A group of pregnant women participate in yoga.
Some yoga poses are tailor-made for expectant moms. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

I was recently at a conference where we started out the second day with yoga. It was led by a nurse midwife who also teaches yoga.

We only spent about 10 minutes doing it, but it was calming, refreshing and good for my body. It also helped me focus and feel relaxed. It was just enough to help me forget about the crazy morning and focus on the new day.

I highly recommend yoga to my pregnant patients. But why would a pregnant mama want to do yoga?

There are many positive reasons for doing yoga in pregnancy:

  • It can decrease muscle tension.
  • It helps to strengthen muscles.
  • It helps you relax.
  • It teaches flexibility, which is needed in childbirth.
  • It teaches you breathing techniques, which can be helpful for pregnancy, mothering and life in general.
  • It improves sleep.
  • It reduces anxiety and helps you develop a sense of well-being.
  • It decreases back pain and other discomforts.

An important point to keep in mind: Some poses are not recommended for pregnancy.

Also remember you have a hormone called relaxin, which is helping your joints to relax—so be careful. This is true for any exercise.

An April 2009 study in Harvard Mental Health Letter found that yoga slows your breathing rate and heart rate, and it also lowers blood pressure. These are beneficial to all women, but especially to pregnant mamas.

Some poses that are especially good for a pregnant mom:

  • Cat and cow. This can help alleviate lower back discomfort, plus it provides general stretching. It also strengthens shoulders. In this position it is also easy to do pelvic tilt stretches.
  • Breath of fire. This is similar to a jumping jack but without the feet movement. By moving your arms up and down like in jumping jacks, you’re strengthening the shoulders and bringing good blood flow to the upper body.
  • Tailor sitting. This helps to strengthen your inner thighs for labor and delivery. I always called this Indian style. This can be done while watching TV, reading, or on your phone.
  • Squatting. This is a position used often in labor, and especially for delivery. We know that by squatting when pushing, you open up the pelvis 1 to 2 centimeters, giving more room for the baby to be born. One option for doing this: Use a chair to lean on while you move down in a squatting position.
  • Warrior I and Warrior II. These are also good poses that can help ease back pain and help sciatic nerve discomfort (when your leg seems to go numb).

Yoga can be used throughout pregnancy. As your pregnancy advances, however, be mindful of your changing balance and center of gravity.