5 Yoga Moves That Strengthen Your Body for Birth

The modified moves taught in prenatal yoga are both safe and beneficial to expectant moms.

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Yoga for Labor

How Yoga Prepares You For Labor: Prenatal yoga addresses the physical challenges inherent to pregnancy, such as a shifted center of gravity and lower back pain. These moves will help alleviate aches and build strength in your legs, back and abdominals to prepare you for giving birth. Yoga also can ease labor and delivery, with moves that relax the hip muscles and use gravity to your advantage. Consider yoga a way to get physically stronger and emotionally healthier during pregnancy. Even if you've never done yoga before, the modified moves taught in prenatal yoga are both safe and beneficial to expectant moms. Plus, women with difficult pregnancies may find comfort in yoga's gentle motions and breathing.

Fitness Buffs: You will find that yoga rivals any other workout in keeping the body toned and flexible, and can be done up to delivery.

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1A. Standing Mountain

To warm up your muscles, most yoga sequences start with this pose: Stand with feet farther than hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and toes pointed straight ahead, your palms touching at "heart center" (in front of your chest). Close your eyes and breathe deeply

[A] . Inhale and sweep your arms out and overhead, bending back slightly (next slide).
[B] Exhale and stand upright, returning your hands to your heart center [A].
Repeat for 10 full breaths.

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1B. Standing Mountain

[A]. Inhale and sweep your arms out and overhead, bending back slightly (this slide).

[B] Exhale and stand upright, returning your hands to your heart center [A].

Repeat for 10 full breaths.

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2A. Supported Triangle

Triangle strengthens your entire body. Stand with your feet farther than shoulder-width apart. Face your right toes forward and left toes out. Bend your left leg, placing your left hand on the thigh, eyes looking down (this slide).

[A]. Inhale, then exhale as you lift your right arm above your shoulder and turn your head, eyes looking up. Place your left arm on your thigh for support (next slide).

[B].Hold for 1 full breath as you lower your right arm and straighten leg. Return to starting position, then repeat for 5 full breaths.

Reverse feet and repeat sequence on the other side.

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2B. Supported Triangle

Triangle strengthens your entire body. Stand with your feet farther than shoulder-width apart. Face your right toes forward and left toes out. Bend your left leg, placing your left hand on the thigh, eyes looking down (as shown in previous slide).

[A] Inhale, then exhale as you lift your right arm above your shoulder and turn your head, eyes looking up. Place your left arm on your thigh for support (this slide).

[B]Hold for 1 full breath as you lower your right arm and straighten leg. Return to starting position, then repeat for 5 full breaths.

Reverse feet and repeat sequence on the other side.

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3. Supported Squat

Stand with your feet wider than hips, with a stack of pillows on the floor behind you. Bend your knees to lower your hips into a deep squat, sitting on the pillows, palms together at your heart center.

Breathe: Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose as you relax your pelvic floor (the muscles surrounding the vagina). Hold for 10 full breaths, then go onto hands and knees for the next move. This move is a great preparation for birth.

Note: This pose is not recommended if you are experiencing any signs of premature labor.

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4A: Cow (Cat/Cow Sequence)

[A]. Kneel on all fours, abdominals drawn in. Inhale and gently arch your back, tipping your tailbone up, eyes looking up toward the sky (this slide).

[B]. Exhale and round your back as you tuck your chin in toward your chest (next slide).

[C]. Sit back on your heels into Child's Pose and relax for 1 breath.

Repeat sequence 10 times. Remain in Child's Pose for 5 slow breaths to cool down.

You can use this move during labor.

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4B: Cat (Cat/Cow Sequence)

[A]. Kneel on all fours, abdominals drawn in. Inhale and gently arch your back, tipping your tailbone up, eyes looking up toward the sky (previous slide).

[B]. Exhale and round your back as you tuck your chin in toward your chest (this slide).

[C]. Sit back on your heels into Child's Pose and relax for 1 breath (next slide).

Repeat sequence 10 times. Remain in Child's Pose for 5 slow breaths to cool down.

You can use this move during labor.

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4C: Child's Pose (Cat/Cow Sequence)

[A]. Kneel on all fours, abdominals drawn in. Inhale and gently arch your back, tipping your tailbone up, eyes looking up toward the sky.

[B]. Exhale and round your back as you tuck your chin in toward your chest (previous slide).

[C]. Sit back on your heels into Child's Pose and relax for 1 breath (this slide).

Repeat sequence 10 times. Remain in Child's Pose for 5 slow breaths to cool down.

You can use this move during labor.

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5. Belly Breathing

Belly Breathing: Sit erect on a pillow in a comfortable, cross-legged position, your hands on your lower belly. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose, keeping your face and jaw relaxed. Focus on relaxing your pelvic-floor muscles. Exhale slowly and repeat.

While you're in labor, you can rely on ujai pranayama, an ancient breathing technique, to help you relax through contractions. Here's how to do it: Keeping your jaw and face relaxed and eyes closed, place the top of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, and hands on your belly. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and imagine drawing the breath into the crown of your head and the deepest part of your belly. Then exhale through your nose, drawing the belly in to empty all the air out.

RELATED: 10 Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

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