have a seat

Using a chair helps make these yoga poses pregnancy-friendly.

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Yoga can be a wonderful way to relieve stress and discomfort during pregnancy, but sometimes moving your ever-changing body into a pose can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Using a chair can help you perform such poses more easily.

“A chair can give a pregnant woman a sense of stability, security and confidence,” says Patty Slote, a prenatal-yoga instructor at The Movement Center in Portland, Ore., who designed the following program. By using a chair, you can also modify the intensity of the pose—welcome news if nausea or dizziness is a problem. A chair also allows you to safely align, stretch, strengthen, balance and relax your body.

Slote recommends doing this program throughout your pregnancy. Do the poses in the order listed; each helps you re-balance and realign your body in a specific way.

You’ll need a sturdy, armless chair with a firm seat and waist-high back to perform these poses. A yoga mat is optional and can be used during standing poses, if you like. Perform all poses in your bare feet.

1. Downward-facing dog Place the chair’s back against a wall and stand facing the seat, feet hip-width apart. Lean forward from your hips, bending knees, if necessary, and hold onto the edge of the seat. Step back as far as you comfortably can while keeping your heels pressed firmly on the floor, hips above your heels. Drop your head and chest between your arms, maintaining a straight line from your head to your hips. (Do not drop your head lower than your heart during your third trimester.) Hold the pose for 6–8 breaths; then, holding the chair for balance, inhale, raise your head, step forward and stand upright. Stretches hamstrings, calves, back, shoulders and hips.

2. Squat Place the chair’s front against a wall and stand behind it. Place your feet shoulder-width apart (or wide enough to accommodate your belly), toes and knees turned out slightly. Hold the back of the chair with both hands, torso straight. With your feet flat on the floor, bend your knees and drop your buttocks until they are close to your heels. (Place a folded blanket under your heels if you can’t keep them on the floor.) Hold the pose for 6–8 breaths, relaxing your pelvic-floor and groin muscles. Ease yourself onto the floor to come out of the pose. Stretches pelvis and hips; strengthens legs and back.

3. Warrior II Sit with your left buttock on the right side of the chair. Swing your left leg across the front of the chair to the left, left heel directly below your knee. Extend your right leg out to the side, toes turned in slightly. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips and your torso erect. Place your right hand on your right hip and your left hand on the inside of your left knee. Inhale and press your feet into the floor until your body is lifted slightly from the chair. Turn your head to look over your left shoulder. Hold the pose for up to 6 breaths, lowering your body to the chair on your final exhalation. Switch sides and repeat. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, and external hip rotator and abductor muscles; stretches calf muscles and hips.

4. Modified dancer Place the chair’s front against a wall, then stand behind the chair, holding its back with your left hand. Inhale and shift your weight to your left foot; exhale and lift your right foot behind you, grasping the top of your right foot with your right hand, keeping your hips and shoulders square. (If this is difficult, simply lift your foot.) Press your left foot into the floor. Inhale, then exhale, dropping your tailbone down and tucking your hips forward. Hold for 4–6 breaths. Gently release, switch sides and repeat. Strengthens quadriceps and hip flexors; helps you to maintain your balance as your center of gravity shifts throughout pregnancy.

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