Explore safe prenatal yoga poses for the first trimester to reconnect to your body, build stability and release tension during this powerful time of growth and change.
I want to start by saying that I am not a doctor. However, with prenatal yoga training, I have had the opportunity to safely teach yoga to pregnant women attending my classes. I have witnessed their strength and learned techniques to provide more comfort and space. Now, as I embark on my own journey of having a child, I am excited to share some of the poses and tips that I often teach to my students — and that I’ve explored in my body during the first trimester.
The first three months are full of changes in the body (and mind), but every experience is unique. Some people have nausea, tender breasts, bloating, fatigue, a heightened sense of smell or mood swings. During this time, babies also begin to develop major organs and systems, fingernails and toenails, and bones. The human body is truly incredible! It can also be a time of mixed emotions. I often experienced joy, gratitude, overwhelm and a bit of fear — sometimes all before stepping out of bed. I found that meditation, journaling and yoga helped me navigate these changes with more ease. The more I reflected and listened to my body, the more I began to understand what techniques and movement patterns were safe and helpful during the first three months of pregnancy.
I filmed a sequence of yoga poses that I often teach to my students during their first trimester and that I practiced frequently to release tension. While they are generally safe for the first trimester, it is important to listen to your body, rest when needed, and use props that help to support your practice. I recommend having two yoga blocks (or thick books), a blanket and a bolster (or long pillow) set up near your mat. Make sure you are cleared by a doctor before exercising.
Yoga Poses to Try:
1. Child’s pose (balasana) or puppy pose/melting heart pose (anahatasana) with blocks:
This posture can help relieve stress and reduce nausea.
Place a blanket underneath your knees
Kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width distance apart or wider. Touch your big toes together
Sit your hips back toward your heels
Reach your arms forward. You can place your hands or arms on blocks to elevate the ground
Rest your forehead on the mat or a block
2. Cat/Cow (Marjariasana/Bitilasana)
Gentle flexion and extension of the spine releases tension in the shoulders and upper back.
Place a blanket underneath your knees
Begin on all fours in a table top position (bharmanasana) with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. You can place your hands on blocks to elevate the ground and create more padding
As you inhale, open up through your chest, while keeping your belly and lower spine in a neutral position (bitilasana)
As you exhale, gently round your spine and release tension in your neck. Maintain a softness in your belly (marjariasana)
You can add gentle hip circles as you continue to extend and flex the spine
3. Downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana)
Downward dog lengthens the backs of the legs and can help with sciatica if the baby is pressing on the sciatic nerve.
From table top (bharmanasana), spread your fingers wide, making an “L shape” with your thumb and index finger
Walk your feet back a few inches and tuck your toes. You can step the feet wider to create more space for the hips and belly
Lift your hips toward the ceiling and lengthen your spine
Release tension in your neck
You can keep your knees bent as much as you need to keep the length in your spine
4. Low lunge (anjaneyasana)
This pose helps build stability and strength, while stretching the back hip flexor.
From downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana), shift forward, bend your right knee and step your foot in between your hands
Place a blanket underneath your back knee and lower your knee down to the mat. Your back toes can be tucked or the top of your foot can rest on the mat
Reach your arms up. Lower your shoulders away from your ears
5. Warrior 2 (virabhadrasana II):
Warrior 2 strengthens the legs and builds stability in the lower body.
From low lunge (anjaneyasana), lift your back knee up off the mat. Pivot your back heel down so the outer edge of your back foot is parallel to the back of your mat
Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot
Keep your front knee bent, facing forward and aligned with your front ankle
Open your hips to the side of the room
Reach your arms in opposite directions to the front and back of the room. Face your palms down and spread your fingers wide
Roll your shoulders away from your ears
Gaze over your front fingertips
6. Goddess pose (utkata konasana)
Goddess pose opens the hips and strengthens the legs.
From warrior 2 (virabhadrasana II), come into a wide squat with the toes facing outward at an angle
Reach your arms out to the sides with your elbows bent like you are holding platters
Gently begin to pulse up and down to build strength
7. Standing figure 4 (eka pada utkatasana)
Practicing balance throughout pregnancy helps build stability and strength in the legs and ankles. This pose also opens the hips and can alleviate sciatica pain.
Start standing in mountain pose (tadasana)
Cross your right shin over your left thigh making a figure 4 shape
Flex your right foot to protect your knee
Sit your hips back to deepen the stretch
Bring your hands in a prayer position at your heart
Broaden your collar bones and lengthen through your chest
You can choose a spot in front of your mat that is not moving to focus your gaze on
You can place a hand on the wall or a chair nearby for support
8. Easy twist (parivrtta sukhasana)
Gentle twisting from the mid-part of the spine allows the chest to open, while maintaining space in the belly.
Take a cross-legged seat in easy pose (sukhasana) on top of a blanket for cushion
Keep your spine tall
Begin gently twisting from the mid-spine (rib area). Keep your naval facing forward to maintain space in the belly and avoid twisting from the lower back
9. Bridge pose (setu bandha sarvangasana)
This pose allows the shoulders and chest to open.
Transition onto your back
Bend your knees and plant your feet on the mat hip distance apart
Reach your arms toward your feet
Walk your feet close to your fingertips
Gaze up at the ceiling and rest your head on the mat
Firmly press your feet into the mat as you lift your hips
When your hips are lifted, you can clasp your hands behind your back and roll your shoulders underneath for a deeper chest opener
You can also slide a block underneath your lower back (sacrum) and rest your weight on the block for a more restorative variation
10. Happy baby (ananda balasana)
Happy baby helps open the hips and release tension in the lower back.
Lay on your back
Bend your knees and gently hold the outsides of your shins or the outsides of your feet
Let your tailbone melt toward the mat
Drop your shoulders away from your ears
Relax your head and neck on the mat
11. Reclined bound angle pose/queen’s pose with a bolster (supta baddha konasana)
You can use this as the final resting pose to open the hips and chest.
Use two blocks to create a sloping platform. Place one block near the top of your mat on the highest or medium height. Place another block an inch or two below on the medium or lowest height. