This article advises on scientifically proven, safe and effective pregnancy yoga poses. These poses will make you feel better and aid delivery and recovery.
This article is adapted from Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy by Desi Bartlett. Desi has worked with numerous celebrities, such as Kate Hudson during her pregnancy.
Within the article, we’ve picked out 24 yoga poses, stretches and sequences which will help you connect with your child and ensure you have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
The article, like the book, is broken down into the first trimester, second trimester, third trimester and recover. Each section has 8 yoga poses taken from Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy. The book itself has over 100 poses which are in much more detail. This article just offers a snippet of the book.
Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy also has some great stories and it will take you on a fitness journey throughout your pregnancy.
6 Yoga Poses and Exercises for the First Trimester
Desi puts a focus on yoga and endurance fitness in the first trimester.
Inside her book, Desi states that during pregnancy, every day is an adventure. Changes in your body, your mind and your emotions can occur daily. Information is powerful and it’s helpful to learn about the enormous changes that are happening in your body during the first trimester. No two pregnancies are alike, even for the same mum, but there are some common themes during each trimester.
Fatigue is often present during this period because of all of the physical changes in your body. Integrating some simple techniques for endurance can help to ease the fatigue. It may sound counterintuitive to some new mums to work out when you are fatigued, but a little bit of gentle exercise can help increase your energy.
The following pregnancy yoga poses will help you maintain endurance during the first trimester. There are cues for enjoying each pose throughout your pregnancy. Move slowly, breathe deeply and enjoy your yoga practice.
1. Easy Pose
This pose is a very gentle opener for the hips and also invites a sense of ease.
The pose brings a feeling of peace and tranquility.
- Begin seated and cross your legs in the way that is most comfortable for you with either the right or left leg in front.
- Sit up straight and feel length in your side body (waist).
- Lengthen your neck and allow your shoulders to move easily down and away from your ears by relaxing the trapezius muscles.
Easy Pose can be practised with your back against a wall if you are feeling very fatigued. If you are in Easy Pose for an extended period (especially for meditation), sitting on top of a blanket or two can feel very comfortable.
2. Unicorn and Rainbow Pose (Cow and Cat)
This pose sequence, often called cat and cow, helps to strengthen and maintain flexibility in the lower back and abdomen.
This sequence is a very gentle way to warm the core muscles. Invite the feeling of warmth from the inside out.
- Begin on all fours with hands shoulder width apart and knees hip-width apart.
- Inhale and gaze to the sky, lifting the breastbone and the coccyx (tailbone) toward the sky as you softly contract in your lower back (see figure a).
- Exhale and round the spine in the shape of a rainbow. Take it easy with the pelvic tuck in the second and third trimesters, and focus more on the curve in the upper body (see figure b).
You can use a folded blanket under your knees to cushion them. Or you can practice this sequence standing, with feet hips width apart, a soft bend in the knees, and hands on top of the thighs.
3. Pointer Dog Pose
This pose is great for core strength (TVA, obliques, lower back) and is also beneficial for balance training.
This gives you a long line of energy extending in two directions (front and back), like the arrow on a compass.
- Begin on all fours with hands shoulder width apart and knees hips width apart.
- Inhale and lift your left arm with the thumb pointed to the sky and your right leg to the height of the hip.
- Find length in the spine as you reach the front hand away from the back foot and feel a gentle lift in the abdomen, so that there is muscular support under the pose (see figure).
- Keep your neck long with the gaze about 12 inches ahead of the yoga mat.
- Enjoy three to five deep breaths and then change sides.
You can use a folded blanket under your knees to cushion them. If there is any pulling in the abdomen, lower your back toes to the ground. If there has been a lot of round ligament pain during this particular time of gestation, it is recommended that you keep the back foot on the floor the entire time.
4. Down Dog Pose
This pose (aka Downward-Facing Dog) is a wonderful stretch for the entire back of the body from head to toe. Down Dog is also considered an inversion because the head is below the heart and the heart is below the hips. Inversions help to bring oxygenated blood to the brain as well as giving a new perspective on the world.
Down Dog is a gentle inversion and often feels fantastic during pregnancy. Allow yourself to connect with the energy of Mother Earth and feel her rising up to support you and your baby.
