How to keep moving during pregnancy with five gentle, healthy yoga poses

Keep Moving: 5 Yoga Poses for a Happy Pregnancy

Jessica Reale PT, DPT, WCS
Updated: 
March 20, 2021

Yesterday afternoon, I met my team of pelvic physical therapists at the office for some photo and video time. Our model? Dr. Kellie, who is about to have her last week with us in the clinic before leaving on maternity leave for her second daughter. You see, working at a pelvic physical therapy (PT) practice, we have to take advantage of one of our own being pregnant!

Movement during pregnancy is incredibly useful. First, it can help with many of the aches and pains that commonly develop. It helps to keep your muscles active, and ultimately, can help prepare you for the process of labor and birth. We wrote a while back on healthy exercise during pregnancy, so start there if you want to know where you should get started for movement.

Today, I wanted to focus on movement to help you feel better. These exercises promote gentle movement around your spine and pelvis and activation of the muscles around your deep core.

1. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana)

Pregnant yoga student practicing Cow Pose (Bitilasana) for improved mobility around the spine and pelvis

Yoga teaching tips for pregnant students to practice Cat Pose (Marjariasana) for increased spine and pelvis mobility

Goal: Improve mobility around your spine and pelvis. Coordinate movement with breathing.

Begin in Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasana).

  1. Inhale slowly, and as you do, gently let your tailbone out, and lift your head. Try not to allow your back to dip super far down but stay within a comfortable range.

  2. Exhale and gently tuck your head, lifting your belly up and rounding your spine, allowing your tailbone to tuck.

  3. Repeat this flowing gently with your breath as you inhale and exhale.

  4. Aim to do this 10 to 15 times in a row, alternating with the modified Child’s Pose (Balasana) that is described below.

2. Modified Child’s Pose (Balasana)

How to practice Modified Child’s yoga Pose (Balasana) with pillows for pregnancy to encourage relaxation and pelvis opening

Goal: Lengthen lower back, gluteal muscles, pelvic floor, and inner thighs. Encourages relaxation and opening around the pelvis.

This exercise works really nice to alternate between sets of the Cat-Cow Pose.

  1. First, place pillows in front of you, leaving a gap for your belly. You can use 1 to 3 pillows, depending on your belly size.

  2. Sit back on your heels, and open your knees to a comfortable width.

  3. Lean over the pillow, allowing your body to relax, and reach your arms forward. Let your head rest to one side or the other.

  4. Relax in this position for 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Seated Cat-Cow Pose with Variations

The benefits of practicing Seated Cat-Cow yoga pose with variations while pregnant to improve spine and pelvis movementGoal: Improve the movement around your pelvis and spine

  1. Sit comfortably on an exercise ball with your feet supported on the floor.

  2. Inhale, letting your pelvis out, allowing a small arch in your back.

  3. Exhale, tucking your pelvis under gently pulling your belly in.

  4. Repeat this to warm-up 10 times.

  5. Then, add a rotation, inhaling and rotating clockwise with your pelvis until you reach the arched back position. Then exhale, continuing to rotate clockwise until you reach the tucked position.

  6. Repeat this 5 to 10 times, then switch to counter-clockwise.

4. Bird-Dog Pose (Dandayamana Bharmanasana) Progression

Yoga teaching tips to practice Bird-Dog Pose (Dandayamana Bharmanasana) Progression for pregnant students to activate pelvic floor muscles

Goal: Activate your deep abdominals and pelvic floor muscles, paired with your breath.

  1. Begin in Tabletop Pose with your spine in a neutral position (not flexed or arched).

  2. Inhale to prepare, exhale and gently engage your pelvic floor muscles while gently drawing in your belly. Aim for a slight contraction (not hard!).

  3. While you do this, extend one arm in front of you.

  4. Exhale, lowering your arm, and relaxing your muscles.

  5. Repeat, alternating lifting with your opposite arm. Be sure to keep your spine in a comfortable position while you are doing this exercise. Repeat this movement for 10 to 15 repetitions.

  6. To progress this exercise, you can also perform with an alternating leg movement, aiming to keep your spine in a neutral position.

5. Wall Squats (Malasana) with an Exercise Ball

How to practice Wall Squats (Malasana) with an exercise ball for pregnancy yoga students to activate pelvic floor musclesGoal: Coordinate movement with breath, activate pelvic floor with gluteal muscles

  1. Place a ball behind your back and lean against a wall. Keep your feet placed out in front of you, flat on the floor. Place your feet far enough in front of you that your knees don’t cross over your feet.

  2. Inhale while you bend your knees and lower.

  3. Exhale, engage your pelvic floor muscles slightly, and lift up to standing.

  4. Repeat this exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions, performing 2 to 3 sets.

 

 

 

 

Yoga for Pelvic Floor Health a course by Jessica RealePT and Patty Schmidt for YogaUOnline Education

 

Reprinted with permission from Jessica Reale, PT.

Dr. Jessica Reale PT, Pelvic Floor expert, YogaU Contributor, Board-Certified Specialist in Women's Health (WCS)Dr. Jessica Reale is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Board-Certified Specialist in Women’s Health (WCS). She has specialized for over 10 years in working with all people with pelvic floor dysfunctions, and owns a private practice, Southern Pelvic Health, in the metro Atlanta area. Jessica has advanced training in the evaluation and treatment of urinary and bowel problems, sexual dysfunction, prenatal and postpartum concerns, complex pelvic pain disorders, and much more. She is a faculty member and curriculum developer with the Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute and teaches within the Pelvic Floor Series and Perinatal Series to other health care providers across the country.

Additionally, she authors a blog on pelvic health topics at www.jessicarealept.com, and is a regular contributor to the blog at YogaU. Jessica is a student of Yoga and has a deep appreciation of the benefit that a yoga practice can have in helping people find healing from their pelvic health challenges. She is also passionate about educating people in the community, and partners with Dr. Sara Reardon of “The Vagina Whisperer” to provide regular online classes and workshops. For additional information about Jessica, view her personal website at www.jessicarealept.com or her clinic website at www.southernpelvichealth.com.