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The Safest Prenatal Yoga Poses for Each Trimester of Your Pregnancy

Looking for a way to relax or stay fit? You might want to consider prenatal yoga to best support your mind and body during this pivotal time.

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Ease your pregnancy with prenatal yoga

“A big part of prenatal yoga is learning to listen to your body,” says Jamie Kalynuik, founder and CEO of Toronto Yoga Mamas, a prenatal and postnatal wellness centre in Toronto. “What feels good in the first trimester may not feel good in the third, so it’s important to modify and evolve as you and the baby grow together.” However, there are a couple of general rules for practising yoga during pregnancy. The first; if you already have a strong yoga practise, Kalynuik suggests continuing as you normally would until it doesn’t feel comfortable anymore. For example, as your belly gets bigger you may need to begin to adapt certain poses. The second; if you’re brand new to yoga, really try to focus on your breath as you move, and pay attention to where you feel tension and where you feel ease and strength.

In fact, deepening your connection with your breath is one of the biggest benefits of prenatal yoga. It’s not only a great tool to use during pregnancy, but also throughout labour and childbirth. So, whether you’re a yogi or a beginner, there are advantages to practising prenatal yoga during each trimester.

First trimester (week 1 to 12): 

Every pregnancy is unique; however, during the first trimester you may feel an increased sense of anxiety because of this new change, says Kalynuik. Prenatal yoga can help you relax, feel connected and grounded, especially when the mind is overactive. 

Second trimester (week 13 to 28): 

Some pregnant women feel a surge in energy during their second trimester. “This can be a great time to incorporate supportive strength postures,” she says. “Strengthening poses can help build endurance and remind us of how powerful we are.” 

Third trimester (week 29 to 40): 

Moving around may become harder in the third trimester. Kalynuik recommends practising restorative yoga poses to help find a place of rest and relaxation before the little one arrives. 

Ready to begin? “Each sequence is created to be adaptable to your level, so take it as gently as you need or hold poses for longer if you want a challenge,” she says. “It’s safe to practise every day if that’s what feels best for you.” Keeping your body moving during pregnancy will help strengthen your relationship with yourself and your baby, decrease stress and common pregnancy aches and pains, and promote deep relaxation. (Meditation is also a powerful tool to help calm your mind and body.)

To accommodate your ever-changing body in each trimester, here are five prenatal yoga poses, per trimester, to work into your daily self-care regimen.

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

First trimester: Seated breath

Purpose: Connect with your pregnancy and baby

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 2-3 minutes

  • Sit on the edge of a folded blanket or bolster, bringing your hips higher than your knees.
  • Cross your legs and allow your hands to connect to your body and belly, lengthen your spine, and relax your neck and jaw.
  • Close your eyes and become aware of your breath.

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

First trimester: Cat stretch

Purpose: Release tension in back

Repetitions: 8-10

Hold pose: 8-10 full cycles of breath

  • Begin on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Place your knees on a folded blanket directly under your hips.
  • Spread your fingers and point them to the front of the mat. (If your wrists hurt, bring your forearms to the floor.)
  • Lengthen your neck and centre the crown of your head to the front of the room, keeping your gaze gently downward.
  • Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, round your back like a cat stretching its back. Draw the crown of your head toward the floor and gently gaze at your belly.
  • Inhale as you come back to starting position, and then exhale as you return back into your cat stretch.

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

First trimester: Hip circles

Purpose: Full-body stretch

Repetitions: 8-10

Hold pose: 8-10 full circles in each direction

  • Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Place your knees on a folded blanket under your hips.
  • Spread your fingers and point them to the front of the mat. (If your wrists hurt, bring your forearms to the floor.)
  • Release your head and gaze down, relaxing your jaw.
  • Start drawing your hips in circles in one direction, allowing your shoulders to move and elbows to bend.
  • Repeat these circles in the opposite direction.

(In need of a new yoga mat? Check out these top-rated mats on Amazon.)

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

First trimester: Chair

Purpose: Strengthen arms and legs

Repetitions: 8-10

Hold pose: 8-10 full cycles of breath

  • Begin by standing, pressing down into the soles of your feet, and lifting through the crown of your head.
  • Inhale as your arms rise up; shoulders soften down away from your ears.
  • Using your next exhale, bend your knees and start to sit back. (Make sure knees are tracking above ankles.)
  • Keep pressing down through the soles of your feet, activating glutes.

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Photo Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

First trimester: Tree

Purpose: Gain balance and focus

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 5-10 full cycles of breath on each side

  • Begin by standing, pressing down into the soles of your feet, and lifting through the crown of your head.
  • When you feel steady, lift leg (keeping knee bent), and open up your hip to the sidewall. Place your foot to the inside of the calf or thigh muscle, and grow taller through the crown of your head.
  • Bring your hands to your belly, waist, or extend your arms into the air. Soften shoulders away from your ears.

