Third Trimester Prenatal Yoga
Yoga in the Third Trimester
Years before I had children of my own, I saw an amazing photo of a very pregnant woman performing a challenging variation on headstand. Needless to say, I was impressed. During my own pregnancies I was not that ambitious with third trimester prenatal yoga, but I never forgot the image as an inspiration for the strength and grace possible during late pregnancy..
In the third trimester, there's no need to avoid most of the challenging poses you enjoy. On the other hand, it's not the best time to push the athletic aspects of yoga. The most important focus at this point is probably on relaxation and mindfulness, skills that will serve you well during labor.
Working on hip opening stretches can help prepare your body for birth, and may also be more comfortable than other stretches, where your belly might get in the way more.
Butterfly is a good place to start. Sit with the soles of your feet touching in front of you, drawn in as close to your body as possible. Relax into the pose, allowing your knees to sink toward the floor. Sit up straight, pushing up with your hands on the floor behind you if you like. Focus on breathing deeply and evenly.
Next, stretch your legs out in front of you and spread them as far apart and you comfortably can. Lean forward gently, keeping your spine straight. Breathe and relax.
Standing Poses and Balances
One thing to keep in mind during the third trimester is that you may have a harder time balancing than you expect. Only very experienced yogis should attempt inversions like headstand. Even standing poses may feel less stable than they normally do. However, they're actually very helpful for strengthening the legs (which can come in handy during labor), so these poses are great to use in your routine. If you feel at all unstable, consider practicing near a wall or sturdy chair that you can use to steady yourself if necessary.
Warrior is a basic standing pose that is relatively stable. Stand with your feet more than shoulder-width apart. Point one foot out to the side, and turn your hips and torso toward that foot. Reach up and press your palms together above your head while bending your front knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Hold for a few breaths, then release and come up. Turn to the other side and repeat.
Squatting poses are also very beneficial in strengthening the legs and opening the hips.
Cat/Cow pose is great for all stages of pregnancy. It is gentle and relaxing, stretches the lower back, and may even help get the baby into the right position for birth.
Kneel on all fours, with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. As you inhale, relax your back and allow your belly to sink toward the ground while lifting your head and looking up. As you exhale, lower your head and curl your back up like an arching cat. Repeat as many times as you want.
Finishing with a yoga session with a period of relaxation is even more important during the last trimester of pregnancy than it normally is. However, lying on your back may be uncomfortable. One alternative is lying face-down with one knee up and out to the side along with your belly. Alternately, you can sit in lotus or any comfortable position for a short period of meditation.