Prenatal Yoga: Poses for Each Trimester

Who said pregnancy doesn’t have its own beauty?

Although pregnancy may seem at times like a long and arduous process, it is a journey that goes beyond its challenges, and therein lies its beauty. Just as a baby is born into the world, a woman emerges from pregnancy as a mother… Every day, hormones and body changes create new needs for the mother-to-be, and prenatal yoga can be a great option to address those needs. It is also a good way to prepare the body for delivery, both physically and spiritually. Research has shown that prenatal yoga is very useful in dealing with the stress factors of daily life, and it can be a key component in ensuring maximum health for both mother and baby.

Why Should You Practice Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga movements consist of soft, easy poses that open up space for you and your baby while rebuilding the relationship between your body and the breathing cycle. The main focus of prenatal yoga is not to practice poses perfectly or to prevent weight gain.  It’s about training the body and mind to deliver and feed the baby by focusing on mindful breathing while stretching the body.

Prenatal yoga is also a great practice for gently welcoming the physical changes of the pregnancy period. It allows you to adapt more easily to your physical, mental, hormonal, and spiritual changes, which start at the beginning of pregnancy and continue through delivery and into motherhood.

Is It Helpful For Labor? 

Whether you have a vaginal birth or a c-section, practicing yoga during pregnancy prepares your mind and body for labor.  It helps to eliminate abdominal fat and keep your core strong by building muscle strength. It also increases flexibility, which aids in getting back into shape post-delivery. The breathing techniques learned in yoga can prepare you physically for delivery and help you get through it in a more relaxed manner. Since it prepares the pelvic floor muscles for the birthing process, it also teaches you how to use these muscles during labor and encourages postpartum recovery. You not only learn how to breathe and relax your uterus but to act according to your intuition throughout labor as well.

What About Body Pains?

It is natural to have a number of challenges during pregnancy, such as back pain, digestion problems, and stress due to bodily changes. Prenatal yoga can help to ease body pains with some target-oriented asanas.

Mental Health During Pregnancy

Prenatal yoga builds the foundation for effective communication with your baby by reducing anxiety and stress about pregnancy and the birthing process.  Breathing techniques and simple meditations help you to focus on the present moment and be aware of the baby living inside. Prenatal yoga classes are also a meeting platform for women who share a similar journey. That’s why classes create a supportive environment for mothers, who can use this time not only to practice but also share their physical and psychological feelings.

Related: Need to Calm Yourself? Here Are 7 Ways

Here are some of the best prenatal yoga poses for each trimester of your pregnancy. These poses may assist in easing pregnancy-related issues and help you enjoy your journey to its fullest.

1)   Yoga Poses For The First Trimester ( 0-13 weeks)

You don’t need to have done yoga before to practice prenatal yoga, but it’s recommended that you delay practicing until your second trimester (14th week) without your doctor’s permission if you’ve never practiced yoga before.  

The first trimester of your pregnancy can be very challenging, both spiritual and physical, due to rapidly changing hormone levels, decreases in blood pressure, and the relaxation of muscles and joints. Morning sickness and nausea are also challenging factors of the first trimester. Although experts generally do not advise doing yoga during the first trimester, some doctors may okay the practice of gentle poses if you are an experienced practitioner. Gentle yoga poses may improve breath capacity and relaxation and can be really helpful in coping with these challenging issues.  On the other hand,  inversions closed twists, or backbend poses are not recommended because there might be some compression on the uterus due to overstretching the abdominal area.

Here are some gentle poses you can practice. Even though the baby is protected in your womb, there is a lot of growth during the first trimester. Be sure to listen to your body. If you don’t feel ok, please do not hesitate to quit the practice. Don’t forget to inhale while you are doing the pose and exhale gently from the mouth.

Yoga Poses For The First Trimester

Open-Seated Twist Poses

  •   Parivritta Janu Sirsana
  •   Marichi’s Pose
  •   Baddha Konasana
  •   Supported Upavistha Konasana

prenatal yoga

Standing Poses 

Most of the standing poses can be practiced safely during the first trimester as long as you take care not to stretch too much.

  •   Trikonasa
  •   Parsvakonasana
  •   Warrior I-II-III

Standing Poses 

 Balancing Poses

  •   Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
  •   Garudasana Arms (Do not practice legs as it may increase intra-abdominal pressure.)

prenatal yoga

Relaxing Poses

  •   Child’s Pose
  •   Viparita Karani (Legs up to wall)
  •   Savasana on your back

2)   Yoga Poses For Second Trimester ( 14th-26th weeks)

 The second trimester is generally called the “honeymoon of pregnancy”. Hormone levels stabilize, and energy levels increase. You feel more energetic and most of the unpleasant symptoms from the first trimester decrease at this time. The belly grows but isn’t yet uncomfortable, and many women find this to be the most enjoyable time of pregnancy. For this reason, it can be used not only to prepare the body for delivery and the postpartum period but also to make space for the baby. Poses that strengthen the arm and leg muscles are also very effective. Although it seems irrelevant to strengthen the arm muscles, strong arms will be very useful after delivery when you need to carry and hold the baby. It’s important to increase breath capacity and learn how to extend exhalations as well.

