Prenatal yoga hip opener

Prenatal Yoga Hip Opener - The Output by Peloton

These Are the Prenatal Yoga Poses to Try During Each Trimester

As your body changes, certain poses offer the support and stability you need for a healthy, happy yoga practice.

By Colleen TraversFebruary 16, 2024


Staying active during pregnancy is important for both you and your baby. High-impact activities you may have enjoyed doing before pregnancy may feel a little different now though—and that’s why prenatal yoga poses are a great option. They’ll allow you to move in a way that supports your growing body, and can even prepare you for labor, delivery, and postpartum.

One of the unique things about a yoga practice—particularly prenatal yoga—is that it’s customizable. As you practice throughout your pregnancy, you’ll notice that certain poses you could do in your first trimester may prove to be difficult in your third. Here’s a look at which prenatal yoga poses are best for each trimester so that you can safely build on your yoga practice throughout your pregnancy.

Benefits of Doing Yoga During Pregnancy

“Yoga is a way to connect to yourself and your baby during pregnancy,” says Anna Greenberg, a Peloton yoga instructor.  “For me the biggest gift is feeling empowered and embodied.” 

Anna says that some of the physical and mental benefits of a prenatal yoga routine include:

  • Maintaining strength and flexibility during pregnancy

  • Relieving symptom discomfort that comes with pregnancy (like back and joint pain, headaches, and fatigue)

  • Optimizing the position of your baby as you prepare for labor

  • Creating a calm mental state

  • Learning breathing tools to help with challenging moments, including labor

Whether you’re an experienced yogi or brand new to the practice, prenatal yoga poses can provide benefits to athletes of all levels. Read this complete guide before you start your new routine.

First Trimester Yoga Poses

Your body is doing a lot in the first trimester of pregnancy, even though you might not be able to see it. That’s why Anna recommends sticking to the prenatal yoga poses that make you feel good: “For me, I loved hip-opening poses and Child’s Pose—always with a side of saltine crackers nearby!” 

If you feel OK, you can continue with your normal routine (for now), but remember that you may be dealing with pregnancy side effects like nausea and fatigue. So much of yoga is about connecting with and listening to your body. Tap into that mindset and be gentle with yourself during the first trimester. There may be days where you need to rest—and that’s fine! Practice when you can, but don’t force it if you’re feeling extra queasy. 

Pose to Try: Ankle to Knee

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position on your yoga mat.

  2. Place the left ankle on the right knee, making sure the left shin stays parallel to the mat. 

  3. Inhale for a count of three to five as you make your spine long. 

  4. Exhale for three to five counts.

  5. Repeat this breathing sequence two to three times and then switch legs, right knee over the left ankle and right shin parallel to the mat. 

Modifications/Safety Precautions

You may need a bolster if your tailbone is sensitive when sitting directly on the mat. And if you’re unable to place your ankle directly over the knee, Anna suggests making a “4-shape” instead. Here’s how to do this:

  • Place the left foot gently on the inside of the right upper thigh, with the right leg extended. (If you were to look at your legs from above, it would look like a number 4).

  • If you need a deeper stretch, fold forward into a Head to Knee Pose, or as far as you feel comfortable.

If you prefer to keep both legs bent in Ankle to Knee Pose but can’t bring your shin parallel (making the left knee go on top of the right ankle), keep it slightly raised. Place your hands under the left knee for support. This may provide a deeper stretch than making a 4-shape modification. 

Pose to Try: Pigeon

  1. Start in a Downward Dog. 

  2. Bring the right leg forward into a low lunge position with your shin touching and parallel to the mat.

  3. Extend the left leg straight back, the top of your foot resting on the mat.

  4. Stay in this position. Or for a deeper stretch, lower your body down so that your forearms are resting on the mat.

  5. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides. You can get out of this stretch by returning to downward dog before switching legs. 

Keep in mind: “For many people, Pigeon is less than ideal in later trimesters if there is any sacroiliac joint pain [which connect the pelvis and lower spine],” Anna says. “Doing asymmetrical hip openers such as Pigeon or Head to Knee can aggravate this.” 

Prenatal Downward Dog

COROIMAGE/ Moment via Getty Images

Second Trimester Yoga Poses

You may find you have more energy in your second trimester. As such, Anna suggests focusing on dynamic prenatal yoga poses that will help you build strength, stamina, and stability in your hips, legs, and glutes. A bonus: The fatigue and nausea you dealt with in your first trimester usually subsides too.

