By Sejal Shah
Here are 16 Yoga poses for the third trimester of pregnancy. Know how each one, including butterfly exercise, benefits you and your baby! Enjoy!
Pregnancy is a special time in a woman’s life. Creating life and carrying another soul for nine months gives new meaning to your life. It might even be giving you strength to bear the long list of complaints that pregnancy often brings.
During the third trimester, extra weight may cause considerable discomfort. You may develop heartburn, frequent urination, and lower back pain. Cramping of abdominal muscles, shortness of breath, interrupted sleep, and clumsiness may arise.
You might have unstable joints due to the hormone Relaxin. It allows your pelvis to widen so that you can deliver. You may experience dizziness and swelling in the hands and feet. It results from slowed circulation caused by the hormone progesterone.
As the third trimester progresses, prenatal may become more difficult. Likewise, walking up the stairs, tying your own shoes, and turning over in bed may pose problems. Your belly becomes a real factor to consider. So does general tiredness and feeling cumbersome.
If , you can ease up now. Take a cautious approach as your due date nears. However, there’s no reason to stop practicing prenatal yoga as long as you feel up to it. Practicing can help relieve fatigue, insomnia and water retention.
6 Tips for yoga practice during third trimester
1. Accept and respect your new shape and size. Don’t get annoyed over your inability to do your favorite poses. Instead, adjust your routine to your new body shape and size. Make sure you have extra support in case a pose becomes difficult.
2. Use your practice to create more space for your baby. In the third trimester, the work of yoga is to make space in your body for your baby. Doing poses that create a sense of openness, like chest openers and hip openers, will help both now and at the birth. These poses also help you open up mentally. They’ll help you accommodate every change that your body undergoes during pregnancy.
3. Add an extra dose of balancing asanas. Balancing postures will make you feel lighter and more aligned. But you need to be careful to do them near a wall or chair. The extra weight and your protruding belly will likely challenge your balance. You’ll need modifications and props.
4. Avoid inversions, backbends, and intense abdominal work. Many of these poses will be impossible, given your new shape and weight. Don't overextend your already stressed joints and ligaments, especially in the torso.
5. Emphasize over asana. In , you used your asana practice to be present with your baby. Now, intense focus and poise are the essential skills to cultivate in your practice.
Include hip and chest openers, balancing postures, and relaxation . But add and a lot of pranayama (breathwork) in preparation for labor. Use your breath to connect with your baby. Feel it feeding and fueling your baby. Use the practice to feel strong, centered, and grounded.
6. Favor lying on your side over lying on your back. Avoid lying on your back. It can put pressure on your inferior vena cava (the vein that returns blood from the legs to the heart). This pressure will reduce blood flow to your uterus.
It can also make you feel dizzy and cause shortness of breath and nausea. Use a bolster or pillows to raise your upper body when you're lying down. Limit the time you're flat on your back to one minute. Roll over onto your side for 30 seconds between each exercise on your back. Use pillows to raise your upper body when you're lying down.
7. Eat a diet high in calcium. In the last months, calcium is released from the bones to provide for the baby. So increasing dairy, soy, greens and seaweed is essential.
Evidence of low calcium consists of muscular cramping, especially in the lower legs. They're often experienced in the last few months when the baby’s bones are becoming denser. Natural sources of calcium include dairy and soy products, seaweed, and kelp products. Nuts, wheat germ and wheat bran also have calcium.
Include these in , and you will be on your way to a healthier childbirth. It will raise your energy levels and slow your metabolism to restore calm and focus.
Poses during third trimester (28 weeks - till birth)
1. Kantha and Skandha Sanchalana (Gentle Neck and Shoulder Rolls)
Roll your head back and forth, right and left, and clockwise in circles in both directions. Take slow, gentle breaths. Rotate your shoulder blades back and forth, up and down, clockwise and counterclockwise. Do each movement 3-5 times.
Do this with soft and easy breaths to release tension from the head, neck and shoulder area.
2. Poorna Skandh Sanchalana (Full Shoulder Rotation)
Single Arm. Place the right fingertips up on the right shoulder. Slowly rotate the arm and shoulder joint around, as if drawing a large circle with the tip of the elbow. Extend the movement to rotate fully into the shoulder joint. Do this 5 times one way, and then reverse the direction for 5 circles. Repeat on the left side.
Double Arm. Raise the arms up, with your fingers on both shoulders. Slowly rotate both the arms together in large circles. Try to stretch the elbows as far back as possible, and try to touch them together at the front. Go 5 times in one direction, and then 5 times in the other.
Breathe in when opening the chest as the elbows go backwards. Breathe out when the elbows move towards touching at the front.
Improves circulation and flexibility in the shoulders and upper back. Releases tension from around the heart and lungs. Encourages better breathing. Helps to stimulate proper function of the mammary glands.