- Begin on all fours with hands shoulder width apart and knees hip-width apart.
- On your exhalation, lift your hips to the sky with straight arms and straight legs. Be aware that the elbows and knees are soft, not locked.
- If you are in your second or third trimester, it can often feel much more comfortable to have the stance wider. Just make sure that when you look back at your feet you are looking at your toes.
If you have nausea, heartburn or wrist pain, consider skipping this pose for the time being. Enjoy the stability on all fours instead, especially in vinyasa or flow sequences.
5. Pigeon Pose
This pose is a hip opener that helps to keep hips strong and flexible for labour and delivery.
The feeling is one of release, of letting go. It is interesting to note that when a baby exhibits the startle reflex, it is tightening the psoas. This is usually the same area in which adults experience fight-or-flight response. Check in with your breath and simply observe as you come back to the steadiness of the breath.
- Begin in a low lunge position with the right foot in front and the left leg extended behind you.
- Slowly, toe-heel move your right foot over to the left side until your right lower leg is at a 90-degree angle.
- Take your time settling into this pose and make sure there is never any weight on your belly at all as you fold forward. Blocks are a great way to lift the floor up to meet your forearms so you can safely keep your belly above the floor at all times.
- Enjoy several deep breaths then change sides.
Place a bolster underneath your pelvis so that you have a cushion as well as a nice lift for the hip with the bent knees. A blanket under the knee of the straight leg can give some cushion. The use of blocks is highly recommended here.
6. Garland Pose
This pose assists with the ability to squat, which is often a position chosen for labour and delivery. The pose also helps improve range of motion of the hip joints.
The feeling is one of grounding, of connecting to Mother Earth.
- From Mountain Pose, step the feet a little wider than hip width and turn the toes out at a 45-degree angle, hands at the heart.
- Squat down until your hips are hovering above the floor.
You can place a block or several folded blankets underneath the ischial tuberosities (sit bones) for support. This especially helps if your heels do not easily touch the floor in the deep squat. This position is also great for focusing on pelvic floor strength and can be a great shape for practising Kegels and other pelvic floor exercises.
6 Strength Building Pregnancy Yoga Poses for the Second Trimester
The second trimester of pregnancy is often called the honeymoon period as most of the fatigue and nausea have typically subsided. You might also notice that your emotions are on a more even keel. Now that you’re getting back into the groove of daily life, Desi believes this is a great time to gently bump up your exercise routine and to focus on building strength. You’ll need this strength for the rest of the pregnancy as well as for labour and delivery.
It is not recommended to exercise lying flat on your back after the first trimester. This was discussed in a recent webinar with Dr Hayley Mills You’re pregnant should you be doing that?
1. Puppy Pose
This is a safe and easy way to stretch the lower back while supporting the weight of the upper body.
Enjoy the feeling of traction in your spine. As you lengthen the crown of the head away from the tailbone.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands shoulder-width apart on a wall slightly above the height of your hips.
- Slowly walk your feet back until your torso is parallel with the ground.
- Contract the muscles in your thighs and lengthen your tailbone back as you reach the crown of your head forward.
If you feel as though your knees are splaying out in this pose, consider placing a block between your thighs.
2. Clock Squat
This pose strengthens the hips and quads and can help to build strength in the core stabilisers – glutes, quads, hamstrings, abductors, inner thighs, abs, lower back, obliques and transverse abdominis (TVA).
Imagine yourself standing on the face of a clock (see figure a). Remember that the standing foot is always pointed to twelve o’clock, so you are changing the time with the lifted foot.
- Begin standing on your left leg with your right leg reaching out in front of you (as though the right leg were the hand of a clock pointing to twelve o’clock), hovering a few inches above the floor. Make sure your hips are parallel and your core is engaged. Keep your hands on your hips and stand up tall through the upper body. Bend your left knee as you inhale (see figure b) then exhale and return to standing, still keeping the right leg above the floor.
- Now take your right leg out to the side (as though you were pointing it to three o’clock). Bend the left knee as you inhale (see figure c), and come back up to a straight leg as you exhale.
