During stressful times, yoga can be a soothing practice that helps tensions in your body to melt away. Maryam Karim, a Los Angeles-based yoga instructor and doula, shares a practice she offers expectant mothers for just that purpose. This sequence focuses on gentle chest, hip, and back openers to strengthen and mobilize your body. Not expecting? Not a problem. Try this sequence anytime to feel better fast.
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Find a comfortable seated position. You could sit on a yoga block to help you lengthen your spine, or sit against a wall or on a chair. Relax your shoulders and abdominal muscles. Place your palms on your belly. Take a deep breath in and out through your nose. Keep your hands on your belly, connecting with your baby. Repeat this breath cycle at least 5 times. While maintaining connection to your baby, I invite you to create a mantra for your pregnancy and birth. For example: “I listen to what my body needs” or “My body is the perfect home for my baby.”
See also: Breathing Techniques to Help You Relax
Neck and Shoulder Movements
In your same comfortable seated position, start with slow breaths as you roll your head back and forth, right and left, and in circles clockwise and counterclockwise. Next Roll your shoulder in these same positions back and forth, up and down, and in circles.
See also: How to Stay Safe in Neck Rolls
Seated Side Bend
Take a deep breath in, interlace your fingers and exhale as you reach your arms up to the sky. Next, inhale as you place your right hand on the floor by your right hip and exhale as you stretch into your side bend, resting your left hand behind your head. Repeat on the other side. Move through this cycle 3–5 times.
See also: The Anatomy of Side Body Stretches
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
You can do this seated or lying down. Place your legs out in front of you, with the soles of your feet pressing together and your knees moving apart. Inhale, then exhale and draw your heels toward your pelvis. Fully relax your inner thighs. If seated, hold your feet, ankles or shins. Keep breathing as you relax into this pose for about a minute.
Here are recycled foam yoga blocks that can support your legs in this pose.
See also: Bound Angle Pose, Step by Step
Marjaryasana and Bitilasana (Cat/Cow Poses)
Come onto your hands and knees with your wrists aligned under your shoulders and your knees under your hips, hip-width apart. Inhale, gently arch your back, and shift your gaze towards the ceiling (shown). Broaden your shoulders and draw them away from your ears. Exhale, and round your back. Repeat this cycle 3–5 times. Moving your spine can help alleviate and prevent back pain during pregnancy. As you flow, imagine your baby resting in the hammock of your belly.
See also: Cat Pose
Parsva Balasana (Thread the Needle Pose)
From your hands and knees, slightly engage your abdominal muscles to hug your baby gently while you reach your right arm out to the side and thread it along the floor under your bent left arm until your right shoulder is on the floor. Release your right ear to the floor, or, if necessary, a prop like a yoga blanket. Rest here for 3–5 breaths. Slowly press back up to your hands and knees and repeat on the left side.
Need a place to rest your head or shoulder in this pose? Try this yoga blanket.
See also: Yoga Poses by Trimester
Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)
Come onto all fours. On an exhale, move your buttocks halfway toward your heels. Keep your arms active as you place your forehead to the floor and relax your neck. Press your hands down and stretch through the arms while pulling your hips towards your heels. Feel your spine lengthen as you breathe into your back for at least 30 seconds.
For more support in this pose, try placing a bolster under your torso.
See also: 4 Ways to Modify Extended Puppy Pose
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
Begin in all fours and place your hand on your blocks shoulder-width apart, chest lifting, arms extended and engaged. Breathe in, then, on and exhale, step your right foot under your chest, aligning your right knee over your right heel. Inhale, then, as you exhale, extend your left leg behind you into a high lunge. Feel a comfortable stretch in your groin and stay here for 3–5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
See also: Low Lunge Basics
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose)
Come into all fours with your hands shoulder-width apart. Bring your left knee forward and place it on the floor just behind and slightly to the left of your left wrist, with your shin on a diagonal and your left heel pointing toward your right frontal hip bone. Now bring awareness to your right leg. Extend it behind you with your quadriceps (front thigh muscles) facing the floor. Tuck your toes and straighten your right leg so your thigh and knee come off the floor. Place a yoga block, bolster, or a rolled up blanket under your right hip. Relax your knees onto the floor and untuck your toes. Stay here for 3–5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
This is the end of this sequence. Feel free to get into Savasana for a few minutes of relaxation. Namaste!
See also: Melt Tension With Pigeon Pose