3. Ankle Rotation
Place the right foot overhanging the left knee. Hold the right toes with the left hand. Steady the right ankle with the right hand. Rotate the right ankle around in a large circle with care, to the very perimeters of movement. Do 10 gentle rotations in each direction. Then, complete 10 rotations in each direction with the other ankle. Coordinate the movement with slow, gentle breaths.
Good for stiffness and poor circulation in the feet. Helps extend sitting time in meditation postures. Remedies water retention, cramping, and post-epidural numbness in the feet and legs.
4. Ardha or the half butterfly pose)
Sit with your legs outstretched. Fold your right leg and place your right foot as far up on the left thigh as possible. Place your right hand on top of your folded knee. Hold the toes of that foot with your left hand. While breathing out, gently move your right knee up towards your chest. Breathing in, gently push your knee down towards the floor. Make sure that you are keeping your torso straight. Repeat on the other side. Practice about 10 up and down slow movements with each leg. This repetitive movement makes it half butterfly exercise.
5. or the full butterfly pose)
Sit with your legs outstretched. Bend your knees and bring the soles of the feet together, keeping the heels as close to the body as possible. Fully relax your inner thighs. Hold your feet with both hands. Gently bounce your knees up and down, using the elbows as levers to press the legs down. Do not use any force. Repeat up to 15-10 times to make it full butterfly exercises. Straighten your legs and relax.
The half and full butterfly poses are excellent for loosening up the hip joints. They can increase blood circulation to the pelvic floor and help a woman get used to the feeling of opening up. They also help relieve tension and tiredness from inner thigh muscles and legs.
Come onto your palms and knees. Hands should be shoulder-width apart below your shoulders. Your knees should be hip-width apart below your hips. This is the starting position. Breathe in while raising your head and gently arching the spine towards the floor. While exhaling, bring your chin towards your chest, and gently arch the spine upward. Repeat for 5-10 times. Be careful not to strain yourself.
This asana improves flexibility of the neck, shoulders and spine. Tones female reproductive system. It can help shift the baby lower in the uterus and may even encourage proper positioning (head down, face to the back).
Come back into Vajrasana again, keeping your knees and thighs separate. Gently bend forward, placing your forehead on the floor or cushion in front. Extend arms forward, palms pressed into the floor. Rest with gentle breaths. If you are not comfortable with this, you can change it into Puppy Pose by lifting your buttocks up and stretching the hands further.
This is a great shoulder and chest opener and creates a lot of space in the torso.
Stand with your feet together and your arms at your side. As you breathe in, raise your arms over your head, interlock your fingers, and then turn the palms upward. As you breathe out, place your hands on your head. Breathe in and stretch your arms, shoulders and chest upwards. Stretch your whole body from top to bottom. While exhaling, bring your hands on top of your head. Relax for a few seconds, and repeat the whole round 5-10 times.
Helps develop physical and mental balance. The entire spine stretches and loosens, helping the back to stretch and relax.
9. Urdhva Hastasana (Standing Upward Stretch or Hand Raising Pose)
Stand with your feet together and arms by your sides. Breathing in, extend both arms overhead. Gently stretch up. Breathing out, release the stretch.
Next, extend both arms overhead. Breathing in, gently stretch your right arm longer than your left, and then, breathing out, release the stretch. Breathing in, gently stretch the left longer.
Breathing out, release the stretch. Keep alternating between the right and left arms for 5 rounds at a moderate pace. Bring your arms down and relax.
Removes stiffness from the shoulders and upper back. The deep, synchronized breath improves lung capacity. Influences the heart and improves blood circulation. The whole body, especially the brain, receives an extra supply of oxygen.
Breathe in, and raise your left arm. Breathing out, bend to the right, and look up at your left palm. Breathing in, come up. Breathing out, bring the left arm down. Repeat on the other side.
Breathing in, lift your arms overhead and join the palms together, interlacing your fingers to form a steeple position. Breathing out, bend to the right. Hold. Breathing in, return to standing position. Breathing out, bring your arms down. Repeat on the other side.
Stretches the sides of the body and spine, releasing tension and strain.
Stand with your feet apart, breathe in, and bring your arms parallel to the floor. Breathe out, extend and bend on your right side to bring the right hand closer to the foot. Hold. Breate in, slowly come up, and then relax. Repeat on the other side.
Stimulates and improves blood circulation. Relieves aches and pains from back, legs and whole body.
Stand with your feet 3-4 feet apart. Turn the right foot out by 90 degrees, and the left foot in by 15 degrees. Breathing in, lift your arms up to shoulder height. Breathe out, and then bend your right knee, keeping it in line with the ankle, and gently working to bring your right thigh parallel to the ground. Turn the head to the right, and look out across the right hand.
Hold the pose and breathe a few times. Breathe in, and straighten your right leg. Exhale, and bring the arms down. Repeat on the other side.
Strengthens ankles, knees, shoulders, arms, legs, and back. Energizes the whole body while also generating courage and self-confidence.
