The 10 Best Prenatal Yoga Poses

Easy Pose Meditation
These 10 natural and low-impact prenatal yoga poses can help mothers stay fit during pregnancy.

Prenatal Yoga Benefits

Prenatal yoga addresses the physical challenges inherent to pregnancy, such as a shifted center of gravity and lower back pain. These moves will help alleviate aches and build strength in your legs, back, and abdominals to prepare you for giving birth. Yoga also can ease labor and delivery, with moves that relax the hip muscles and use gravity to your advantage. Consider yoga a way to get physically stronger and emotionally healthier during pregnancy. Even if you've never done yoga before, the modified moves taught in prenatal yoga are both safe and beneficial to expectant moms. Plus, women with difficult pregnancies may find comfort in yoga's gentle motions and breathing.

Healthy Sitting: On the Floor

The following three poses are recommended ways to sit so that you can reduce lower back strain, discomfort, and pressure.

Seated on the floor: To help keep the spine straight in any seated position, sit with your entire back – from shoulders to tailbone – resting against a wall for support. You may also wish to sit on a firm cushion or folded blanket to help keep the spine straight.

(Excerpted with permission from The Prenatal Yoga Deck: 50 Poses and Meditations (Chronicle Books), by Olivia Miller, with Diane Philos Jensen. Medical Consultant: Dr. Maryanne Clasby Bombaugh, Ob-Gyn)

Healthy Sitting: In a Chair

Rest feet on a cushion or low stool so knees and thighs are at hip level or higher to help prevent slouching and strain on the lower back.

Healthy Sitting: Firm Pose Sitting Position

1. Kneel on a mat with a cushion or folded blanket between your legs. You may need to lean forward slightly to avoid losing your balance. Tops of feet are flat against the floor, pointing straight back.

2. Supporting yourself with your hands, slowly and carefully lower your buttocks between your heels onto the cushion.

3. If you feel any discomfort, adjust the position of the feet or add more height to the cushion.

4. Hands may be placed behind you for support or may rest on thighs. Chest is lifted.

*Do not sit in Firm Pose if you have symptomatic (i.e., painful, throbbing) varicose veins.

Yoga is great for exercise and relieving stress, but there are some poses that you should avoid. Find out which moves aren't pregnancy-friendly.

Modified Bellows Breath

The following three slides will show you how to do this tension-relieving breathing.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms held in front of you, palms together at chest height. Shoulders are down and away from the ears. This pose opens the chest and lungs, relieves tension in the spine, and promotes a sense of well-being and fulfillment.

Modified Bellows Breath

Open mouth and inhale as you stretch your arms to a T position. Lift your chin.

Modified Bellows Breath

Exhale completely as you tuck chin and tailbone, round your back, and bend at the waist and knees. Hands rest on thighs. Repeat 2 or 3 times. 

Warm Up: Knee Rocking

1. Sit in a cross-legged position with your left leg on top. If necessary, lean against a wall to support your back (see Healthy Sitting).

2. Cradling the left leg with both arms, lift it toward your chest and abdomen as far you comfortably can.

3. Keeping your back straight, hold the leg as high and close to you as possible without straining.

4. Moving from the hip joint, gently rock the leg back and forth as though rocking a baby.

5. After rocking one leg several times, switch leg position and repeat with other leg.

This pregnant yoga warm-up helps alleviate discomfort in the hip joints caused by your growing baby's pressure on the nerves and joints in the hip area, buttocks, and thighs. It also improves flexibility in the hip, pelvic, and groin areas. 

Sideways Swing (Parighasana)

1. Sit on a mat with legs bent to the right of the body. If necessary, lean against a wall to support the back (see Healthy Sitting).

2. Inhale and raise arms up; interlace fingers over your head. Upper arms are alongside the ears.

3. Gently curve your body to the right as you exhale slowly.

4. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and breathe deeply.

5. Inhale and return to an upright position. Lower arms, rest, and breathe normally.

6. Move legs to the left side and repeat by curving to the left.

7. Repeat once more on each side.

This prenatal yoga pose tones and strengthens muscles along the sides of the body, aids digestion, and increases flexibility of the spine.

