10 Yoga Poses that Strengthen your Body for Birth
Yoga has been shown to provide many benefits to a woman during her pregnancy. One benefit is many yoga poses actually strengthen your body for birth! Some other benefits of doing prenatal yoga regularly include:
- Better Sleep
- Fewer Headaches
- Help with morning sickness
- Decreased back pain
- Increase flexibility
This article focuses on yoga poses that strengthen your body for birth. If you’re interested in the related prenatal yoga articles, mentioned above, you can find the links at the bottom of this post.
Strengthening your body for birth is important. For one thing, having a strong core will help prevent back pain. For another, having strong abdominal muscles before you got pregnant, and then keeping your core strong during your pregnancy, will make pushing during delivery easier. It will also make recovery better, and in some cases, faster.
And keeping your pelvic floor muscles strong will make labor faster as well as prevent urinary incontinence later. 
Before starting these exercises, be sure to warm up.
Mountain pose is a good starter.
Bring your hands up in front of you about chest level and press your palms together, like you’re praying. Inhale and sweep your arms out and overhead. Exhale while you return your hands the center position. Repeat 10 times.
What yoga poses keep your core and pelvic floor strong as well as help strengthen your body for birth?
1) Warrior Pose (Virabhadra)
Begin by taking a wide step sideways. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and, as you keep your back straight, raise your arms to the side so they are parallel to the floor.
Exhale and bend your right knee so it’s in line with your ankle (or as far as is comfortable).
Next, inhale as you turn your head to the right. Draw up your pelvic floor muscles. Stay here for 10 breaths.
Then as you exhale, straighten your right leg and turn your head so you’re looking straight ahead. Lower your arms and rest for a couple of breaths. Repeat on the other side.
2) Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)
From the same standing position as the warrior pose (feet about a leg distance apart), exhale and extend your arms to the side so they are parallel with the floor.
Draw up your pelvic floor muscles and then inhale and turn your right foot out 90 degrees.
Then as you exhale, bend from your hips to the right keeping your legs straight.
If you are in your 1st trimester, rest your right hand on the floor.
Use a block to rest your hand on if you’re in your 2nd trimester.
And either use a block or a chair to place your hand on if you’re in your 3rd trimester, do what feels comfortable.
Stretch your left hand toward the ceiling. Stay here for 15 breaths then slowly bring yourself up so standing. Repeat on the other side. Remember to turn your left foot out 90 before bending from the hips to the left.
3) Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
This pose is similar to extended triangle. After you finish the extended triangle pose, keep your feet where they are. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and anchor the left foot to the floor.
Draw up your pelvic floor muscles and as you exhale, bend your right knee over the right ankle. You want your right shin perpendicular to the floor. Push your shoulder blades pack so you can feel the pinch in your back.
Bend to the right placing your right elbow on your leg close to your knee.
Extend your left arm straight up toward the ceiling, then as you inhale reach your left arm over your left ear (palm should be facing the floor). Lengthen the entire left side of your body so you feel the stretch.
Pay attention to your right shoulder so it stays pushed away from your right ear. Turn your head to look at your extended left hand.
Stay here for 15 breaths then slowly come up to standing as you inhale. Reverse sides, swiveling your left foot out to a 90 degree angle then bending your left knee.
4) Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
From a standing position, widen your feet the same distance as the previous poses. Bend at the hips to lower your arms to the floor.
Now twist your body to the right as you bend your right knee. Place one hand on each side of your leg. Slide your straight leg back until you feel a comfortable stretch. Then turn the top of your foot to the floor.
As you inhale, lift your torso upright and sweep your arms out to the sides and up (similar to mountain pose). Look up toward the ceiling and open your chest so you aren’t scrunching your shoulders.
As you exhale, bring your hands to the floor and slowly switch your legs to repeat on the other side.
5) Cow/Cat pose (Bitilasana/Mārjāryāsana)
Slowly exhale and round your back upward. Tuck your chin in toward your chest (cat pose).
Repeat 5 times.
Sit back on your heels into child’s pose (instructions of this pose below) and relax for 5 breaths.
Then repeat the sequence 3 more times.
This sequence is a good one to do during labor.
6) Balancing Table (Dandayamna Bharmanasana)
Begin on your hands and knees like the previous pose. Inhale bringing your right leg up so it is parallel to the floor and stretching your toes back. On your next inhale, bring your left arm up so it is also parallel to the floor.
Hold here for 5 breaths.
Exhale as you bring your arm and leg down. Repeat on the other side. Do this sequence 3 times. If you feel unbalanced, keep your hands on the floor as you stretch your legs back.
7) Side-Lying Leg lift
Lay on your right side with your knees bent slightly. You can either do this with your right arm stretched out on the floor under your head (so your head is resting on your arm) or using your elbow to support your upper body like the picture, whichever is more comfortable.
Inhale and lift your left leg straight up to approximately a 45 degree angle. Exhale as you bring your leg back down.
Repeat 10-15 times. Switch sides so you’re lying on your left side and repeat with your right leg.
8) Clam Shell Leg Lifts
Lay on your right side with your knees bent. Keep your heels together as you inhale opening your knees as wide as you can.
9) Squat position (Malasana)
(Picture below on left) This pose is fairly self-explanatory. With your toes pointed outward, get into a squatting position. Lean forward slightly to help you stay balanced.
Place your elbows on the inside of your knees to help with balance and push your palms together. Hold for 10 breaths.
You may feel some pressure, but shouldn’t feel pain. If you do, sit down and continue to the next pose.
10) Butterfly Pose (Buddha Konasana)
Sitting on the floor, bring your ankles together and pull them toward your body.
Place your hands on your feet. Look down, or close your eyes, and breathe.
Hold for 10 breaths. (Picture above on right)
End with child’s pose (Garbhasana).
Start by kneeling on all fours with both knees slightly turned out wider (to make room for your baby).
Sit back on your heels and walk your hands out in front of you as you lean forward with your body.
Make sure you breathe through it. Stay in this pose as long as you like. You can also do this between yoga poses. Breathe deep while you do this and just relax 🙂
These poses will help strengthen your body for birth as well as provide many other benefits like relaxation, flexibility, and relieve back pain. To see more benefits prenatal yoga provides, read What’s SO Great about Yoga during Pregnancy?
*Note: There are certain poses and positions that are better avoided while you’re pregnant. You can read about them here.
And remember, don’t overstretch. If you feel pain or too much pressure, stop, chose a different pose, or find a variation of the yoga pose you’re doing. Yoga should not be painful. You should feel stretching but not to the point of pain.
So don’t push yourself 🙂 Yoga should be a fun experience that brings peace and strength.
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