Prenatal Yoga Pose Library
What to expect with common poses
Article by Carry cofounder Heather Christine, prenatal yoga expert, birth doula, physical therapist, and parent of three.
We explain which poses are common in most prenatal yoga sessions and why each pose is good for you:
Child's Pose is your grounding home base. It stretches your low back, upper back, and opens your hips. It's a great place to release your pelvic floor and soften through your belly. This forward leaning position is a good option anytime during pregnancy. Make sure that you have a wide enough stance so that your belly and baby have enough room. Pad your knees so that knees are comfy. Don't overstretch your arms over your head. If it just doesn't feel good, then you might need to move into puppy pose.
Puppy pose is a great alternative for anyone, and extra beneficial for those trying to get their baby into optimal position towards the end of pregnancy (as it's even more inverting than Child's Pose).
Cat is a gentle stretch for baby and belly. It's great for warming up, and for flexion of spine. Draw in your pelvic floor when in Cat pose, usually on an exhale. This forward leaning position is also a good birthing time position for pushing baby out.
Cow pairs with Cat and is also a gentle stretch for baby and belly, great for warming up, and for extension of spine. Don't overstretch, especially in third trimester when gravity is helping pull you into cow automatically! Draw your chest forward while keeping your ribs in (don't flare out). Let your pelvic floor release when in Cow pose, usually on an inhale.
Down Dog is a pregnancy-friendly inversion, which means that your head is below your heart (anti-gravity!). Down Dog can feel amazing to a pregnant body by stretching the spine and legs. Inhale to prepare, and on an exhale move into it. Keep your spine long and reach your tail back behind you. Distribute weight evenly throughout your whole hands, fingers, and toes. Drop your heels back towards the floor, don't worry if they don't touch. Look towards your knees (if you can still see them amidst your belly!) If you know you have high blood pressure, avoid this pose. It also might accentuate any heartburn, so if it doesn't feel good for any reason then avoid it.
Tree is another delightful balance pose to help you as your center of gravity shifts week to week. Keep a small bend in your standing leg. Your lifted leg can be placed anywhere from toe touching the floor, to above the knee (avoid placing your foot on your knee joint). If you feel unstable, you can always do this close to a wall for support. Feeling wobbly is okay, and if you fall out of balance just come right back in.
Goddess Squat is a powerful opening pose that helps train your body for a birthing position that uses gravity to its advantage. Knees and feet are angled out in the same plane. Avoid tucking your tail, and keep the natural curve of your back. Open through chest and heart center. There are a variety of arm options. Hold Goddess Squat statically, or move up and down. Avoid if you have a breech baby towards the end of pregnancy.
Yogi Squat stretches your hips and pelvis and pelvic floor, and helps train your body for a birthing position that harnesses gravity. Go as low as you can while maintaining flat feet on the floor with heels down. If you need to hold on and stretch at the sink counter, or put pillows/props under your tail to stabilize, go for it! This pose yields its benefits no matter how deeply you're in it. Avoid if you have a breech baby towards the end of pregnancy. If Yogi Squat doesn't feel good for you, avoid this one, or if it is hard to get out of, don't go as deeply.
Legs Up the Wall
Legs Up the Wall is a slight inversion that feels juicy at the end of a movement session or at the end of a long day. It is very grounding and calming, and an amazing ritual before sleep. It can be really helpful if you have lower body swelling, and to reset your feet/legs at the end of the day. It is safe to do throughout pregnancy. Avoid with high blood pressure, and if it doesn't feel good for any reason then come down. You can use a pillow or blanket under your hips right at the wall. Legs can be straight up the wall if you have limber hamstrings (butt at the wall), or they can be leaning against the wall (butt slightly away from wall). Avoid pillows or blankets under your head to relax the spine completely. Arms can be in any position that feels good, including on your belly with baby.
For Warrior 1 during pregnancy, it's okay to have a wider stance, and your feet can be parallel to each other towards the front of the mat, or your back foot can be slightly turned out as long as you feel stable. There are a ton of options for your upper body and arms, so just listen to the cues or do what feels good.
For High Lunge, bend your front knee and ensure your foot and knee are going in the same direction towards the front of your mat. Your back heel can be off of the mat. Imagine you are drawing up and in through your lower body (you could be wrinkling your mat), and extending powerfully out in your upper body.
Warrior 2 helps you practice power and trains your body and mind to handle some intensity. This fierce pose is great for balancing, strengthening, and preparing for action...all useful for birth and beyond. Your hips are intentionally open as your back leg points out. Your arms reach out in either directionally evenly and practice keeping your trunk straight up, avoid leaning forward with your upper body. Look over your front hand.
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