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

Second trimester: Neck stretch

Purpose: Stretch and connect to your breath

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 5-10 full cycles of breath on each side

  • Sit on the edge of a folded blanket or bolster, bringing hips higher than your knees. Cross your legs and allow your hands to connect to your thighs.
  • Lengthen spine, drop chin to chest, and slowly draw your ear toward your shoulder.
  • Extend your opposite hand away from your body and down to the mat, tenting your fingers.
  • To further increase this stretch, gently place the weight of your other hand on the top of your head.

(Thinking about becoming a yoga teacher? Find out if yoga teacher training is right for you.)

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

Second trimester: Pelvic tilts

Purpose: Release lower back

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 5-10 full cycles of breath

  • Sit on the edge of a folded blanket, cross your legs, and allow your hands to connect to your thighs.
  • Rock your pelvis backwards and forwards with your breath. Inhale as your chest lifts toward the sky, and exhale as you round your back (keep tailbone tucked under and chin to chest).
  • Flow with your breath between each movement.

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

Second trimester: Airplane

Purpose: Strengthen glutes

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 5-10 full cycles of breath on each side

  • Begin by standing, pressing down into the soles of your feet, and lifting through the crown of your head. Bring hands to hips.
  • Take a step forward. Keeping the spine long, gently tilt forward as you lift your back foot slightly off the mat.
  • Maintaining your balance, slowly bend the knee of your supporting leg and then straighten. (Remember: Inhale to bend, exhale to straighten.)

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

Second trimester: Warrior 2

Purpose: Strengthen full body

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 5-10 full cycles of breath on each side

  • Begin by standing at the top of your mat, pressing down into the soles of your feet, and lifting through the crown of your head.
  • Step your feet wide apart by taking one foot behind you and turning your back foot at a 45-degree angle away from your body.
  • Bend into your front knee, making sure you can still see your toes, and track the knee above your ankle. Align your shoulders above your hips.
  • Arms rise to shoulder height; focus gaze on your front fingertips.

(Psst: These are the healthiest foods to eat during pregnancy.)

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

Second trimester: Child’s pose

Purpose: Create openness in the hips

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 5-10 full cycles of breath

  • Begin on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Place your knees on a folded blanket under your hips.
  • Bring your big toes to touch, and take the knees wide. Walk yourself down to the mat, bringing your forehead to the mat if it’s accessible. (Option to modify: keep hips raised while you come down to forearms or forehead, or place a bolster under the front of your body.)
  • Arms reach out in front of you on the mat, palms pressing down.
  • Send your breath to the hips. With each inhale, fill up your belly, and let yourself melt into the mat with every exhale.

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

Third trimester: Seated side stretch

Purpose: Create space for baby

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 5-10 full cycles of breath on each side

  • Sit on the edge of a folded blanket or bolster, bringing hips higher than your knees.
  • Take your legs out into a wide V shape. Bend one knee and bring the sole of the foot to the inside of your opposite thigh.
  • Sit up tall through the crown of your head, lengthening the spine.
  • With your next inhale, reach arms overhead, and exhale as you come down over the extended leg.

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

Third trimester: Goddess

Purpose: Gain strength and focus on breath

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 5-10 full cycles of breath

  • Take a step to the side with your toes pointed outwards.
  • Inhale as you reach arms overhead, keeping legs straight. Exhale as you bend knees into a wide-legged squat.
  • Bring arms to shoulder height, flexing your hands so fingers point toward the sky.
  • Press out through the palms of your hands, and sink down a little lower through the hips and glutes as you reach through the crown of your head.
  • Sway side to side, transferring more weight into one foot and then the other.

(Learn the signs your body want you to practise yoga.)

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

Third trimester: Supported squat

Purpose: Open hips and pelvis

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 1-3 minutes

  • Bring a blanket, bolster or block to your mat. Stand in front of it with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart.
  • With your exhale, come down into a supported squat and sit on your bolster.
  • Bring the palms of your hands to the heart, pressing the elbows to where they meet your knees or thighs.
  • Continue rooting down through the soles of your feet, and lift through the chest.
  • Slow down your exhales here.

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

Third trimester: Restorative figure four

Purpose: Stretch glutes

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 1-3 minutes on each side

  • Place a block down on your mat with a bolster resting on top.
  • Sit down so your tailbone meets the end of the bolster.
  • Bend your knees so the soles of your feet are pressing down into the mat.
  • Bring your hands to the mat and start to walk yourself back until your lying on your bolster.
  • Place your right ankle to left knee/thigh, then let your legs fall to the left side so the right sole of your foot comes to the mat.
  • Breathe into this gentle glutes stretch.

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prenatal yogaPhoto Credit: Toronto Yoga Mamas

Third trimester: Supported side-lying savasana

Purpose: Ground yourself and connect with your breath

Repetitions: 1

Hold pose: 5-10 minutes

  • Place a folded blanket at the top of the bolster for your head to rest on.
  • Bring the side of your hip to the end of the bolster, keeping knees bent.
  • Frame the bolster with your hands and walk out until you’re lying down on your side. Bring one cheek to the bolster.
  • Let yourself melt with each exhalation.

Next, learn how to relieve stress, bloating and fatigue with yoga.