14 Essential Prenatal Yoga Poses

Pregnant woman in tree pose

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Yoga is an excellent way to support your body's needs during pregnancy and prepare yourself physically for childbirth. You can even practice specific poses to strengthen the muscles you will need to use when caring for your newborn. Strong arms will make it so much easier to pick up your bundle of joy a million times per day or carry around the infant carrier.

We reached out to yoga and fitness experts to find out which prenatal yoga poses are the most beneficial.

"Poses that build your strength and awareness in areas that you will need for delivery and care-taking of an infant are important," Leah Keller, the founder of Every Mother and a certified personal trainer tells us.

Essential prenatal yoga poses include, "strong standing poses that build strength in the hamstrings, quads, glutes, legs, hips, and core, and balancing poses," Keller says. "Poses that build strength and mobility in your upper body will also be important after birth."

Prenatal Yoga vs. Regular Yoga

Prenatal yoga is a specific style of yoga designed for expecting women. The poses, which are regular yoga poses or modified versions, are meant to support your body during pregnancy and prepare you for childbirth. Poses are generally safe for any pregnant woman and the instructor will sometimes offer several variations depending upon which trimester you are in.

You won't see poses that are difficult to get in and out of in prenatal yoga, particularly not if there is a fall risk. That doesn't mean you can't do any challenging poses during pregnancy if you have done them before, but you will want to assess the fall risk to protect both yourself and your baby. The pace of prenatal yoga is also slower and props may be used, especially for women further along in their pregnancies.

Benefits of Yoga in Pregnancy

There are a number of benefits of yoga during pregnancy. Here's what you can expect:

  • Builds pelvic strength
  • Creates an easier postpartum recovery
  • Increases blood circulation
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Prepares the body for childbirth
  • Reduces lower back pain

Whether you take a regular yoga class or a prenatal class is mostly up to you. If you choose regular yoga, it is best to let your instructor know that you are pregnant and how far along you are, so they can offer modifications as needed. Hot yoga, however, should be avoided during all trimesters of pregnancy.

Many pregnant women prefer prenatal yoga because the pace is slower and because the poses are selected specifically with their needs in mind. Search for a prenatal yoga class in your area or look into online classes that you can do from the comfort of your own home.

If yoga is not something that was part of your routine before pregnancy, it is advisable to stick with prenatal yoga. Moreover, always talk with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise routine.

Prenatal Yoga Poses to Support Childbirth

Childbirth is a demanding physical activity that takes plenty of strength and endurance. Practicing yoga while you are pregnant may help prepare you for smoother labor with fewer complications like tearing. Try these standing poses in your prenatal yoga routine:

Warrior II

Warrior II strengthens the legs and supports circulation throughout the pelvis. Stronger legs give you better stability at a time when your balance is likely thrown off by your baby bump and prepares you for the physical demands of labor and delivery.

How to do Warrior II:

  1. Beginning in downward dog, step your right foot forward between your hands.
  2. Plant the left foot flat with its arch lined up with the heel of your right foot.
  3. Bend your right knee so that it is at a right angle, centered above your ankle.
  4. Engage your left leg, keeping it straight at the knee.
  5. Bring your right arm straight out in front and your left arm straight behind you, palms facing down.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

Chair Pose

Chair pose strengthens your hips and legs, better preparing your body for childbirth. If you feel unsteady in this pose, you can modify it by spacing your feet wider than your hip's width for better balance.

How to do chair pose:

  1. Begin standing with your feet a hip's width apart. You may want to separate your feet wider than this if you feel like you need more stability to balance well.
  2. Inhale and lift your arms above your head.
  3. Exhale and bend your knees, lowering your hips as if sitting in a chair.
  4. Hold for several breaths.

Crescent Lunge

Crescent lunge can feel amazing if pregnancy has your hips feeling tight. Flexible hips also help to support your body during labor. If you feel lightheaded when you raise your arms above your head in this pose, try interlacing them behind your back instead.

How to do crescent lunge:

  1. Beginning in downward dog, step your right foot forward between your hands.
  2. Bend your right knee so that it is at a right angle, centered above your ankle.
  3. Come onto the ball of your left foot and straighten your left leg.
  4. Raise your torso and raise both arms above your head.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

Triangle Pose

Triangle pose gives you strong and flexible legs to support you through childbirth, and it also strengthens your back muscles and spine, helping to prevent back pain caused by the weight of your baby bump.

How to do triangle pose:

  1. From the Warrior II pose, straighten the front leg.
  2. Slide your torso forward as far as you can.
  3. Drop your front arm down toward your ankle.
  4. Raise your back arm up to the sky.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

Side Angle Pose

Side angle pose helps to strengthen your legs and improve balance. Strong legs will assist you throughout childbirth; and you may be glad you have them after the baby is born too, when your walking and bouncing your newborn to soothe them. Pregnancy throws off your balance, so poses that improve balance are important to help you avoid falls.

How to do side angle pose:

  1. From the Warrior II pose with the right foot in front, rest your right forearm on your thigh, palm facing up.
  2. Extend your left arm up at an angle, bringing it in line with your left leg.
  3. Repeat on the opposite side.

Pregnancy will naturally change your center of balance, so it may be wise to take some extra precautions to avoid falling in these poses.

"You may modify [this pose] by using a wall or a chair to hold onto," suggests Aylin Guvenc, a prenatal yoga and pilates instructor with Every Mother. "You may also try propping yourself with blocks under the hands for triangle and side angle."

Balance Poses to Practice While Pregnant

Balance poses also can help to prepare your body for labor by bringing a stronger sense of balance into both your body and your mind. Balance poses for prenatal yoga include:

Tree Pose

Tree pose works on physical balance and mental focus. It also gives you a nice hip stretch, bringing relief if pregnancy has your hips feeling tight. If your belly feels like it is in the way in this pose, simply place your foot a little lower down your opposite thigh.