Here are some gentle poses you can practice in the second trimester. Keep in mind that if you have problems such as pubic and pelvic pain, reflux, hemorrhoids, or varicosis, some of the poses may not be useful and could even increase your pains. That’s why it’s essential to practice with an experienced instructor if you suffer from these conditions.

Yoga Poses For Second Trimester

Standing Poses

  •   Trikonasana
  •   Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle)
  •   Warrior I-II-III
  •   Horse Pose
  •   Reversed Warrior
  •   Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
  •   Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
  •   Tadasana with Viparita Namaskar

prenatal yoga

Poses on Mat

  •   Supta Padangusthasana
  •   Baddha Konasana
  •   Supported Supta Virasana
  •   Vasisthasana on all fours
  •   Gate Pose
  •   Pawanmuktasana
  •   Bridge Pose
  •   Happy Baby Pose

All of the poses from the first trimester can be practiced in the second trimester as well.

3)   Yoga Poses For Third Trimester ( 26th– 40th weeks)

The last trimester of pregnancy is considered to be the most spiritual. It’s ideal to use as a preparation time for labor, both spiritually and physically. Because of this, yoga poses that improve the mobility of hip joints are recommended. Breathing may be difficult due to pressure on the diaphragm by the growing baby so poses that widen the chest area might be helpful.  It will also be very useful to relax as much as possible and experience the poses that will prepare the baby to pass through the birth canal. Meditation practices with breathing exercises can aid in relaxation and are helpful for labor as well.

Yoga Poses For Third Trimester

Here are some poses you can practice in the third trimester:

  •   Horse Pose
  •   Shiva Tandava Dance
  •   Supported Malasana Pose
  •   Cat and Cow
  •   Balasana
  •   Viparita Karani
  •   Pigeon Pose
  •   Baddha Konasana

prenatal yoga

Poses to Avoid

While prenatal yoga is generally safe and beneficial, there are some poses that should be avoided during pregnancy to stay in the safety zone for both mother and baby.

Closed Twists: Twisting poses may increase intra-abdominal pressure and directly affects your blood circulation.

Deep Backbends: As you can guess, deep backbends open the front of the body and create over-stretching in the abdominal area as well.

Inversions: Practicing inversions can also be dangerous because of the pressure on the spine and the possibility of falling.

Practicing prenatal yoga can be very helpful during the pregnancy journey, both physically and spiritually. It can help women feel the connection between their minds, bodies, and the baby months before birth takes place and help them make the most of this joyous time.


Related: Nutrition in Pregnancy


Nutrition in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a very important time for a woman. The feeling of a new beating heart inside her body and experiencing the change of her body day by day is definitely amazing. Every pregnancy experience is like a fingerprint, even for the same woman, from one pregnancy to the next. The symptoms range from being temporary and mild within the period of the first few months, or a mother’s discomfort may continue up to birth. Managing the symptoms and sustaining health is mostly related to getting enough nutrition support.

Pregnant women also feel some aversions and cravings for special foods.

These foods are especially chocolate, starch, potatoes, pizza, and spicy foods. Some pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting. When she is dealing with these early symptoms, an expectant mother can eat a small piece of ginger to help to stop nausea. Also, eating dry, salty things, or eating before getting out of bed in the mornings can also help in dealing with morning nausea. During the first months of pregnancy, as a result of changes in her hormone balance, women may encounter some appetite problems, like feeling irritation with the odors of cooked foods, like red meat. This can affect the consumption of red meat negatively, and iron deficiency may occur. 

Nutrition in Pregnancy

In pregnancy, the body needs additional energy, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

It does not mean “eat for two”, and while her nutritional requirements may vary, it should not be that much. Poor eating habits affect a baby’s development negatively, and as a result of not getting enough nutrition, a baby may encounter a birth anomaly. Additionally, excess weight gain is also a huge health risk for both mother and baby. The mother may develop gestational diabetes because of excess calorie intake. This condition threatens the baby’s growth. It may also cause growth retardation, congenital anomalies, and premature birth.

Most pregnant women are concerned about their weight gain during pregnancy, and their concern is never getting back to their pre-pregnancy body. Recently, the ketogenic diet has been a very popular diet, which is mostly used for weight loss. In pregnancy, trying to lose weight is an unhealthy approach because growing a body needs extra energy for the second and third trimester. The weight gain should be between 20-40 pounds up to the delivery, depending on the weight of the mother before pregnancy. If a woman is very overweight, her doctor may want her to lose weight before planning a pregnancy. 

