Our fitness friend Kristin McGee is nine months pregnant, but that hasn’t stopped her from staying healthy and getting her daily dose of exercise. Below, the yoga expert shares five yoga poses fit for expectant moms.
The general rule of thumb is that you can exercise as you’ve always done, as long as you dial down the intensity during your pregnancy. I’m now entering my ninth month of pregnancy and still feel great!
The most important thing to remember is to always listen to your body. You’re pumping more blood through your system, so you may feel out of breath more easily because of the pressure the baby puts on your lungs. You also have more relaxin (a protein hormone) in your body, so you have to be careful not to over do it.
Yoga is a great exercise solution for soon-to-be moms! Certain yoga postures open up the hips and pelvis and help prepare the body for labor. Yoga also helps with pain relief and swelling, sleep and relaxation, as well as energy, stamina and strength.
Here are some of my favorite yoga poses to try—all of these are safe to do (after you have your doctor’s approval, of course) and will help give you the strength, stamina and support you need when it comes time for labor and delivery.
Side plank: I love this pose for maintaining strength in the core region and for stretching the sides and waist. It’s also a great way to train each side to maintain balance and evenness in strength in the arms and oblique muscles.
Start in a plank position, place your right hand in the middle of your mat and bring your weight to the hand and outer right foot. Stack your left leg on top and extend your left arm to the ceiling. Imagine a big beach ball under your right side. Hold and breathe five to eight breaths.
If too challenging, drop your right knee to the floor for a modified side plank.
Seated twist: Twists are great to stretch out the hips, back, waist, shoulders and neck. The seated spinal twist pose can still be done as long as you twist to the open side. Make sure you keep your baby safe and your spine long, and never twist across the bent knee.
Start in a comfortable seat. Bend your left leg underneath you, and place your right foot outside of your left knee. Sit up nice and tall, place your right elbow on the inside of your right knee and twist to your left (always twist to the open side – never across the midline when pregnant). Try to initiate the twist from your pelvic floor muscles and oblique muscles. Hold for five to eight breaths. Switch the crossing of your legs, and twist to the opposite side.
Boat pose: Boat is a great way to keep the pelvic floor muscles and transverse (deepest layer of abdominals) strong. Strong abdominals will support the spine and back during pregnancy and can lead to a faster delivery and recovery.
Start seated with your knees bent, feet flat on the mat. Lean your upper torso back as you lift your legs out in front of you. Extend your legs straight, and if you can, keep your legs lifted. Engage your pelvic floor muscles, and feel your lower abdominals lifting up and towards the spine. Hold five breaths. Repeat two more times.
If you need support for boat pose, keep your knees bent and hold your hands under your thighs as you lean back.
Camel pose: Camel pose is a wonderful backbend expectant moms can do since they can’t lie on their stomachs, and many can’t lie on their backs. It’s important to keep the front body open especially as the weight of the baby shifts the center of gravity forward.
Start in a kneeling position (place a towel or blanket under your knees if they are sensitive), and place your hands on your lower back. Lift your chest up to the ceiling, and then start to arch the upper body back. See if you can reach for your heels. Hold for five breaths, then come up to sit and rest on your shins before repeating one more time.
If you have a hard time reaching for your ankles, keep your hands on your lower back or tuck under your toes so your feet are flexed. Make sure not to neither hold your breath nor strain the front body by stretching back too far. Tuck under your tailbone, and keep your abdominals engaged.
Tree pose: Tree is one of those poses that you can do any time and anywhere when you feel you need some extra grounding and support. Tree is great for strengthening the entire body and for improving balance. It is also good for opening up the hips and helping with the focus you’ll need for labor.
Start standing, place your right foot on your upper inner left thigh and turn the right knee out to the side. Bring your hands together in prayer at your chest. Pick a spot at which to stare, and stretch your upper body as tall as you can out of your supporting leg. Hold for five to eight breaths, and then switch sides. If your center of gravity has shifted or you need extra support, hold on to a chair.