Many pregnant women experience constipation, and Parighasana is a simple pose can help aid your digestion. It will also tone and strengthen the muscles along the sides of your body. Leggings by Ingrid & Isabel Tank by Destination Maternity

Dog Pose

Kneel in "table position," with knees under hips and arms beneath shoulders. Back is straight, head faces forward. Inhale and raise head and tailbone, letting your belly drop toward the floor. Curve your back in a swayback position. Eyes gaze upward. Take care not to overextend the neck or overarch the back. Alternate between dog and the following cat pose several times, inhaling and exhaling deeply.

Cat Pose

Kneel in "table position," with knees under hips and arms beneath shoulders. Back is straight, head faces forward. Exhale and drop head and tailbone. Arch your back, exhaling further. Tighten buttocks and abdominal muscles. Alternate between dog and cat several times, inhaling and exhaling deeply.

This prenatal yoga pose strengthens and relaxes the lower back, increases suppleness along the spine, and improves circulation. It also stretches muscles along the back, neck, and arms. 

Pregnancy hormones can cause emotional ups and downs, and these two poses performed in sequence are a wonderful way to meditate and reduce stress. You'll also get a nice stretch for your neck, arms, and lower back. You may feel gentle nudges as your baby moves with you. Leggings by Ingrid & Isabel Tank by Destination Maternity

Hands-to-Wall Pose: Part One

1. Stand erect with arms extended in front of you, palms against a wall. Place the body so you are at arm's length from the wall, leaning at a slight angle.

2. Fingers of both hands point toward each other, touching but not overlapping.

3. Shoulders are relaxed, feet flat on the floor. Buttocks are tucked to prevent lower back from arching. 

This two-part pregnant yoga pose tones and strengthens the muscles of the upper chest to better support enlarging breasts. It also strengthens the arms and wrists.

Hands-to-Wall Pose: Part Two

1. Slowly bend the elbows so that gradually and with control, your upper body moves toward the wall as you slowly exhale.

2. Bring your face as close to the wall as you comfortably can. The body remains straight. Do not bend at the waist or knees.

3. Hold for a few moments, breathing normally.

4. Inhale and slowly push away from the wall until your arms are straight and your body is erect. Lower your arms. Relax and breathe normally. Repeat 2 to 3 times.

Easy Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

1. Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor and close to your buttocks.

2. Arms are by your sides.

3. Start by pressing your lower back into the floor so that the tailbone lifts up and away from the floor. Gradually lift the lower back from the floor, one vertebra at a time, until you are resting on your middle or upper back. Buttocks should be lifted a few inches from the floor. Weight should not be on your shoulders and neck.

4. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and begin to slowly lower the back from the upper portion one vertebra at a time. Visualize the spine unrolling. Relax with the legs outstretched or hug the knees gently to the body. Repeat once more.

This pose increases flexibility in the back and shoulders, stretches and releases tension in the neck, and strengthens leg muscles

*As long as comfort allows, women in the second trimester may also do this pose. Note: When getting up from a back-lying position, turn to your left or right side first and gradually work up to a sitting or kneeling position. This avoids any straining or dizziness.

Easy Pose Meditation (Sukhasana)

Sit in any comfortable position (see Healthy Sitting).

1. Arms are by your sides or folded in lap, shoulders down and away from ears. Close your eyes, breathe deeply.

2. Inhale and exhale deeply as you repeat: Meditation: I become aware of the muscles that support me as I sit.

3. Exhale and scan your body, acknowledging those muscles and the good work they do.

4. Inhale and repeat silently: Meditation: I release all the parts of my body that I do not need to use now.

5. Exhale, allowing those muscles to relax completely. Breathe deeply several times as you continue to relax and let go.

This prenatal yoga pose relaxes the muscles, brings you back to the present moment, slows the mind, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, and calms the entire being, promoting peace and serenity

Excerpted with permission from The Prenatal Yoga Deck: 50 Poses and Meditations, by Olivia Miller, with Diane Philos Jensen. Medical Consultant: Dr. Maryanne Clasby Bombaugh, Ob-Gyn.

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