Even though you’ll have more energy, don’t forget to listen to what your body needs. Whether you’re doing a guided class or a solo flow, you may not be enjoying certain poses anymore. When this happens, let them be and focus on the ones that make you feel good. 

As your belly grows, Anna recommends using tools to support yourself, such as a yoga blanket or bolster and yoga blocks to prevent overstretching.

Pose to Try: Dynamic Squats

  1. Place a yoga block horizontally between the upper and inner thighs. Stand with your feet parallel and wide enough to feel comfortable and stable.

  2. Bend and straighten the legs, moving with your breath. Your arms should lift as you bend (like Chair Pose). 

  3. Keep the block held steady and practice energetically pressing the mat apart between your feet to activate the outer hip muscles.

Pose to Try: Supta Badha Konasana (aka Reclined Bound Angle Pose or Reclined Goddess Pose)

  1. Begin seated on the yoga mat with legs extended in front of you.

  2. Lay back on a bolster lengthwise, so that you feel the support from the lower back and spine up to your head.

  3. Bend your knees out, bringing your heels toward your pelvis and soles of the feet touching. You can place a yoga block under each knee for added support.

  4. Extend the arms to a wide T, palms facing up as you relax your muscles and breathe.

Second Trimester Yoga Modifications

In general the second trimester is all about support—and props! You’ll likely be doing more modifications for poses in this trimester than you were for the first.

“[For some poses], you may need to widen your stance to accommodate your baby,” Anna says. “Avoid backbends, closed twists, and lying flat on your back and stomach.”

“You can do certain supported backbends (like Camel Pose) with yoga blocks and a bolster to place your fingertips on behind you so that the stretch is in the upper chest and back,” she adds. “[With] twists you can widen your stance, use yoga blocks for support, and twist above the bra line. It’s all about creating the right amount of space and support.”

Strong standing poses will feel good in the second trimester, as will the hip opening poses you practiced in the first. If you have experience in balancing poses (such as Tree Pose, Half Moon Pose, or Warrior III) you may feel good doing these with extra support like yoga blocks. 

A note about Savasana: “From the second trimester on, you’ll no longer take Savasana lying flat on your back,” says Anna. “A supported Supta Badha Konasana is a great restorative posture that can be taken during Savasana, or Left-Side Lying Savasana is also safe.”

Third Trimester Yoga Poses

“In the third trimester I love to focus on preparing your body and mind for labor and delivery,” says Anna. “[This is the time] to do postures that optimize a baby’s positioning.”

Physically, you may be dealing with swelling and fluid retention. The third trimester can also increase leg cramps, caused by weight gain, circulation changes, and even dehydration. Restorative prenatal yoga poses will feel especially good in the third trimester to help with these aches and pains, especially ones that give your neck, shoulders, back, calves, and feet some much needed TLC.  

Other beneficial poses include a greatest hit from the first trimester: Hip openers.  

“Internally-rotated hip openers are so great during the third trimester as it opens the outlet of the pelvis,” Anna says. “This is a great position for birthing and it can also relieve pain and tension in the piriformis [the muscle that runs from the lower spine through the butt to the top of the thighs].”

Pose to Try: Knees Together Feet Apart

  1. With a blanket underneath the shins and knees for support, kneel on your shins.

  2. Using yoga blocks set up on the tall side for support for your hands, keep your knees together and feet apart.

  3. Stay center and for a deeper stretch, rock side to side. 

This move practices internal rotation and alleviates the tightness in the piriformis area. Anna says there’s so much tightness in this area because during pregnancy—and especially in the third trimester—the legs move more into an external rotation as the belly grows. By opening the outlet of the pelvis and relaxing the pelvic floor, you’re helping prep those muscles for childbirth. 

“This posture is a position that you could birth in,” Anna says. “There isn’t a huge amount of internally-rotated hip opening postures in yoga that are suitable for the very pregnant body. This is a position that I learned in my teacher training that feels so great.”

Modifications/Safety Precautions

One thing to keep in mind during all trimesters, including the third: When you’re pregnant, your body produces more of the hormone relaxin. This loosens the muscles, ligaments, and joints, so for all poses, you want to be cautious that you don’t overstretch, or go too deeply into the move that it strains the muscles. “This is not the time to go for a maximum stretch,” Anna says.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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