- Now take the right leg straight back (as though you were pointing to six o’clock). Repeat the sequence of bending the standing knee on the inhale (see figure d) and rising to a straight leg on the exhale.
- Finally, take the right leg across and back behind your standing leg (as though the right leg were pointing to eight o’clock), as in a curtsy, as you bend the standing leg on the inhale, and once again rise to straighten the leg on the exhale.
- Change sides and repeat the sequence standing on the right leg and bringing the left leg to twelve, nine, six and four o’clock.
If you feel as though your balance is a little bit off, it is recommended that you place one of your hands on a stable surface.
3. Dancing Warrior
This pose helps warm the entire body and cultivate strength in the lower body (quads, hamstrings, abductors, inner thighs) as you reach through a full range of motion in the upper body (flexibility training in the glenohumeral joints). The core stabilisers (TVA, abs and lower back) are also active in the sequence.
The feeling is that of rising up in Warrior 1 (or Crescent Lunge), expanding your energy and power in Warrior 2, feeling a sense of the exalted power in Reverse Warrior and extending your power in Extended Side Angle.
- Begin in Warrior 1 or Crescent Lunge with the left leg forward (this is a matter of preference; both are strong lunges, and both are correct) with your arms alongside your ears.
- Open to Warrior 2 on the exhalation and reach your arms out to the sides of the room. Bend the front knee and keep the back leg straight, with the back foot turned out slightly (see figure a).
- As you inhale, float the left arm up and back as you bring your right hand to your hip or thigh, stretching the left side of your torso in Reverse Warrior (see figure b).
- Exhale and reach the right arm alongside your ear in Extended Side Angle as you place your left forearm on your front thigh (see figure c) or your right hand on the floor or the block.
- Take a moment in Goddess Pose before you change sides (see figure d).
- Repeat the sequence on the left side.
If you are feeling as though you need a little extra support under your pelvis, you can perform this sequence on a chair. The last three poses of the sequence work better on a chair than the first one does, so it is best to begin with Warrior 2. Straddle the seat of a folding chair and bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle as you straighten the back leg and open your arms out to the sides at shoulder level. Breathe into Warrior 2 and feel the strength in your arms as you expand your energy to the front and the back. Flow into Reverse Warrior on your inhale and into Extended Side Angle on the exhale. Take a moment in a wide plié (Goddess Pose) on the chair before you change sides.
4. Goddess Pose
This pose strengthens the lower body with particular emphasis on the inner thigh and like the Clock Squats, can help build strength in the core stabilisers (glutes, quads, hamstrings, abductors, inner thighs, abs, lower back, obliques and TVA).
Think of yourself as a ballerina, your powerful legs carry you up and down. The movement looks easy and beautiful on the outside and that is a direct result of the power and strength on the inside.
- Begin standing with your feet a little bit wider than your shoulders.
- Let your hips rotate outward so that your feet are turned out to a 45-degree angle and your knees face the second toe of each foot (see figure a).
- Keep your spine erect and gaze forward as you inhale and bend your knees toward a 90-degree angle, keeping your knees turned out (see figure b).
- Exhale as you press to standing, emphasising the strength in the inner thigh as it helps you drive back up to standing. Your abs will be lightly engaged in the movement to provide you with additional core stabilisation.
If there is any challenge in keeping the upper body upright, you can place your hands on the back of a chair and use it as a ballet bar. This can help you find your balance as the weight of your growing belly and breasts begins to pull your torso forward. Note that the bottom of the plié is the same as what is called Goddess Pose in yoga.
5. Bent-Over One-Arm Row
This exercise strengthens the muscles of the rhomboids, also known as the posture muscles.
Powerful posture muscles can help you to stand upright. As you draw your elbow back, feel the strength in the rhomboids and envision the power in the back of your body. During pregnancy, it is easy to focus on what is happening at the front of the body. This is totally normal since there is a beautiful baby growing in your belly. Remember to cultivate strength in your back to help balance and support all the miraculous changes that are happening in your body.
- Stand with your left hand holding a dumbbell and your right hand on your right quadriceps or a stability ball or your forearm on a chair or a bench (if you are using a chair or bench, you can put your right knee on it).
- Hinge at the hips and keep your spine long.
