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7 Prenatal Yoga Poses: Get Relief From Back Pain And Tight Hips
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/Happy Together
  • Yoga is probably one of the most accessible exercises there is. Depending on the combination of postures, it can help build strength, correct bad posture, develop flexibility, improves sleep, and, yes, even prepare the body for birth.

    Prenatal yoga is a great way to loosen those tight areas that develop as the body makes way for a growing baby inside the tummy. It is especially helpful for new moms who will be encountering changes in the body for the first time and those who’ve had an exercise routine even before pregnancy.

    Benefits of prenatal yoga

    “There are a lot of benefits when you read up on prenatal yoga. Gentle yoga flows or vinyasa flows are particularly good for pregnant women,” says Joanne “Jo” Endaya, who completed the Perinatal and Postnatal Teaching with Birthlight, an organization based in the UK.

    Endaya enumerates the top three benefits of prenatal yoga she has observed among her students:

    Prenatal yoga teaches breathing

    The different breathing techniques can help prepare pregnant women for pain management and stay relaxed and calm, whether they have normal/vaginal birth, caesarian, water birth, etc.

    Yoga for pregnancy brings relief from aches and pains

    The movements taught in prenatal classes are accessible for pregnant women at any stage, even if they don’t have any yoga background. The poses are safe and can be customized depending on what trimester a woman is in or how they feel that day.

    Doing yoga with other women creates a community for support

    Yoga classes create a support group for other women dealing with the physical and emotional changes that come with the pregnancy.


    “It’s encouraging to hear from other women what they’re going through and get suggestions. [It’s good to have] that sense of having ‘similar’ experiences to share in this life-changing journey,” says Endaya, who conducts online classes through Yoga Sangha studio and has her yoga videos on YouTube.

    While it is always better to practice prenatal yoga with a teacher who can guide you on the appropriate pose, make adjustments and modifications if necessary, and apply postures that target tight areas, Endaya says.

    Prenatal online videos help those who want to practice at home and don’t have access to a teacher. However, she warns, one should be discerning with the videos that are available out there.

    “Practice due diligence, meaning, make sure that the prenatal videos are from teachers who have prenatal training or background.”

    Get your doctor’s clearance before doing prenatal yoga

    Endaya assures that it is acceptable to practice yoga at any point in the trimester. However, she recommends one gets past the most delicate months and begin on the second trimester.

    “If you’ve been doing yoga before and have a fairly ‘textbook’ normal pregnancy, you can continue your practice from when you conceive. Again, each woman and each pregnancy are unique, so it’s always best to get clearance first from your doctor,” she adds.

    Prenatal yoga classes often address common pregnancy complaints such as lower back pain, upper back tightness, difficulty breathing, tightness in the hips, and even stress that may arise from emotional and hormonal changes.

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    A teacher’s guidance as the pregnancy progress would be ideal, but without one, Endaya says poses to avoid are those that have never been tried before. More specifically, these are poses that impact the belly, especially towards the end of the trimester, and those that put a strain on the pelvic floor.

    “You don’t want your pelvic floor muscles to be overly tight nor overly relaxed,” she says.

    When in doubt, especially if you are doing it at home, it is best to do a bit of research and learn what poses would be appropriate.

    Prenatal yoga poses

    Endaya recommends these seven prenatal yoga poses throughout the pregnancy to help the pain in the hips and lower back.

    While they are not necessary, props such as blocks, straps, bolster, blankets, bands, and weights make each posture more accessible. If you can't reach your hand to the ground when you bend, for example, using a block can help.

    Rolling cats

    The rolling cat pose allows movement on the shoulders, spine, and lower back, releasing tightness in these areas.

    From a tabletop position*, inhale, and allow the chest to reach forward. Look forward, and as you exhale, round through your back and sit down towards your feet (like a child’s pose).

    Make sure you have space for the tummy in between your legs. Inhale push up to come forward and repeat.

    *What is tabletop position? It means you’re on your hands and knees. The knees are hip-width apart with the top of your feet touching the ground. Bring your palms (spread your fingers) directly under your wrists, right under the shoulders.


    Low lunges with hip openers

    Strengthen the quads, groin, and knees and free the tightness in the hips with a low lunge.

    From a tabletop position, swing one leg out to the side (a variation of low lunge) and draw circular movements with the hips. You can start with a small circle then make your way to bigger circular motions if it’s right for you. Repeat on the other leg.

    Figure-8 movements

    Figure 8 helps strengthen the core muscles and loosen the hips and pelvis.

    From a standing position, place hands on the hips and draw figure 8 movements with your hips. You can keep your hands on your hips as you make this move.

    Side stretches or lateral stretches

    You give your body a gentle stretch to the spine, lower back, shoulders, and hips when you do side stretches.

    From a seated position, reach the arms up and interlace your fingers with the palms facing up, bend to one side and repeat on the other.

    You also have the option to release one hand on the same side as you side bend and reach the opposite hand over the head. Repeat on the other side.

    Dancing warrior

    Do the dancing warrior for the chest, arm, shoulder, quads, and hips.

    From a standing position, hold a Warrior 1 position (one foot forward with knee bent and one foot back with knee bent). Reach arms up. Then move into Warrior 2, arms will roll out like the letter T.

    Repeat several times on one side to get shoulder movement as well. Then switch legs (opposite leg in front).


    Scooping and walking lunges

    Walking lunges are great for easing back tension, core muscles, and balance.  

    Do walking forward lunges, then scoop the hips to release the lower back. Make sure that when you step forward, you look forward instead of down to your toes. Widen your stance and make sure you feel balanced.

    Open twists

    Apart from helping release tight back muscles and open the rib cage, an open twist gives each side of the body a good stretch.

    From a low lunge position, keep the torso upright and twist towards the open side. If the right leg is forward, twist towards the left and vice versa.

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