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YOGA | Poses Good for Third Trimester Yoga and Which Ones to Avoid

Poses Good for Third Trimester Yoga and Which Ones to Avoid

Reading Time: 5 minutes

BY: ISSA

DATE: 2024-01-31


The body undergoes many changes during pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association adds that these changes occur body-wide. A woman experiences changes to her respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems, just to name a few. That’s in addition to the often more visible changes to her breasts and abdomen. One form of exercise that can be helpful while in this period of change is prenatal yoga particularly when performed during the third trimester.

Why Do Prenatal Yoga in the Third Trimester?

Prenatal yoga refers to yoga during pregnancy. Thus, it’s sometimes called pregnancy yoga. Regardless of which name is used, research supports a yoga practice during pregnancy. Several studies have looked at yoga during the third trimester specifically.

One study involved 200 pregnant women who were at least 30 weeks into their pregnancy. Each one had no prior yoga experience. Half participated in 30-minute yoga sessions. The other half served as a control. What did researchers find?

The women who did yoga were less likely to use analgesics during labor. They were also less likely to have labor induced. Those performing yoga had a greater number of normal vaginal deliveries and fewer cesarean sections. They also had shorter labor, better pain tolerance, and a lower likelihood of the baby being born with a low birth weight. After the birth, the yoga group reported feeling more comfortable.

A smaller-scale study also found positive results with third trimester yoga. Namely, participants had significantly fewer pregnancy-related complaints after doing yoga in the months preceding birth than before beginning a yoga practice. According to the data, their complaints were reduced by half.

Another study suggests that prenatal yoga may help improve mental health. This analysis of 10 reviews reports that, when compared to controls, prenatal yoga appears to reduce symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. This makes pregnancy yoga as good for the mind as it is for the body when preparing to give birth.

Guidelines for a Safe Yoga Practice During Pregnancy

Before going any further, it’s important to address the issue of safety. Generally, yoga is considered safe during pregnancy. That said, like any form of exercise, it may not be safe for every pregnant woman. This makes it critical to obtain approval from a healthcare professional before doing any type of exercise, prenatal yoga included.

Even if yoga is approved during the first or second trimester, it should not be assumed that it is also safe during the third trimester. Many things can happen that can potentially make yoga unsafe when close to giving birth. Keep in contact with the care provider at each step of the journey. This can help minimize any problems or risks.

Finally, many experts warn against doing hot yoga during pregnancy. Conversely, some researchers suggest that this shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule. Instead, many factors should be considered before making such a blanket recommendation. Again, this is where consulting a healthcare provider is beneficial. They can help ensure that pregnancy yoga is safe to engage in. 

Things to Remember When Doing Yoga During the 3rd Trimester

The third trimester of pregnancy can present a few challenges. Some of these are related to physical discomforts experienced close to childbirth. This includes lower back pain, heartburn, a harder time breathing, and more. Other challenges are related to a growing belly. This can make it more difficult or unsafe to get into certain yoga poses. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind when doing prenatal yoga from week 27 of pregnancy and beyond:

  • Try to strike a balance between a toned and relaxed pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles provide support for the uterus. They also support the bladder and bowel. Toning these muscles can make them stronger. However, a relaxed pelvic floor is important for those who want to deliver the baby via a vaginal birth. So, learn when to engage the pelvic floor as well as how to relax it when needed.

  • Listen to your body. If a particular prenatal yoga pose doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Trust yourself to know what’s right and not right for you when in a yoga class. Along the same lines, don’t try to push your body too hard. Focus more on following a safe yoga practice.

  • Make modifications as needed. Some yoga poses may be harder to get into when the baby is growing in size. Using props like a blanket or yoga block can help you get into proper form while reducing discomfort. An example is if you have pain in the lower back. If you’re unsure how to modify a yoga pose, ask the instructor. They can provide tips that can make the pose feel more comfortable. 

Poses Good for Third Trimester Yoga

What are the best yoga poses to do in the final few months of pregnancy? Here are a few to consider:

  • Bridge pose, which helps relieve the pressure on the pelvic floor

  • Child’s pose, with a bolster or blankets under the upper body for better support

  • Easy pose, to induce relaxation while using certain breathing techniques

  • Goddess pose, a good pregnancy yoga for opening the hips in preparation for birth

  • Head to Knee pose, which stretches the hamstring while promoting internal energy

  • Legs Up the Wall, using a bolster to elevate the upper body, which helps to reduce foot swelling

  • Reclining Bound Angle pose, also using a bolster to keep the upper body elevated

  • Side Corpse pose, which is also a good position for between uterine contractions

  • Wide Chair pose, which is good for building physical and mental stamina

For prenatal yoga poses that only work one side of the body at a time, be sure to do the same pose on the other side. One example is the Head to Knee pose. Do it with the right leg extended, then extend the left leg. This helps keep each leg balanced. 

Yoga Poses to Avoid in Late Pregnancy

There are also a few yoga poses that should not be performed in the third trimester. This includes poses that involve lying flat on your back. Any pose with this position should be modified so the upper body is elevated. Another option is to do the pose on your side, like with Side Corpse pose. (Place a bolster under the top leg for added support.) Yoga poses that involve a lot of abdominal stretching are also not recommended. 

Squat pose is another one that doesn’t belong in a third trimester yoga class. This is especially important if the baby is breached. This is because it could move the baby further into the birth canal in this position. 

Inversion poses like headstands and shoulder stands should also be avoided. Though, they may be recommended if the baby is breached. In this case, speak with your healthcare provider. Listen to their guidance as to whether inverting your body can help turn the baby.

Learn How to Develop and Lead a Prenatal Yoga Class

Teaching prenatal yoga can be an amazing experience. As a yoga teacher, you’re able to provide expecting mothers with the many benefits that yoga has to offer. You can also give them a sense of peace and calmness that is beneficial as they approach labor and delivery.

Yoga teacher training provides the skills needed to fill this important fitness role. You can then use this training to become a certified prenatal yoga instructor.

ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy offers teacher training in the form of a Yoga 200 course. This course is approved by the Yoga Alliance. It covers all aspects of teaching yoga—including those required to create and deliver prenatal yoga classes.

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