- Keep your palm facing in toward your torso as you exhale and pull your left shoulder blade in toward your spine as you pull the elbow back and up (see figure b). Keep the weight close to your body and feel the posture muscles contract at the top of the movement.
- Inhale and let the arm return to the straight starting position.
- Repeat 10 to 12 times, then change sides.
This exercise can be performed with a small hand-held weight or a heavy but slim water bottle. Choose a weight that is challenging enough to build strength but not so hard that you cannot draw your shoulder blades in toward your spine. It can also be beneficial to begin with your nondominant side.
For more of a challenge, you can do this exercise without holding onto a chair. If you choose to do that, make sure there is a generous bend in the standing leg, especially during the second trimester. The bend in the standing leg will help you distribute your weight in such a way that you will not feel pulled forward.
6. Lower Back and Hip Stretch
This pose stretches the lower back and the outer hip of the lifted or crossed leg.
This pose has a few different names. Some people call it Thread-the-Needle when it is practised seated or lying down; others call it a Figure 4 Stretch because the legs are in the configuration of the number 4. Try to find the feeling of creating strong angles in this pose to create strong alignment.
- Stand with your arms straight and your hands on a stable surface that you can hold onto.
- Cross your left ankle on top of your right thigh and gently sit your hips back as you bend your right knee (see figure).
- Elongate your spine and feel that your head is an extension of your spine so that you can maintain the correct alignment in the back of your body. Breathe into this powerful stretch and feel the muscles begin to release.
- You are stretching large muscle groups, so enjoy the stretch for as long as you like, up to 90 seconds and then change sides.
This stretch is effective for releasing tensions in your lower back and is also fantastic for new mothers who might have lower back pain as a result of picking up heavy gear (car seats, prams, etc.) and then twisting while trying to turn and load gear into a car. Remember that this stretch is portable, so you can enjoy it virtually anywhere at any time.
6 Pregnancy Yoga Poses for the Third Trimester – The Final Push
The third trimester is the home stretch of your pregnancy! At or around the 28th week of pregnancy, your baby will weigh approximately two and a half pounds.
Pelvic floor muscles help to hold the weight of your baby throughout pregnancy and also help you push when it is time for labour and delivery. Yogis have known the power of the pelvic floor for centuries. In the practice of yoga, engaging your pelvic floor strength is known as mula bandha, which means root lock. This is discussed further in Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy.
Not so long ago, women were told to relax and put their feet up during the third trimester. Now that we know the many benefits of exercise for mother and baby, it is important to indicate which exercises are safe and effective. Third-trimester workouts and yoga practices incorporate a lot of what you have learned in the first and second trimesters, with special attention and focus on your pelvic floor muscles.
Many birth professionals recommend the use of a Swiss ball to help your baby get into a good position for labour and delivery. (You can also use a Swiss ball during your pregnancy as a prop in many exercises and stretches.) The ball is an integral part of the Push It workout, which is designed to help you increase your pelvic floor strength to prepare for pushing during labour.
1. Hip Circle
This movement offers a dynamic stretch of the hips and lower back while also engaging the core.
If you have ever baked at home, you know that little kids (and adults) often like to scrape some of the mixture off the inside of the bowl with a spatula to enjoy every bit of sweetness. Imagine that your hips are the spatula and that you are trying to scoop your hips all the way around, all 360 degrees of the circle, to get every bit of sweetness; in this case the sweetness is a satisfying stretch for your lower back and hips.
- Begin on all fours with your hand’s shoulder width apart and knees hip-width apart.
- Gently circle your hips around in one direction while keeping a slight bend in your knees.
- Perform the exercise slowly and enjoy several circles in one direction before you pause and change sides.
You can perform this exercise while sitting on a stability or birthing ball, especially as you get closer to labour and delivery. Move slowly and make sure you are working on a non-slip surface (not carpet) and that you are either wearing supportive athletic shoes or are barefoot with your feet on a sticky mat (most yoga mats have some grip or stickiness to them to keep you from slipping).
2. Standing Lateral Stretch
This movement stretches the side body (latissimus dorsi, intercostals, obliques).
