Is there any workout as perfect for new moms as yoga? With strength-building sequences and poses that improve flexibility, this low-impact activity is a safe way to feel strong and energized through all the body changes pregnancy brings. Plus, poses can be modified to accommodate extra weight around the middle and protect tender joints and swollen body areas from injury. Y7 Studio founder Sarah Levey shows Health three gentle yoga modifications for expecting moms who want the mind-body benefits of yoga without overextending themselves.
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The first pose Levey demonstrates is the malasana squat, which can help relax and open the hips in anticipation of childbirth. Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than your hips, toes turned out and all four corners of your feet on the ground. In a traditional malasana squat, you would bend your knees until you're in a full squat, hovering your butt slightly above the mat.
Levey recommends that pregnant women modify this by sitting on a yoga block rather than hovering above the mat. This takes pressure off the knees while keeping that deep, hip-opening stretch intact.
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Child's pose is another hip-opening move that helps deliver a low-impact, full-body stretch. Start in a kneeling position, sending your knees to the sides of your mat and your toes together behind you. Traditional child's pose would have you extend your arms in front of you on your mat, bowing your forehead to touch the floor.
For pregnant women, Levey suggests using a pillow and two yoga blocks to help protect the lower back and hips; the blocks will line up in front of you with a pillow over them, creating a table-like support. She starts by putting one block just in front of her knees and the other a few inches further, resting the pillow on top. When getting into the pose, Levey recommends spreading your knees wide to give your belly room, and then coming down as you would in a traditional child's pose but placing your torso on the pillow this time.
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This pose helps loosen the spine and engage the core during a yoga sequence. In a traditional cat-cow pose, you begin in a neutral tabletop on all fours, placing your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. For cow pose, inhale as you drop your stomach to the ground and send your gaze upwards. As you exhale, come into cat pose by arching your back and dropping your head down.
Pregnant women can modify this pose by placing a block between their shins, squeezing it together as they come into a tabletop position. This will help engage the pelvic floor and strengthen pelvic and lower back muscles. Continue with the rest of the pose, squeezing the block as your flo through your cat-cow sequence.
While all of these modifications can help expecting mothers prepare for the birth of their new baby, each one can be taken as intensely or as gently as needed. Remember, you know your body better than anyone!
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