13. Utthanasan (Squat and Rise Pose or Goddess Pose)
Stand erect on your feet about a meter apart, with your toes turned out. Interlock the fingers of both hands and let them hang loosely in front of the body. Slowly bend your knees and lower your buttocks. Straighten your knees and return to the upright position. Repeat this 7-10 times.
Strengthens the muscles of the middle back, uterus, thighs, and ankles.
14. Supta (Reclined supported Bound Angle Pose)
Come into (see #5). Place a yoga bolster in a vertical position with one end touching your tailbone. Stack one or two folded blankets at the center of the bolster. Move the upper body, face up, onto the bolster and blanket, and place another folded blanket under your thighs. Relax your arms naturally to the side. You may also place additional blankets under your hands, and put a block between your feet to broaden your pelvis. Stay in this pose for a few minutes with slow gentle breaths and relax. Gently roll to one side to release the posture.
Increases blood circulation in the lower abdomen. Stretches the groin. Increases external rotation in the hips as it creates space around the pelvis. It also calms and relaxes your anxious mind.
15. Pelvic Tilts
Lie on your back, with a bolster below your knees, and stretch your arms above your head. Slowly breathing in, stretch your right arm longer than left. Breathe out, and release. Repeat with your left arm. Turn on your right side for a while, and then come onto your back.
Breathing in, stretch your right arm and right leg longer than your left. Breathe out, and release. Repeat with your left arm and leg.
Turn on your right side for a while, and then come onto your back.
Breathing in, stretch the right arm and left leg longer than the left arm and right leg.
Breathe out, and release. Repeat on the opposite side. Breathe out, and release.
Can alternately tone (by lifting) and soften (by lowering) the pelvic floor. Gives you a new sense of freedom in your pelvic area.
16. Relax with modified Savasana. Yoga Nidra in a modified Savasana position followed by pranayama and meditation.
Breath work and relaxation are an essential part of pregnancy yoga, and can be a special time to connect with your baby. Find out how to make them part of your daily routine.
Lie on the side of your stomach with your fingers interlocked under your cheek. Support the right cheek over the interlocked fingers. Bend the left leg sideways, and bring the left knee close to the ribs.
Your right leg should remain straight. Turn the arms to the left, and try to touch the left elbow on the left knee. If this is not comfortable, simply rest it on the floor. Rest the right side of the head on the right arm. Relax in the final pose, and after some time, change sides. Your bent knee and head may be supported on a pillow for further comfort.
Give yourself proper time for Savasana. In your third trimester, this posture is ideal for relaxing and sleeping. It also redistributes excess weight around the waistline.
Because of your restricted mobility, your yoga practice can become quieter now. You can put more emphasis on breathwork and and less on asana. In fact, breathwork, or , is a crucial part of a third trimester practice. Not only does it encourage relaxation, but it also helps develop the ability to concentrate deeply. It can be done on its own, in a favorite hip-opening position (such as Baddha Konasana - Supported Bound Angle Pose). Or, you can use your breath during asana practice to develop focus.
Meditation practice or will take you further, helping you to relax completely and connect with your inner self. If you already have a meditation practice, continue with it, and try practicing immediately after pranayama. before and after your is highly recommended. If you are new to meditation, you may consider learning an easy and effortless technique called .
Mental Preparedness. Even more than preparing your body, yoga will help you prepare mentally. It teaches you to listen to your body and be in the moment without anticipation. The best way to do this is to focus on your breath. Use long inhales and exhales through the nose or exhales through the mouth.
While you’ve been envisioning what life will be, now is the time most mamas start to shift their attention. You prepare for the indescribable (and often unpredictable) experience of birth and beyond. You read lots of books or enroll in a birth education class. These are wonderful things to do. But there’s no better way to prepare both body and mind for birth than a complete yoga practice. This includes postures, breath, mindfulness practices, , and philosophy study.
The above sequence includes some of the best yoga practices for the third trimester. They can help get your body ready for the physical realities of birth. They prepare you mentally for whatever might happen. Yoga may not guarantee that you’ll have an easy birth experience. But yoga’s focus on letting go and letting things unfold can be a comfort. This is especially true during this mentally, emotionally, and spiritually intense time.
To ease your transition into , check out - A FREE Breath & Meditation Online Session With a Live Instructor. It will introduce you to , which has helped millions of people worldwide to deal with changes in their lives and live stress-free. You may want to read for more guidance on learning SKY during pregnancy.
Did yoga help you during your pregnancy? Do you have other yoga tips and poses you’d like to add? Share with us at email@example.com
Pregnancy Yoga: Poses for and
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your pregnancy or associated a medical condition.
Sejal Shah, E-RYT 500 Sri Sri Yoga Teacher, YACEP, C-IAYT, Meditation Teacher, SKY Instructor, NYU Post Graduate Medical School approved Yoga-CME retreat facilitator, Mind-Body Wellness Writer, Homeopath. She can be followed on , , , and .