Enjoy the feeling of lengthening in the side body and remember that the little muscles between your ribs help you to enjoy deep breathing. Imagine that you can breathe even deeper into the right lung as you bend to the left, and vice versa.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and sweep your arms overhead. Interlace your fingers and turn your palms to the sky.
- On an inhalation, lengthen through the spine and reach up actively through the arms.
- On your exhalation, reach over to the left as though you were bending up and over a large beach ball so that you don’t collapse the side of your body (see figure).
- Enjoy three to five deep breaths on the left and then return to the centre to reestablish balance. Then change sides.
If you are not able to bring your hands together because your shoulders are tight, you can use a yoga strap or belt. Take the strap in your hands to fill the space between your hands. Gently walk your hands as close together as is comfortable before you enter the stretch.
3. Seated and Supported Wide-Legged Forward Fold
This pose provides a deep stretch for the inner thighs and a gentle stretch for the lower back; it’s also calming to the nervous system.
Supported poses send a message to the nervous system that you are safe. Your body can settle into a deeper breath and in this variation of Wide-Legged Forward Fold, there is a literal and figurative message to the brain that this vital organ is supported and safe. Breathe deeply into the feelings of support, safety and comfort.
- Begin seated on the floor with a folded blanket on the seat of a chair in front of you or with a bolster on the floor with blocks on top of it.
- Open your legs into a wide straddle position around the legs of the chair or around the bolster. Feel your sit bones pressing down into the floor with your knees and toes facing the sky.
- Lengthen through your spine on an inhalation, and on an exhalation, hinge at your hips and gently fold forward into a supported forward bend (see figure). You can have your forearms resting on the blocks or your arms folded on the chair or your hands reaching for the back of the chair; all are correct.
You can add another folded blanket under your sit bones if you would like an additional cushion for your bottom. To move deeper into this pose, you can slide your forearms forward on the blocks or move the chair forward slightly to get a deeper stretch. Please be cautious and remember that even if you are very flexible, it is important to leave space for your baby and never to bear weight on your abdomen. Your belly should always hover above the floor.
4. Seated Side-to-Side Rock
This movement mobilises the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Experience the feeling of mobility in the hips as though you were a child simply enjoying playtime with a beach ball. This is a valid form of exercise that has distinct benefits for pelvic mobility, but it’s also fun!
- Sit on top of the stability ball with your feet a little bit wider than hip-width apart. Sit up tall through your torso and put your hands on your hips or reach them directly in front of you at the height of your shoulders.
- Feel your sit bones gently pressing into the ball. Begin to shift your body weight more onto the left sit bone as you exhale (see figure). You will also feel a secondary contraction in your waist muscles (the obliques act as a synergist, an agent that increases effectiveness).
- Return to centre, and then change sides. Enjoy several rounds of this exercise, and remember to breathe deeply and naturally. It can also be helpful to use what the yogis call a dristi or focal point.
If you feel unstable with this exercise, it’s OK to place your ball at arm’s length from the wall so you can tap the wall with your fingertips to reestablish your balance.
5. Wall Squat
This move strengthens the hips, legs and core stabilisers.
Feel a powerful sense of grounding through your feet as you enjoy this exercise.
- Place a stability ball against the wall at the height of your hips and turn your body away from the wall so that the ball rests gently above your tailbone as you step your feet hip-width apart.
- Standing tall in your torso, inhale and squat down until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. The ball will naturally roll up the length of your spine until it is just above the shoulder blades. Focus on the pelvic floor stretching in four directions at the bottom of the movement.
- As you exhale, straighten your legs and return to standing, gently engaging your glutes at the top of the movement. As you straighten your legs to stand up, feel a gentle lift in the pelvic floor. At the very top of the movement, you can also add a Kegel so there is a little extra contraction or lift of the pelvic floor.
- Repeat the exercise 12 to 15 times.
If you have a tendency to let your knees either knock in or collapse out, place a yoga block between your inner thighs to maintain the proper alignment of your knees. If you would like an added challenge, you can add a Kegel exercise at the top of the squat. Feel the lift of the pelvic floor as you rise, emphasising it as you straighten your legs.
6. Kneeling Hip Abduction
This exercise strengthens the outer thighs and hips and stabilises the core with the ball.
