Whether you were just about to master the one-handed tree pose or you just like wearing yoga pants, prenatal yoga poses can be amazingly helpful when it comes to pain management and labor prep. But since getting yourself to a studio seven months preggers might feel like a big haul, we got a cheat sheet from Chicago-based Karen Alexander, a registered yoga teacher (and mom-to-be) with certification in prenatal and restorative yoga. (Just make sure you talk to your doctor before trying them.)
5 Simple At-Home Yoga Poses for Pregnant Women
Great for: Lower back aches and stiffness in the spine.
Set up: Get on all fours, stack your shoulders over your wrists and align your hips over your knees.
How to do it: To get into cow pose, inhale as you drop your belly toward the mat, lift your chin and chest and gaze up to the ceiling. Widen your shoulder blades and draw your shoulders away from your ears. As you exhale, move into cat pose by transitioning your gaze toward your belly and gently curve your back into an arched position. Move through these two poses at your own pace, linking breath to movement. (You can return to this early in labor.)
Adjustments: Widen your legs to accommodate your bump or use a blanket to pad your knees.
Great for: Aches in the lower back and tightness in the pelvis. It also strengthens legs and elongates the spine (useful during labor to “open” the pelvic region and helps prepare for the pushing stage).
Set up: Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips—or, if you need more support, with blocks under your buttocks or blankets under your heels.
How to do it: Inhale. Then, as you exhale, bend your knees and lower yourself so that your buttocks are only an inch or two from the ground. Keep your knees wide and your heels on the ground. Bring your hands together in a prayer position, resting your elbows on the inside of your knees. Hold this pose for up to a few minutes.
*Unsupported squats are not advised if you are experiencing any signs of premature labor or if the baby is in breech position.
Seated Side Bends
Great for: Creating length and opening in the side waist, pelvis and hips.
Set up: Use a blanket to pad your tailbone; sit in a cross-legged position on the floor and align your spine above your sitting bones.
How to do it: Extend your right arm out to your side. Let the ground support you as you reach up and over with your left hand, palm facing down. Relax the shoulders away from your ears. Gently lean over to the right and find length on both sides. Take a few smooth inhales and exhales and return to center. Repeat on other side.
Transverse Abdominal (tva) Strengthening
Great for: Strengthening the abdominal region safely during pregnancy. This move creates muscle memory that may help you push your baby out during labor. It can also be used to regain abdominal strength after giving birth.
Set up: Sit cross-legged and find a tall seat. (You can do this against a wall for more back support or with a blanket placed underneath you for extra height.) Rest your hands on your knees or place them on your belly. To locate the TVA, place your hands on your belly and cough.
How to do it: Inhale, letting your belly float forward. Then exhale, pulling your belly back to your spine. It can be helpful to make a low sound on the exhale—like "haa" or "sss"—to naturally contract the abdominals and focus on the muscles. Continue the cycle slowly, breathing in and out, aiming for 100 repetitions.
Standing Hip Circles
Great for: Relieving lower back and hip discomfort. This move can also be used early in labor to encourage the baby to move down into the pelvis for birth, bringing blood flow and energy into the area.
Set up: Stand with your feet at least hip-width apart (or as wide as is comfortable for you). Place your hands on your hips. Keep a slight bend in the knees.
How to do it: Tip your hips to the right, then back, left and front. Make these as big or as small as feels comfortable for you. Change directions after ten repetitions. Have fun with this one: turn on music and get a groove going. You can even make figure-eight shapes with the hips if you’re feeling wild.