Prenatal Yoga: The Third Trimester

This video guided practice is for all levels, so it is suitable for beginning yoga practitioners as well as those with a lot of experience. It was created with a woman at the end of her third trimester in mind, incorporating breathing exercises, squats, and other hip openers. Check out my YouTube channel for more guided practice videos.

*This video and blog post assume a healthy pregnancy. If you have had complications of any kind, consult your prenatal healthcare professional before undertaking yoga or any kind of exercise.

In this final trimester, you are constantly aware of your baby. Not only can you feel every movement the baby makes inside you, your new shape begins to dramatically shape your movement. If you have been attending hatha or vinyasa yoga classes up to this point, you may find that you now need a practice more specifically tailored to a pregnant body.

The third trimester is a fairly safe time for the baby, as it is well-formed by now, but the baby’s rapidly increasing size puts a lot of stress on your body, squashing you on the inside and stretching you to the limits on the outside. As you practice yoga or participate in any exercise, remember that you can injure yourself much more easily in this state than other times in pregnancy.

You may feel clumsier, much quicker to lose your balance, even if you are a very experienced yogini. This is not surprising considering that your center of gravity has shifted because of your changed shape, and your joints are relatively unstable because of the relaxin hormone (more on relaxin in Prenatal Yoga: The Second Trimester). When you practice standing poses, even if they are not one-footed balancing poses, stand near a wall in case you need the extra support.

Exercise even more caution when it comes to overworking and overstretching your abdomen so you don’t push your abdominal muscles past their breaking point. Limit any abdominal activity to gentle hugs of the abdomen. If you haven’t already, you may stop backbending altogether in the third trimester. If backbending continues to feel both safe and beneficial, limit yourself to only the most gentle backbends.

In the third trimester, your range of motion is noticeably inhibited by your belly. You will need to take a wider stance for chair pose, downdog, standing forward folds (including poses like pyramid) and seated forward folds. Stepping forward and back into lunging postures will feel much more cumbersome. You will not be able to stretch as deeply in poses like seated wide angle forward bend and pigeon because your belly will hit the floor or your leg. Even if you do not normally use props, you will likely find blocks useful in standing poses like triangle and forward folds, and a strap around your foot may be nice to get the hamstring stretch in a seated posture like head-to-knee forward bend.

That sounds like a lot of limitations, and you may be wondering, “Well, what can I do in the third trimester?” Now is a good time to think of your yoga practice primarily as preparation for labor and delivery.

Giving birth is a long and very physical endurance event, so you certainly want to maintain as much strength and flexibility as you safely can. Chair pose, free standing or with your back against the wall for stability, and lunging poses like warriors I and II, are good poses to maintain strength in your legs. Squats like garland pose and goddess squat, as well as hip openers like bound angle and wide angle seated forward bend will help you attain flexibility that will serve you well during labor and delivery.

Yoga can also help you practice mental focus and calming techniques that will be necessary, especially if you are planning to have an unmedicated birth. Basic balancing poses like tree will not only strengthen your legs, they will help you develop concentration. If you don’t ¬†already, begin incorporating pranayama (breathing exercises) into your practice. Drawing your attention to your breath will divert your attention away from the discomfort of contractions, and certain types of breathwork literally slow your heart rate, thus relaxing your body and mind. Try inhaling through your nose to the count of five and exhaling through your nose to the count of seven to produce a calming effect.

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