Nutritional needs also change in the pregnancy period.

When we consider the development of bones, the mother should consume dairy products, which provides important minerals, like calcium and phosphorus. Dairy products also contain vitamin B and zinc, which is very crucial for the mental development of the baby. Some fermented dairy products like Greek yogurt or kefir are excellent sources of probiotics, which have regulatory functions on the digestive system. Iron is used by your body to make a substance in red blood cells that carry oxygen to your organs and tissues. During pregnancy, women need more iron than she did before pregnancy. This extra iron helps the pregnant woman’s body make more blood to supply oxygen to the baby. Not having enough iron is called iron deficiency anemia. Anemia increases the risk of certain problems, including preterm delivery and having a low-birth-weight baby.

Red meat and poultry are very good sources of protein, iron, and choline.

Eating foods rich in vitamin C, like oranges, bell peppers, and berries increase the absorption of iron from meals. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein, iron, and zinc. Egg protein is a high-quality protein, which means all of it is useable for making body proteins. It includes choline, which is very important for the body and the baby’s brain and nervous system development. Insufficient choline intake during pregnancy may increase the risk of neural tube defects. A single whole egg contains roughly 113 mg of choline, which is about 25% of the RDI for pregnant women. (450 mg) 

Carbohydrates must be the main source of energy in a pregnant woman’s diet.

Before it is metabolized by cells, it’s broken down into simple sugars, like glucose, which passes easily across the placenta and provides energy to feed growing the baby during pregnancy. Low carb diets, like ketogenic diets, are detrimental  because the fetal brain requires glucose for function and development. Forcing the developing brain to convert to a ketone energy supply has potential adverse effects. The ketogenic diet is mostly a fat-based diet, which means at least 90% of dietary intake is fat. When babies are growing, they need macros differently. They need 55-60% carbs, 12-15% protein, and 25-30% fat. Ketogenic diets are very restrictive diets in which you can not eat enough fruits and vegetables, which is very important for a healthy baby.

Nutrition during Pregnancy

Studies show that low carb diets in pregnancy associated with preterm birth and low birth weight. These diets also negatively affect the development of organs, which causes cardiovascular diseases later in the life of the fetus. Around a third of daily food intake should be starchy carbohydrates. Oat, whole wheat bread, rice, maize, breakfast cereals should be chosen instead of refined carbohydrates (white) such as pasta and noodles. Women should consume high fiber foods, like whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice.

When we think about the mental development of the baby, omega 3 fatty acids are very essential.

The mother should consume two portions of fish a week with one portion being oily fish like salmon, sardines, or mackerel.  Some types of fish are harmful to pregnant women, like shark, swordfish, and marlin. These fishes may contain higher amounts of mercury, which is very harmful to the brain and nervous system development. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that pregnant women eat 340 grams of a variety of seafood lower in mercury a week. That’s about two servings. Also, when a woman is planning a pregnancy, she should avoid consuming these fish more than two times a week. It can accumulate in tissues.

Legumes are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and folate. Folate vitamin B9 is an essential nutrient which is required for DNA replication and as a substrate for a range of enzymatic reactions in amino acid synthesis and vitamin metabolism. During pregnancy, the demands for folate increased because it’s also required for the development of the baby. Folate deficiency is associated with abnormalities in both mother (Anemia, neuropathy) and fetuses (congenital abnormalities, like neural tube defects in the spine or in the brain).

Nutrition during Pregnancy

Moms should be aware of the importance of folate supplementation in the first months of pregnancy and before pregnancy. Pregnant women need at least 600 micrograms of folate. Nuts, dark leafy vegetables, and eggs are good sources of folate. WHO (World Health Organization) recommends daily oral iron and folic acid supplementation with 30 mg to 60 mg of elemental iron and 400 µg (0.4 mg) folic acid for pregnant women to prevent maternal anemia, puerperal sepsis, low birth weight, and preterm birth.

 One of the most common problems for a pregnant woman is constipation.

Due to changing hormone levels in early pregnancy, intestinal movement slows down the movement of stool through the bowel. The mother should increase her fiber consumption, which mostly comes from leafy vegetables and fruits. Five portions of fruits and vegetables will be enough for them. It should be at least 2 portions of vegetables and 3 portions of fruit. Drinking enough water and increasing liquid consumption is another solution for constipation.  

In summary, pregnant women should be aware of their healthy nutrition patterns during pregnancy. Poor nutrition in pregnancy threatens both mother and baby’s health.  Staying active is also important for general health, reducing stress, boosting mood, and sleeping better. Pregnancy exercise class or 20 min walking at a moderate pace may be enough. If you are planning a pregnancy, just focus on healthy nutrition with daily exercise and enjoy the journey! 

Related: Problems People Experience in Achieving Their Wellness Goals