengthening pose, goddess is a wonderful way to keep your muscles strong without jarring movements or a strenuous workout.
- Stand with your feet about three feet apart with your toes turned out 45 degrees.
- Bend your knees until your hips are level with your knees. Make sure to aim your kneecaps out towards the pinky side of your foot. Extend your arms up overhead. Stay in the pose for at least 30 seconds.
- Straighten your legs and repeat two times.
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The Best Stretches and Yoga Practices for the Third Trimester
As the end of pregnancy nears, aches and pains are a common occurrence. Many pregnant mamas also experience a degree of pregnancy insomnia as their due date approaches and life with a newborn becomes a not-so-distant reality. These pregnancy stretches can help soothe muscles and calm the mind during those last few weeks before labor day.
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Garland
Garland, also called malasana, is the quintessential prenatal yoga hip opener. It releases the lower back, opens the hips, and prepares a woman’s body for labor by guiding baby into the optimal position for delivery.
- Stand with your feet wider than hip distance with your toes pointed out and your heels pointed in.
- Bend your knees, squatting down bring your hips towards the ground. Lengthen your spine.
- Bring your hands to your chest and press your palms together in prayer pose. Hold the pose for 30 seconds or longer.
- Stand or sit back on to the ground to come out of the pose.
Seated Side Stretch
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Seated Side Stretch
We often spend time stretching the front and back side of our bodies, but forget to stretch the sides. Stretching our sides supports your spine’s mobility and creates space for your growing baby.
- Take a seat on the floor with one leg crossed in front of the other.
- Inhale, raise both arms overhead.
- Exhale, bring your left fingertips to the floor as you stretch up and over to your left side. Hold for three to five breaths.
- Inhale, come back up to center.
- Exhale, switch sides. Right fingertips go to the floor as you stretch up and over to your right side. Hold for three to five breaths.
Stretches and Yoga Practices to Avoid When Pregnant
Staying active during your pregnancy is generally encouraged. For most women, it’s an important part of improving birth outcomes, feeling good, and preparing to be an active mom after baby arrives. But not all types of exercise are safe for pregnant women. Though you should check with your provider before beginning any exercise regime during or after pregnancy, it’s best to avoid the yoga practices and pregnancy stretches below.
During pregnancy, it’s important to always keep your body from overheating. At times, the temperature of a hot yoga studio reaches 105 degrees Fahrenheit—a temperature much too high for a pregnant woman’s body.
Because prone poses require you to lay on your belly, they aren’t comfortable and aren’t recommended during pregnancy.
Avoid any breathing practices that require you to hold your breath, even for a small amount of time. If a breath retention practice is offered in your class, return to normal slow, deep breathing during this time.
In the first trimester, some teachers recommend avoiding twists and poses that feel like they cause you to bear down or encourage a downward flow of energy. This is more of an energetic and philosophical view of pregnant bodies than an anatomical view, but it’s best to talk to your provider and/or yoga instructor about any concerns you may have.
Benefits of Yoga and Stretching During Pregnancy
Reduces aches and pains
It’s no secret that the changes that occur during pregnancy can lead to a whole host of discomforts. Fortunately, studies support exercise, like stretching and yoga, as a tried-and-true way to lengthen tight muscles and alleviate pregnancy-related aches and pains.
Movement, in all forms, improves mood and overall sense of wellbeing. By helping you feel more relaxed, studies suggest pregnancy stretches and prenatal yoga can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety during the prenatal period.
Makes delivery easier
Yoga may improve labor and birth outcomes. In fact one study found women who participated in prenatal yoga classes had a higher pain tolerance, fewer c-sections, and lower rates of induction.
Increases blood and lymph circulation
Exercise encourages blood and lymph flow, which helps carry nutrients to cells and releasing your body’s waste. This has an important benefit on the immune system—part of a woman’s body that’s compromised during pregnancy. (source)
Due to shifting weight and the change in center of gravity, some women experience a sudden loss of balance during pregnancy. Yoga poses, which improve balance through gentle strengthening techniques, can help keep your feet planted firmly on the ground.
The Best Postpartum Stretches and Yoga Practices
After your provider gives you the all-clear to start exercising after giving birth, you may be tempted to jump right in. But easing into it is vital.
And while crunches are the usual go to to regain core strength, they’re not the best option—especially if you have diastasis recti. The poses and pregnancy stretches below will help you build core strength safely and gently. These exercises are also a great way to cleanse the mind and give yourself a little TLC during the sometimes trying fourth trimester.
These are a great, safe way to regain core strength.
- Lie down on your back. Knees bent and pointing up to the sky with the soles of your feet planted firmly on the ground.
- Rock your pelvis towards your head. Think of bringing your lower back closer to the ground.
- Rock your hips back to a neutral position. Continue rocking back and forth for ten rounds.
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Side Plank
Another safe way to regain core strength, the side plank also strengthens your upper body.
- From plank or the top of a push-up position, bring your right knee to the ground.
- Stack your left hip over your right hip and place your left hand on your left hip, elbow pointing up toward the sky. Hold for three to five breaths.
- Return to plank and repeat on the other side.
Savasana with a Bolster
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Savasana with a Bolster
Savasana done with a bolster or pillow under the knees is a restorative pose that relaxes the lower back and the mind.
- Lie down on the floor or your bed with a pillow, bolster, or rolled blanket nearby.
- Place the pillow, bolster, or rolled blanket under your knees. Feel free to close your eyes and relax here for as long as you’d like.
Stretches and Yoga Poses for Women Trying to Get Pregnant
Yoga is an excellent self-care and movement practice to turn to when you’re trying to conceive. Low impact, stress relieving, and easy to incorporate into your everyday routine, many healthcare practitioners recommend yoga as an adjunct to fertility treatment. (source) Here are three poses and stretches to incorporate into your fitness routine if you’re trying to get pregnant.
Legs up the wall
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Legs up the wall
This pose is a go-to for soothing the nervous system and gently stretching the hamstrings, while encouraging blood flow to the reproductive organs.
- Take a seat close to a wall. With the soles of your feet flat on the floor, knees bent and pointing up towards the sky, turn sideways so you’re perpendicular to the wall.
- Place your right hip against the wall. Lie back with your knees still bent.
- Swivel your upper body so your head is pointing away from the wall and your bottom is pressed against the wall. Extend your legs up the wall. Breathe deeply and slowly. Stay in this position for 5 minutes, or longer if time permits.
- To come out of this pose, bend your legs back down and rotate to lay on your side. Slowly press yourself up to sitting.
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Stretches for Relief and Healing Pregnancy post by Mama Natural – Supported Bridge
As a heart opener, supported bridge is thought to relieve feelings of depression and anxiety, common feelings while trying to conceive. Yoga practitioners believe this position enhances the connection between the heart and uterus, which is incredibly important in the Traditional Chinese Medicine view of fertility and conception.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.
- Raise your hips towards the sky and place pillows, blocks, a bolster, or folded blankets right above your tailbone. Breathe slowly and deeply. Stay in this pose one to five minutes.
- To come out of this pose, raise your hips and remove the prop from underneath you.
Because many of us hold tension in our shoulders, shoulder shrugs are a simple way to relax any time, anywhere.
- Inhale and shrug your shoulders up towards your ears.
- Exhale, release your shoulders and shoulder blades down.
- Repeat at least five times.
Always check in with yourself when doing any type of exercise, even if it’s something you’ve done a million times before. If you feel dizzy or experience pain, stop and rest. It’s important to keep your body moving during pregnancy, but the key is controlled, gentle movements and respecting your body’s ever-changing needs.