Yoga is known for having holistic benefits for the mind, body and soul. It should come as no surprise then that prenatal yoga is highly recommended.
Exercising in general during pregnancy helps women avoid back pain, sleep better, prevent excess weight gain and have more energy overall. Yoga offers added advantages like improving balance, increasing flexibility and better blood circulation. It is also known for the many mental health benefits it offers.
Here are certain asanas recommended during pregnancy, taken from a list suggested by Smt Hansaji Jayadeva Yogendra, Director, the Yoga Institute, which has been running courses on pre-natal and post-natal yoga since the past 30 years.Stand straight with feet slightly apart.
Clasp hands together and turn them with the palm facing outwards.
Inhale and raise your hands above your head.
Bring them in line with your shoulders.
Go up on your toes, raise your heels off the ground.
Hold for 10-15 seconds.
Exhale and bring the heels down.
Unclasp hands and bring arms down parallel to body.
This pose is also called the camel pose.Kneel on the floor with thighs and feet together and toes resting on the floor, pointing back.
Separate the knees and feet by about one foot and stand on your knees.
Inhale and bend back slowly.
Exhale and place the right palm on right heel and left palm of left heel.
In the final pose, head will be tilted back and thighs will be perpendicular to the floor.
This asana looks like a bridge (Setu) hence the name.Lie flat on the back.
Fold your knees and keep your feet at about a foot away from your pelvic area.
Keep hands by your side, with palms facing down.
Inhale and slowly lift your back off the floor, let your chest reaching your chin.
Here you are supporting your weight with your shoulders arms and feet.
Thighs are parallel to the floor.
Hold the position for a minute or two.
Exhale when you slowly come out of the asana.The corpse pose is an easy one, or so it seems, as a pose of complete rest and relaxation. It is generally done at the end of a yoga practice.Lie flat on your back on the floor
Keep legs apart with toes facing outside and relax them completely.
Keep the arms a little away, but not too far from the body, with palms open and facing upward.Slowly relax the whole body, concentrating on one body part at a time, starting with right leg, then the left, slowly moving from limb to limb up till the head.
Keep breathing slowly and deeply, relaxing with each breath.
When you feel completely relaxed, about 10 to 20 minutes later, roll over to your right side.
After a minute sit up calmly, taking the support of your right hand.
Keep your eyes closed and continue breathing deeply. Open your eyes only when you feel peaceful.
‘Prana’ refers to the universal life force and ‘ayama’ means to regulate or lengthen. Pranayama refers to a control of breathing by use of specific techniques. There are eight techniques mentioned in Hatha Yoga texts.
One of the fundamental types of Pranayama is Nadi Shodan Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing. It is also called anuloma-viloma pranayama.
Another simple type of Pranayama is Surya Bhedana, which involves breathing through the right nostril and exhaling through the left.
For doing Pranayama, sit in any comfortable meditative yogasana such as Padmasana, with hands in the yoga mudra or with open palms facing upward. Keep your spine erect and relax the shoulders and then commence the specific Pranayama technique.
Detailed directions can be found here. It is important to be careful while doing Pranayama, and it is best learnt from a yoga guru. Pranayama calms the mind and improves circulation, among several other benefits.
That’s not all…
This is hardly a comprehensive list, and there exist a range of other asanas that can be done by pregnant women.
Dr Rajvi Mehta of Iyengar Yogashraya has this to say:
“The types of asanas done during pregnancy varies with the phase of pregnancy. Asanas done in the first trimester differ from the second and third. In the first, one can do normal practice but totally avoid asanas which could cause strain on the abdomen. The inverted asanas such as Sirsasana and Sarvangasana are very important during pregnancy. Standing asanas are taught so that the back becomes stronger and they can avoid back pain, a common complain during pregnancy. Supported supine asanas are done to help relax and in the last phase one works on the pelvic area to ease delivery. Please note it is not just WHAT you do but HOW these are done that is very important. They need to be trained by an experienced teacher.”
Radhika Vachani, the founder of Yogacara, agrees with this view, saying that yoga can be done throughout pregnancy with a qualified teacher. “I have had 2 kids and I did yoga throughout both pregnancies until the day I delivered. The key is having a teacher who can guide you through the practice. Through each pregnancy term, certain asanas need to be avoided. Essentially, breathing practices, asanas that strengthen the back, open the pelvic region and improve circulation are all great,” she said via e-mail.
Some asanas suggested by her include Trikonasana, Virbadhrasana 1 & 2, Supta baddhakonasana, supta padangusthasana, and asanas done on ropes as per the Iyengar school.
No asanas should be undertaken without the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor.
Asanas which put strain on the abdominal and pelvic area should be avoided.