How to do tree pose:

  1. From standing, lift your right leg.
  2. Press the inside of your right foot into the inside of your left thigh.
  3. If you feel steady enough, bring your hands to prayer or raise them over your head.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

Extended Hand to Foot Pose

Extended hand to foot is a good balance pose for earlier on in pregnancy, especially the second trimester. It builds balance, strength, and flexibility, and it can feel meditative.

How to do extended hand to foot pose:

  1. From standing, lift your right knee.
  2. Grasp your big toe with your right hand.
  3. Slowly straighten your right leg.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

You can modify by holding on to a bar, wall, or piece of furniture if needed. You also can sit down on the floor and extend you leg at a slight angle if your belly is blocking you in the front later in pregnancy.

Warrior III

Warrior III adds a new element to balance by having you lean forward with one leg extended back. It also can bring relief by letting your belly hang toward the floor in this pose.

How to do warrior III:

  1. Beginning in a lunge, right foot forward, bring your hands to your heart in a prayer position.
  2. Lean forward bringing your spine parallel to the floor.
  3. As you lean forward, bring your left leg up, parallel to the floor, and in line with your spine.

Eagle Pose

Eagle pose works on balance while also helping to relieve a stiff neck and shoulders.

How to do eagle pose:

  1. From standing, bend your knees slightly.
  2. Lift your right knee up over your left knee.
  3. Wrap your left foot around the back of your right calf.
  4. If your balance is steady enough, bring your arms into an eagle pose too (see below for instructions).
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

If you want the shoulder stretch but you aren't feeling steady enough in the leg balance pose, you can do this pose down on your knees or standing with your feet a hip's width apart.

Half Moon Pose

Half moon pose is a balance pose done leaning forward that also gently stretches the hip flexors. This pose is ideal during pregnancy because it can be done with as much or as little intensity as you wish.

How to do half moon pose:

  1. From triangle pose, with the right foot forward, drop your right hand to the floor, palm flat down.
  2. Lift your left leg up until parallel to the floor by slowly opening the left hip.
  3. Extend the left arm straight up, bringing it in line with the right.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

When practicing these kinds of poses, even an experienced yogi is advised to implement extra safety precautions to avoid falling. For the extended hand-to-foot pose, Guvenc advises pregnant people to use a steady surface for support and a strap. You also can hold onto the underside of the thigh as you balance on the opposite foot. 

Poses to Prepare You for Infant Care

Taking care of a newborn baby is a beautiful thing but it is also a lot of work. As simple as feeding, soothing, and changing these tiny humans sounds, repeatedly going through the motions can definitely take a physical toll of your body.

Strengthening the arms, shoulders, and core can help you prepare for the early days of infant care. Practicing these yoga poses can make caring for your newborn a bit easier on your body:

Eagle Arms

Eagle pose opens the shoulder blades and strengthens the arms and shoulders. When you are carrying your newborn around all day, you will glad your shoulders are strong. Continuing this pose postpartum will also help relieve shoulder tension caused by baby carriers or wraps.

How to do eagle pose:

  1. Stretch both arms out in front of you.
  2. Bend your right elbow, and hook it under your left elbow.
  3. Bring your palms together and interlock your fingers.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

Dolphin Pose

Dolphin pose strengthens and stretches the shoulders, arms, upper back, and legs. Sitting and feeding a baby every two to three hours around the clock can put a major strain on these muscles, so keeping them strong will make a big difference. This pose also helps relieve headaches and fatigue.

How to do dolphin pose:

  1. From down dog, bring your forearms down to the floor.
  2. Interlock your fingers.

Modified Plank

Modified planks can be safe and beneficial during pregnancy if you do them correctly. Planks support your pelvic floor muscles and lower back, aiding in your postpartum recovery period.

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Raise yourself up so you're resting on your hands and knees, or your forearms and knees.

You can also:

  1. Come onto all fours
  2. Walk your hands forward into the position

Downward Facing Dog

The downward facing dog can help to relieve the lower back strain that comes with both pregnancy and carrying or feeding an infant in your arms. Down dog can also relieve headaches and lower stress.

How to do down dog:

  1. Beginning on all fours, press your hands to the floor and straighten your arms.
  2. At the same time, raise your hips and straighten your legs, keeping your knees slightly bent.

Safety Considerations

Yoga has many benefits in pregnancy but there are some safety considerations to keep in mind. It is important to stay hydrated, including pre-hydrating before you practice. And of course, always check with your healthcare provider first, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy. While pregnant, refrain from practicing:

  • Poses that put pressure on the abdomen
  • Deep twists
  • Lying flat on your back (later on in pregnancy)
  • Hot yoga, in all trimesters but especially in the first trimester

Pose to Avoid

There are some poses you should avoid when pregnant. These include:

  • Crow pose
  • Shavasana
  • Sit-ups or crunches
  • Supine spinal twist

Always listen to your body when practicing yoga while pregnant. It will tell you how deep you can go into the pose and when to pause for breath. Keller also emphasizes the importance of learning to use the pelvic floor and the entire core to support any pose you choose to do while you are expecting.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Newham JJ, Wittkowski A, Hurley J, Aplin JD, Westwood M. Effects of antenatal yoga on maternal anxiety and depression: a randomized controlled trialDepress Anxiety. 2014;31(8):631-640. doi:10.1002/da.22268

  2. Konkel L. Taking the heat: potential fetal health effects of hot temperaturesEnviron Health Perspect. 2019;127(10):102002. doi:10.1289/EHP6221

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.