This exercise can be a bit humbling; it’s surprising how challenging it can be to simply lift your leg! Be patient. Prove to yourself that you have a deep reservoir of strength you can draw from as needed.
- Begin kneeling on the floor with the right side of your torso lying on the stability ball (see figure a). Place your right knee on the floor and your right forearm on the ball. Your left hand can rest on your left hip and your left leg will extend to straight.
- As you exhale, slowly lift your left leg until it is parallel with the floor (see figure b).
- As you inhale, let the leg come down until it almost touches the floor.
- Repeat 12 to 15 times. Then switch sides.
You can tap the top foot to the floor any time you feel as though your balance is off. Take a moment with your foot on the floor to recalibrate and find your balance. Then continue the exercise when ready.
6 Pregnancy Recovery Workouts
Congratulations! Your body, mind and heart have been forever changed by the amazing experience of pregnancy and birth. Everyone has a unique experience and the same woman can have different experiences with each pregnancy. Recovery is now important, this usually begins around 4 weeks after you’ve given birth (or 6 weeks if you’ve had a C section).
Meditation, Walking & Abs Exercises
It is important to remember that it is not just your body that had the experience of labour and delivery. It was your entire being, including your mind and your heart. Desi writes in her book about some amazing and inspirational birth stories from the thousands of women she’s worked with. But some experiences left the parents feeling disempowered. Desi advises that you take a moment to tap back into the tool of meditation and check in with your innermost self.
Walking is also important. Walking is one of the basic movements that the human body can perform. A great way to begin your reentry into movement is a simple walking schedule that includes an a.m. walk and a p.m. walk. Inside Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy this is explained further.
Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy also has a ‘belly blaster’ with some great and fun exercises you can do with you newborn baby.
Yoga for Pregnancy Recovery
Yoga can be gently introduced into your routine at about six weeks postpartum, or whenever you have clearance from your doctor or gynaecologist to exercise. Desi believes and studies show that yoga is a fantastic tool for recovering your strength, flexibility, balance, good posture and an overall sense of well-being.
1. Bent-Knee Fallout
This movement provides deep abdominal work as well as helping you learn to coordinate the strength and balance in the pelvic girdle.
Envision the hip bones as a set of scales. Let the scales be completely even so that they work in harmony and balance. Neither side (especially the stronger side) takes over. Balance is the key to this exercise.
- Begin by lying flat on your back with your feet hip-width apart and all ten toes pointed straight forward.
- Place your hands on your lower hip bones (see figure).
- Alternately lower one knee out to the side, to a 45-degree angle if possible.
- Bring the knee up slowly and then change sides.
As with all floor work, it’s OK to have a thin blanket folded underneath your sacrum/pelvis for padding. Make the exercise comfortable so you can stick with it and set yourself up for success.
2. Bridge Pose
This movement strengthens the back of the body through closed chain gluteal stabilisation. Closed chain exercise refers to movements in which the furthest part of the extremity is in a fixed position. Closed chain exercises are said to be more functional.
Bridge Pose can be visualised as crossing a bridge.
- Begin by lying on your back with your feet hip-width apart and all ten toes pointing straight forward.
- Bend your knees and softly rest your hands on the floor.
- Lift your hips, feeling your glutes activate and making sure not to let your knees either bow out or collapse in.
- Repeat the exercise for 10 repetitions to help build strength in your glutes.
Place a block between your inner thighs so you have something to squeeze. This squeezing in toward the midline will help activate the stabilisers of the thighs and assist with the alignment of the pose.
3. Straight-Leg Raise
This exercise trains the glutes and the hamstrings and helps stabilise the pelvis.
Breathe a feeling of strength into your lower body as you lift the legs. Awaken the back of the body with each repetition and feel how these muscles help support your posture as well as supporting your ability to lift your baby.
- Lie facedown with your arms folded underneath your forehead to create a pillow.
- Keep both of your legs straight and avoid overarching your lower back.
- Keep the legs as straight as possible as you lift the left leg at the hip.
- Repeat 10 times and then change sides.
A blanket under the pelvis or knees can provide cushion if you need it.
4. Supine Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose With a Twist
This pose stretches the outer hip, quads and glutes. Twists are also said to help with digestion and elimination. While twists are contraindicated during pregnancy, they are safe now, especially since you are lying down and relaxed.
