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Best Yoga Poses During the Second Trimester

November 13, 2019
Madeline Elston

The second trimester of pregnancy is known as ‘the honeymoon phase’ for good reason, especially when it comes to prenatal yoga. The body is in the sweet spot between very early fetal development of the first trimester and the heavily decreased mobility of the third trimester. Many yogis believe this is the perfect time to make prenatal yoga part of your regular routine. However, not all yoga poses are created equal. Many traditional yoga routines will be unnecessary or straight-up unsafe for someone in the second trimester of pregnancy. Alterations must be made for many poses to accommodate the growing belly and keep the yoga session safe for women. As Ann Pizer reports for VeryWellFit, “The size of your belly can vary greatly in the second trimester, but chances are you are starting to show, which means the uterus is no longer protected by the pelvis.” This is why it’s important to be conscientious of what exercise you practice as you move along in your pregnancy.

According to Debra Flashenberg, director of the Prenatal Yoga Center in New York City, yoga in the second trimester is all about alleviating discomfort for expectant mothers. A good way to start each yoga session in this period of pregnancy is to begin by setting intentions on what parts of your body you’d like to focus on and improve in feeling. In this article, we focus on three major forms of discomfort relief that target common points of problem for mothers in the second trimester. These yoga poses will allow you to address lower back pain, open the hips, and relax in a manner that is safe for your changing body.

Important Note About Exercise During Pregnancy

Always consult your doctor before practicing any unusual or strenuous activities during pregnancy, including prenatal yoga. With a new life to care for in addition to your own, it is more important than ever to know your boundaries and stay safe. When practicing the poses below, remember to actively regulate your breathing and stay within comfortable limits for difficult positions.

Opening the hips

Perfect for strengthening the pelvic region and preparing for natural birth, poses that open the hips can feel good and do your body good in the long term.

Straddle stretch

Pregnant woman smiles while preforming the forward bend straddle stretch
A forward-bending straddle stretch is a great pose that can be altered to accommodate yoga participants of all different bodies and skill levels. Image courtesy of Toronto Yoga Mamas.

Sitting on the floor or on a cushion, open the legs to the side and slide the hands forward on the ground. To get a better stretch, open the legs further in favor of bending over farther. This will prevent any undue pressure on the belly area.

Butterfly stretch

Pregnant woman smiles while performing the butterfly yoga pose
The butterfly stretch manages to stretch similar muscles to the straddle stretch while keeping the feet close to the body where you be more hands-on with the degree of stretch you’re getting. Image courtesy of Art of Living.

Sitting on the floor or on a cushion, press the bottoms of the feet together and pull the ankles in towards the body. For an extra stretch, use elbows to gently press down the knees. Try to avoid pulling up on the toes, as this can pronate the ankles.

Addressing lower back pain

Among the most common point of pain and discomfort in the pregnant body is the lower back. Mounting weight on the front of the body puts pressure on the bottom of the spine. These simple yoga poses can help to alleviate this pressure.

Downward dog

Pregnancy woman performs the downward-facing dog yoga pose
The downward dog pose can take pressure off the back while stretching the muscles in the back of the legs. Image courtesy of 90 Monkeys.

Keeping feet flat on the floor, balance the body’s weight equally between the arms and the legs. This position reverses gravity’s pull on the spine, which helps many women to alleviate back pain during pregnancy.

Cat-cow stretches

Woman performs the cat-cow stretch
The ‘cow’ stretch has the head pointed up or forward, while the ‘cat’ stretch has the head hanging down limply. Image courtesy of PopSugar.

Both poses are performed on hands and knees and are often practiced together. For the ‘cow’ stretch, use the head to look up or forward while pushing the navel towards the floor. For the ‘cat’ stretch, let the weight of the head hang loosely while pushing the middle of the spine toward the ceiling. These two poses work together to stretch the various back muscles in different ways.

Relaxing more safely

To keep blood flowing between your heart and uterus, you’ll want to limit your time spent on your back. With a growing belly, spending time flat on your back will put pressure on the major vein that carries blood back to the heart from the legs (known as the inferior vena cava). We’ve proposed some alternatives to the typical relaxing pose of ‘savasana’ in the section below.

Child’s pose with parted knees for belly room

Woman performs the child's pose
The child’s pose can be altered for the second trimester by parting the knees to allow room for the belly. Image courtesy of VeryWellFit.

Rest on your knees and allow your back, arms, and head to lay supine in front of you. Part the knees to make room for the belly if necessary to be comfortable.

Savasana on your side

Pregnant woman preforms the savasana yoga pose on her side supported by cushions
Savasana on the side is most comfortable when supported by cushions to provide proper foundation for the parts of the body that can experience the most discomfort. Image courtesy of 90 Monkeys.

Lay on your side, placing cushions below your head and between your knees for the most comfortable position.

 

Prenatal yoga can be very individualistic to your body and what you need most out of a yoga session. Do whatever is most comfortable and pain-relieving for you, as long as you take proper precautions to keep yourself and your growing child safe.

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