The feeling of having a life growing inside you is unmatched and all the mommies-to-be out there can vouch for our claim as they glow with enthusiasm one moment while being overcome with emotion the next. Pregnant women are often encouraged to continuing doing what they love with a few tweaks and while being physically active during pregnancy is imperative, one can do so safely with Yoga.
As your body starts hurting in completely new places and ways over the nine months, Yoga helps not only relieve the many aches and discomforts that come with pregnancy but also prepares expecting mommies for labor and delivery. Recently, Bollywood diva Anushka Sharma, who is expecting her first child with Virat Kohli in January next year, took the Internet by storm as she flaunted her baby bump while pulling off Shirshasana or a headstand with equal swag courtesy her “very able husband supporting” her.
So we decided to treat you to a list of 5 best yoga exercises for pregnant women that bar twists and extreme forward bends:
1. Trikonasana or triangle pose of Yoga:
Stand straight on a flat even ground with your feet comfortably apart. Turn your right foot to face outside while keeping the heel inwards. Both heels should be in a straight line. Inhale and bend your body from your hip to the right and raise your left arm straight up. Meanwhile, your right hand can either rest on your ankle or shin or even on the mat if you are comfortable.
Keeping your head in line with your torso, you can gaze up at your left palm if comfortable. With every exhale, let the body relax a little more.
Precautions – This exercise is not for those suffering from neck or back injuries, migraine or low/high blood pressure.
Benefits – Since Trikonasana involves the whole body, its benefits are immense including treating the neck sprain, stimulating and transporting the blood flow throughout the veins and body hence, reducing any risks of a block or stroke, stimulating the digestive system, improving the flexibility of the spine and correcting the alignment of shoulders. It also relieves gastritis, indigestion, acidity and flatulence while strengthening the ankles and the palms, reducing the piled up stress and anxiety and reduces discomfort.
It is especially useful for pregnant women since it not only shifts their center of gravity but also stretches and opens the hips which can be a big help during delivery.
2. Marjariasana or the cat pose of Yoga
Stand on all fours to form a table top with your back while your hands and feet from its legs. Keep your arms perpendicular to the floor and place your hands flat on the floor, right under your shoulders while keeping your knees hip-width apart. Look straight ahead, inhale and raise your chin as you tilt your head backwards.
Put stress on the spine, push your navel down while raising your tailbone and compress your buttocks by so that the back can turn into a concave shape. Hold the pose for a few seconds as you take long deep breaths.
Exhale, drop your chin to your chest and leave it between the arms facing the thighs as you stretch your spine in the upward direction and relax your buttocks. Hold the breath for 3 seconds then, go back to the tabletop position.
Precautions – During pregnancy, one should stretch the abdomen only mildly and be careful to not stretch the body beyond its limits. This exercise is not recommended for those having any kind of head or knee injury.
Benefits – Marjariasana is called the cat pose and gives the body an amazing feline stretch while strengthening the shoulders and wrists. It massages the digestive organs and also stretches, strengthens and adds flexibility to the spine which is useful because the back has to support more weight as the pregnancy advances.
3. Baddha Konasana or the bound angle pose of Yoga
Sit with your legs relaxed out in front. Breathe out, bend your knees, pull your heels toward your pelvis, stretch your knees out to the sides and press the soles of your feet together.
Precautions – Do not practice this asana if you suffer from sciatica, lower back injuries or injuries in your hip region or groin. If you suffer from high blood pressure or any cardiac problems, be careful while bending.
Benefits – This helps relieve mild depression, anxiety and fatigue and helps facilitate smooth delivery when practiced until late pregnancy as it stretches the thighs and knees, relieving pain. It also improves flexibility in the hip and groin region.
4. Viparita Karni or legs-up-the-wall pose of Yoga
Lie straight on your back. Join both the legs and lift them up. Take the legs slightly behind to lift your lower back. Support the back by placing the palms on the lower back with elbows on the ground. Keep the legs perpendicular to the floor and your back inclined at an angle of 45-60 degrees with the floor. Breathe normally. Begin with 1-minute and then slowly increase the duration of practice to 10 minutes.
Precautions – In case you suffer from severe eye problems such as glaucoma or have serious neck and back pains, do not perform this asana.
Benefits – This asana enables quicker movement of water from the small intestine to the larger intestine, which cleanses the stomach. It is also a great practice to stimulate the hormone system and strengthen the core. It allows you to completely relax your mind and body and helps to cool it down while refreshing the circulatory system.
This pose also helps in easing lower back pains, swollen ankles and varicose veins which are a common symptom of pregnancy.
5. Shavasana or corpse pose
Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms relaxed at your sides. Gently close your eyes while keeping your feet a comfortable distance apart in a natural position and keep your arms straight along the body but away from the torso while resting your palms facing up.
Breathe naturally, allow your body to feel heavy on the ground and focus all your attention on your toes. Then shift your attention and begin to release each part of your body, organ and cell, consciously working from the toes up to the top of your head. Bring your mind gently back to your body if it wanders.
Be sure that you do not fall asleep and relax your face, feeling your eyes drop into your sockets and the softening of your jaw. Draw your attention to the sounds around you and try to find the most distant one until you find the sound closest to you.
When you feel relaxed, exit the pose by gently bringing your awareness back to your body and wriggle your fingers and toes while still keeping your eyes closed. Draw your knees in and slowly roll over to one side in sukhasana pose. Rest there for a moment in a comfortable seated position and open your eyes gently while slowly turning your attention outwards.
Precautions – As the baby continues to grow, lying flat on the back for an extended period of time can compress the inferior vena cava which is an important vein returning deoxygenated blood from the lower body back to the heart. Hence, avoid lying flat on the back if it is not comfortable and change positions if you start to feel nauseous, dizzy or uncomfortable.
Benefits – Shavasana along with deep breathing relaxes the nervous system more than any other Yoga asana and this instantly brings down the body temperature. It relieves stress, repairs cells, relaxes the body and helps self-healing without pills for pregnant women.
While these asanas are safe and effective for pregnant women, it is important to perform them under the supervision of a yoga instructor after making them aware of which trimester you are in and let your doctor approve your health history before beginning with the exercises.