After last night’s class, a new student asked me about some of the poses we had practiced. She was confused that we did some twisting poses because she thought that twisting was off limits during pregnancy. She also told me how good it felt to do a fair amount of standing poses. Again, she was under the impression that during pregnancy, the class needed to be modified to an extremely gentle pace. I have put together a basic list of poses that can be safely and confidently practiced during pregnancy.
Deep twists during pregnancy are contraindications because of the possibility of straining the abdomen and uterus. However, twists that focus on movement initiating above the belly, at the upper back/rib cage area, can be a huge relief for the pregnant mom. Twisting poses can release tight back muscles and gently open the side seams of the body and chest, while also encouraging the mother to create more length in her spine. Remember when putting together the prenatal yoga cannon, the practitioner should only include “open twists”, twisting away from the leg.
POSES ON ALL FOURS
Poses on all fours keep the spine and hips mobile, increasing circulation in the pelvis and legs. They also keep the baby off of the mother’s spine, creating more room in the abdominal cavity and encouraging the baby into the optimal birthing position. This is very helpful if the baby is in the posterior occiput position, meaning the baby’s head and spine is towards the mother’s front.
Standing poses strengthen the legs and gluteals that attach to the knees and pelvis. These joints are vulnerable during pregnancy because of the softening effect of relaxin (check out Yoga in the 1st Trimester to read more about relaxing), on the ligaments. Strong supporting muscles will help prevent injury. Most importantly, standing poses help create endurance and confidence in the mother that she can use during the marathon of labor.
The pelvis goes through tremendous change and compromise during pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to include poses that will help bring balance and stability to the muscles and joints. To do this, remember to include poses that work the hips in all directions, not just external rotation, which is most commonly associated with hip opening poses. The full family of hip openers access the full range of motion of the hip joint: internal rotation, external rotation, adduction and abduction, and flexion and extension.
FORWARD BENDS / SEATED POSES
These are great hip openers, but very often pregnant women collapse through the spine, and little hip opening is achieved. Sitting up on either a bolster or folded blanket will help prevent this collapse from happening and the lower back from rounding. Propping the hips up will also emphasize that the pelvis tips forward from the hip sockets and weight moves to the front of the sitting bones, out of the lower back. Also, remember to lift collar bones and heart to achieve a long, open spine.
GENTLE BACKBENDS / CHEST OPENERS / SHOULDER OPENERS
During pregnancy, the curves of the spine become more exaggerated, leaving the shoulders prone to rounding forward and the chest sinking in. Gentle backbends, chest and shoulder openers invite the upper body to move into a more open position. Also, since the mother tends to feel very breathless and crowded in the torso, this group of poses gives her temporary spaciousness in the chest and a feeling of fuller breaths.
I hope this list helps clarify all the possibilities that are still available for the pregnant mom. Enjoy and keep practicing!
ABOUT DEB FLASHENBERG
Deb is the director of Prenatal Yoga Center, DONA certified labor support doula, and Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. When she is not teaching prenatal yoga in her class, Deb is a regular contributor to New York Family Magazine as Birth and Prenatal Yoga Expert. Deb looks to establish a safe, effective and empowering class for pregnancy and beyond.