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The Yoga Blog

Accessible Pregnancy Yoga: 12 Essential Poses for Comfort and Health

Pregnancy is a chapter of physical, mental, and emotional change. It is the perfect time to slow down and take charge of one's well-being.

Yoga can be a wonderfully effective tool to help achieve this. 

During pregnancy, it can be helpful to adapt yoga asana to allow space for the mother's changing body and altered biomechanics, as well as the inevitable shift in her respiratory function and energy levels.  

Adaptations that honour these changes can be as simple as moving and breathing more slowly and fully whilst applying yoga asana to create a sense of grounding and safety, as opposed to a rapid and highly energetic yoga practice that may leave the mother feeling more depleted due to increased energy expenditure. More specifically, a particularly dynamic approach to one's yoga practice during pregnancy can put unnecessary strain on the musculoskeletal system by potentially over-stretching a body that already has an increased level of flexibility due to an influx of pregnancy hormones. 

Even in the first trimester, the composition of the mother's blood is already changing due to an increase in blood plasma, ultimately diluting the blood and slowing down the oxygen-carrying red blood cells on their journey to the muscle fibres, which need oxygen to contract and allow strong yoga asana to happen. If we force the body to override this physiological change, stress hormones are released to provide a quick energy boost, waking the sympathetic nervous system. When this is overstimulated, it can lead to problems with digestion, the ability to rest and recover, as well as possible feelings of anxiety. 

So how can we soften the practice of yoga asana? 

Firstly, we can practice yoga with the support of props. The physical body gains a sense of nurturing. Yoga blocks, bolsters and birthing balls are all wonderful tools to increase the number of yoga asanas that are safely obtainable for the pregnant yogini. You'll also consider that many yoginis cannot access yoga asana easily because they are practised on the ground or from a standing position with little to no support from yoga props, making the transitions from one posture to the next very challenging. 

Conditions that make access to these types of asana overly demanding are far-reaching but may include limited mobility and/or hypermobility, pelvic and/or lower back pain, and/or neurological conditions, for example. In this scenario, a simple chair can be an enormously supportive tool for the entire body, allowing the mother-to-be to still access the practice of physical yoga. Try these few simple movements to subtly energise the whole body and baby bump.

Tip: Use a chair that allows the pelvis to be a little higher than the knees (when sitting), or elevate the hips with yoga blocks/cushions if using a low chair. Also, hold each position for at least eight to ten deep breaths for the maximum benefit.

Child's Pose


Place blocks under the hips if the knees are sore or the pelvis doesn't easily reach the heels. 

Hip Wiggle


Slowly move the pelvis side to side several times to free up the lower back.

Gentle Standing Forward Bend


Keeps the knees a little bent to begin with, giving the posterior body a chance to stretch out without strain. 

Standing Forward Bend


Try straightening the legs for a deeper stretch now, but be mindful not to dip too much in the lower back. 

Pyramid Pose


Keep the hips level by placing the feet on more of a 'train track' stance as opposed to the more traditional 'heel to heel' alignment. 

Lower Leg Stretch


Press the heel of the back foot down firmly to stretch the back of the leg efficiently. 

Upper Body Stretch


Maintain a neutral position with the lower spine as much as possible by drawing the tailbone downwards and drawing the floating ribs towards the spine. 

Lateral Bend


Stay tall throughout the spine to avoid compression in the lumbar region. 

Seated Twist


Keep the hips facing forward so the twist comes entirely from the spine. 

Seated Pigeon Pose


Dorsiflex the ankle of the raised foot to increase the stretch in the gluteal muscles. Also helpful to relieve Sciatica.

Heart Opener


For stability, press the feet firmly onto the ground and allow the chest and shoulders to relax completely.

Supported Savasana


Due to changes in the mother's circulatory system, this asana using a chair should only be practised under 28 weeks of pregnancy or 22 weeks if pregnant with twins. After this time, resting on the left side with the support of a bolster is more advisable. 

Sally Parkes BSc is a senior yoga teacher with 25 years of teaching experience. She runs online and in-person 85-hour Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training and is the author of the bestseller 'The Manual of Yoga Anatomy'. 



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