You’ve made it past the morning sickness. You’re well past that awkward stage where people can’t tell if you’ve just gained a little around the middle or are growing a person. You now recognize those jabs and pokes and welcome them with gratitude (annoying while you’re trying to sleep, yes, but reassuring signals that you’ve got a healthy baby growing in there!). By now, you’ve probably already downed that disgusting “fruit punch” glucola like a fraternity boy doing shots during rush week (chug! chug! chug!). You’ve made it to the third trimester. Congratulations, Mama! Things are starting to get real.
While you’ve probably been envisioning your nursery and imaging what life would be life with an infant in tow for a while, now is the time most mamas start to shift their attention a bit toward preparing themselves for the indescribable (and often unpredictable) experience of birth and beyond. Maybe you bought lots of books or enrolled in a birth education class. These are wonderful things to do. But there’s no better way to prepare both body and mind for birth than a complete yoga practice (including postures, breath, mindfulness practices, meditation, and philosophy study).
Note: The following pose sequence includes some of the best yoga poses for the third trimester, not just because they can help get your body ready to push a baby out, but also because they can prepare you mentally for whatever might happen. Yoga is the best exercises for pregnancy there is because it prepares your mind. Will it guarantee that you’ll be able to have an easy birth? Nope! Sometimes babies have other plans. And yoga’s focus on letting go and letting things unfold can a comfort to mamas even when things don’t go as planned.
Best Yoga Poses for the Third Trimester
1 Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Start on hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Open your knees wide, but keep your big toes touching. Take a big inhale. With an exhale, lower your hips toward your heels and let your forehead rest on the floor with your arms extended out in front of you.
Modification: As your belly grows, this position might become uncomfortable. Try modifying the pose by supporting your torso on a bolster or a stack of folded blankets.
2 Marjaaryasana (Cat) and Bitilasana (Cow) with Tail Wag
Start on hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. With an inhale, reach your chest forward as the heads of your shoulders move back toward your hips. Exhale, round the back and look in toward your baby. Complete a couple of rounds with your own breath. Then, come back to a neutral spine. Keep the rhythm of your breath going, but move your hips from side to side, as if you were a dog wagging its tail. Feel any tense or tight spots in your torso and feel free to tap into your mother’s intuition and linger for an extra breath in any position that feels good.
3 Low Lunge
Bring your thumbs to touch in front of you and take as many little steps as you need to in order to get your right foot forward to the right of your right hand. From here you might want to bring your hands or fingertips up onto blocks for support. Inhale, reach your chest forward so that your spine is long. Exhale and soften your shoulders, face, tongue, and jaw. Stay here for two to three slow, deep breaths.
4 Utthan Pristhasana (Rocking Lizard Pose)
Tuck your back toes under and begin to straighten the back leg, lifting the knee away from the floor. Keep your hands on or, if you want to go deeper, you can bring your forearms to the blocks with your elbows under your shoulders. As you take a few deep breaths, gently rock yourself forward and backward, or in a gentle circular motion. It’s okay to turn your right toes out slightly and let your knee open to the right a bit. Imagine you are rocking your baby, who is resting in the hammock of your belly, to sleep. After a few deep breaths, lower your back knee back to the floor.
Modification: Leave the back knee on the floor and rock your hips from side to side, or in a gentle circular motion.
5 Malasana (Garland Pose)
If they’re not already, turn your right toes out to the right slightly and let your knee open. Take as many little steps as you need to in order to step your left foot forward, coming into a squat. Bring your hands together in front of your heart in Anjali Mudra, and keep your torso as upright as possible while you use your elbows to gently guide your knees apart and back.
Modification: If this position is uncomfortable, put a blog under your sitting bones for extra support.
6 Malasana with shoulder opener
Keep your legs Malasaana. Reach your hands toward the floor and in front of you between your legs. Get as low as you can comfortably and reach your right hand out to the right. (If possible, your right shoulder will be underneath your right knee.) Turn your right palm down and let it rest on the floor. Lift your left hand up toward the sky for a gentle twist. Stay here for a breath, then come back to center and practice the twist again to the other side.
7 Utthan Pristhasana (Rocking Lizard Pose)
Keep your left leg bent deeply, and take as many steps as necessary to get your right leg back behind you for Rocking Lizard Pose with the other foot forward (see Step 4).
8 Low Lunge with other foot forward
Lower your back knee to the floor, straighten your arms if they are bent, and reach your chest forward lengthening your spine.
9 Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
Come back to hands and knees with your wrists stacked under your shoulders. Step your right knee forward to the inside of your right wrist. Make sure your right foot is active, so the top of the foot is pressing into the floor and your toes are flexed. With an inhale, come up onto your fingertips to lift the chest and lengthen the spine. As you exhale, slowly lower your torso toward the floor. If you’re further on in your pregnancy, you might be more comfortable staying relatively upright. But, if you have room to go further without compressing the belly, you might rest your head on a bolster, blocks, stacked fists, or even directly on the floor beneath you. Stay for at least five breaths, then repeat on the other side.
10 Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Come to sit up. Stack two bolsters behind you into the shape of a T (the top bolster should be oriented in the same direction as your yoga mat with the end closest to you on the floor and the side furthest away suspended in the air a bit like a ramp (see How to Use Props to Get Comfy in Restorative Poses). Sit with your sacrum touching the base of your bolster support. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall out to the sides, resting on the floor. Then, lie back onto your bolster support. Open your arms out to your sides to open the chest, or bring one hand to your heart and one hand to your belly to feel your breath and connect with your baby. Stay here for five breaths or longer.
11 Side-Lying Savasana (Corpse Pose) Lying on the left side
Lay your bolsters down side by side on the right side of your yoga mat (again oriented in the same direction as your mat). Then, come to lay on your left side. Stretch your left arm up and use it as a pillow to rest your head. Bend your right knee to about 90 degrees and rest the knee, shin, and foot on the bottom bolster. Let your right arm rest on the top bolster. Close your eyes and relax your muscles. Stay here for five minutes or longer if time allows.