Enjoy the feeling of twisting like a spiral from head to toe. This spiraling energy in the practice of yoga is called kundalini energy. Kundalini energy is said to be the energy of potential that lies dormant at the base of the spine and can be raised to the crown to tap into expanded states of consciousness.
- Lie faceup with your legs straight.
- Lift your right leg straight up to the sky with a strap, if used, wrapped around your right foot.
- Hold both ends of the strap in your left hand as you guide your right leg across your body to the left.
- Keep the back of both of your shoulders down on the floor.
- Work toward gently guiding the right hip down so as to lengthen the right side of your waist.
- Take your gaze to the right so that your head and neck continue the energy of the spiral through the cervical spine.
This pose can be practiced with your first two fingers around your big toe if you are an advanced practitioner or if you have very long arms that easily reach to your feet (see figure). For beginners and after pregnancy, using a D-ring strap is a great way to make the action of reaching the foot effortless. You can deepen the twist by bending the bottom knee and taking the opposite hand to the foot.
5. Foam Roller for the Spine
This manoeuvre promotes myofascial release and feels really good on the muscles that support the spine, similar to the benefits of massage. For more information on foam rolling check out our posts – Should you be foam rolling? and How to foam roller your IT band to relieve tension and knee pain.
Myofascial release involves placing pressure on the fascia, the body’s connective tissue. This type of work is said to help reduce stress, work out adhesions, release tension and improve circulation. Enjoy the pleasurable feeling of the pressure on your back body, similar to a massage therapist’s hands pressing into your back.
- Place the foam roller horizontally on your yoga mat.
- Lie down on top of the foam roller so that the lower back is supported by the foam roller with your feet approximately hip width apart, all ten toes pointed forward, and the knees tracking toward the second and third toes (see figure).
- Gently open your arms so that your fingers are supported by the floor.
- Begin to roll slowly up and down on the foam roller.
If you would like this gentle movement to feel more like a restorative yoga experience, consider diffusing eucalyptus oil in the room. This will instantly invite the feeling of a spalike experience as you open your sinuses while massaging your own back.
6. Flying Baby
When your child gets older, you can incorporate some exercises with your child. In Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy there is a whole chapter on this. For this article, I’ve picked out one called the Flying Baby.
This maneuver strengthens the core and the psoas.
Playtime! Mum is baby’s first playground; your body becomes a jungle gym for your baby. Connect to the feeling of strength and the structure of your body providing a safe space for your baby to play and “fly.”
- Begin sitting up with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Gently bring your baby to a standing position while holding the forearms securely with your hands. Note that this exercise is intended for babies who have head and neck control.
- Lie back slowly and let your baby lie on your shins (see figure a). Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor as you engage your abdominal muscles. Inhale and let your legs slide forward a few inches, ensuring that you can maintain a safe grip around your baby’s forearms (see figure b).
- Exhale and draw your knees toward you to feel the contraction in your core muscles.
- Repeat. You can sing to your baby throughout the movement if you like. After you finish the exercise, you can either lower your baby onto your abdomen and chest or rock yourself up to return to the starting position.
If your baby does not yet have head and neck control, you can perform the exercise with baby lying down next to you. In this case, you can support your head and neck with your hands behind your head. If you are performing the exercise with your baby on your shins and experience any pain in your head and neck, you can do the exercise with your head on the ground. The cue that is given in most fitness classes regarding crunches applies here: Pretend that you have a tomato under your chin when you lift the head and neck so that you do not tuck the chin. This will help you to maintain a neutral cervical spine and avoid pain. Note that this exercise should be done at least 45 minutes after your baby’s last meal to avoid an upset tummy.
All the models in this article are wearing Manduka clothing. The round mat, blocks and strap are available at Manduka. Human Kinetics has teamed up with Manduka to offer 20% off all their products. Just use discount code HUMANKINETICS.
Workout with Desi
Desi teaches all over the world. However, the majority of her classes take place in Santa Monica, California.
If you can’t make it to one of her classes and fancy a quick workout now, take a look at Desi’s workout with these new mum’s.
Your Strong Sexy Pregnancy