Reading Time: 6 minutes 🙂
Yogi approved by Keira Shepherd, Certified Yoga Instructor with a 1st Class Honors in Education Studies.
The second trimester is considered by many to be the “honeymoon” weeks of pregnancy. Morning sickness is usually gone, we’re starting to feel more at home in our bodies, and our midwife has given the all-clear to start prenatal yoga classes. So what are the best pregnancy yoga exercises to do in the second trimester?
Generally, it is suggested that no matter the trimester, you should avoid backbends and straining the core. Poses that are particularly beneficial during the second trimester are those which allow us to open the hips and prepare our bodies for birth.
There are many standing poses, which are also great for strengthening the lower body and the spine in preparation for the extra weight that we will be carrying around during the later weeks of pregnancy.
In the second trimester, we are mostly still able to move as we usually would, which is what makes it the best time to get into a prenatal yoga practice. We can flow through asanas comfortably and with little limitation.
In this article, I will discuss the importance of waiting until the second trimester to practice yoga – especially if it’s new to you. I will also highlight the best tips and information to keep in mind when practicing yoga, followed by a few of my favorite pregnancy yoga exercises to do in the second trimester.
Why wait until the second trimester? 🤰
The second trimester runs between week 13 and week 26 of pregnancy and is when most healthcare professionals will say that you can start prenatal yoga. This is especially important if you are new to yoga and unfamiliar with the positions.
The reason that we are advised to wait until the beginning of the second trimester is that from this point, we are getting used to our new pregnant bodies and are (hopefully) starting to feel a little more at ease and a little less sick.
The first trimester can cause sickness, nausea, and fatigue, and is an essential time to rest and let your body get through the most crucial part of your baby’s development. For most women, the sickness is over by the second trimester, and we can start adding more activity to our day.
A lot of women turn to yoga for the very first time when they become pregnant, and it can be an incredible tool to help you through labor, birth, and motherhood!
Some more advanced and experienced yogis might choose to continue their practice through the first trimester too. This is ok as long as your doctor or midwife is on board, and you’re not finding the practice difficult or tiring.
Tips for yoga in the second trimester 🤰
Here are the most important things for you to be aware of when practicing prenatal yoga in the second trimester
Avoid lying on your stomach when your bump starts to grow, and it becomes uncomfortable to do so. It’s also vital that you don’t put any pressure on your core with poses that strain the abdomen, such as boat pose or prolonged plank pose.
During prenatal yoga, we should avoid twisting from the core, keeping any twisting movements coming from the upper back.
During pregnancy, a hormone called ‘relaxin’ is at work to loosen our muscles and ligaments to make room for the baby and to relax and open the pelvis for birth. The hormone will affect the entire body, and you may notice that you are more flexible than you were before pregnancy. As great as that might sound, you mustn’t take advantage of it, as relaxin also makes it much easier to cause yourself injury.
It’s recommended that we stop laying on our back during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The concern is that the weight of our growing baby and uterus can compress the vena cava – a vein that is responsible for transporting blood back to the heart, and when compressed can result in dizziness and low blood pressure.
Instead, use cushions to prop yourself at a 45-degree angle in poses like Reclined Butterfly Pose and Figure 4 Pose. During Savasana, you can prop yourself at an angle, or lay on your side with a cushion between your knees to make yourself more comfortable.
Listen to your body
There has never been a more critical time to listen to your body. Even if you are an experienced yogi, your practice, and that way that your body moves will change during pregnancy. This is not the time to attempt challenging new poses – there will be plenty of time for that once your baby is here and you have recovered from the birth.
Consult with your midwife
Talk to your midwife or doctor about your yoga practice to make sure that they are on board – your personal experience and symptoms of pregnancy may mean that your health advisor suggests that you avoid any exercise.
Props have never been more useful than during prenatal yoga – they can give you a place to rest your forehead during Child’s Pose, bring the floor a little closer to your hand during Triangle Pose. They will generally make your whole practice more accessible.
Focus on the mental practice
Try and see prenatal yoga as a mental practice over a physical exercise – a relaxed mind is a goal, not an increased heart rate and jelly-legs if you strengthen your body in preparation for the later weeks of pregnancy and birth, great! But by heading to yoga and not challenging yourself physically, you will stay safe and gain a lot of mental benefits.
Yoga poses for the second trimester 🤰
There are endless yoga poses that are beneficial and safe to practice during the second trimester, but here are some of my favorites.
Your midwife has probably been talking to you about the importance of pelvic health and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. Well, yoga is one of the best times to bring some awareness to your pelvic floor. During practice, a yoga teacher might suggest that you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. This is great for your pelvic floor health and also works to lock in energy and increase vitality.
This might seem like one of the more straightforward postures, and technically it is. But it’s also a great way to bring attention to your posture and align the spine, relieving some of the strain caused by your growing belly.
Warrior II is a particularly famous prenatal yoga pose. Firstly, it makes us feel like the superheroes that we are, and secondly, it’s excellent for strengthening the legs and opening the hips.
Triangle Pose is another effective hip opener. During pregnancy, place the outside edge of your back foot against a wall for balance, and use one or two blocks underneath your front arm to help you keep the chest and abdomen open as you settle into this pose.
Pigeon Pose is perfect for releasing tension in the hips and lower back, areas that can be especially affected during pregnancy. Use a cushion or block underneath the thigh of your outstretched leg to make more room for your belly.
Butterfly Pose can help to open the hips to prepare for labor, and is also a great position to use during labor and delivery. Make sure to prop yourself up so that you’re not lying on your back, then settle into this pose for as long as you like. You may choose to place blocks or cushions underneath your knees to prevent overstretching.
Cow Face Pose
Cow Face Pose can quickly relieve tension in the outer hips, and well as opening up the chest and shoulders. The upper body takes a hit during pregnancy, and we suddenly start to slump as our belly grows. Cow Face Pose can help to reverse this and remind you to sit up tall.
Ujjayi breath or ‘ocean-sounding breath’ is one of the only safe pranayamas to practice during pregnancy as it doesn’t push on the abdomen. Restricting your throat just a bit and breathing in and out through your nose will create ujjayi breath, and can be great to use during labor.
Yoga aims to connect your mind to your body, which is why it is so popular amongst pregnant women. Dedicated time practicing prenatal yoga gives us the uninterrupted opportunity to show some love to our bodies and to connect with our growing babies.
Keira Shepherd is a certified yoga teacher living in Toulouse, France. Originally from the UK, Keira received a First-Class Honours degree in Education Studies at Oxford Brookes University after completing her dissertation on the topic of using special technologies when teaching children with autism. Keira is a keen traveler and has spent a lot of time teaching a variety of different practices – such as yoga and scuba diving – around the world. Now settled in France, she is a mother of one and shares her passion for an environmentally sustainable life through her motherhood blog.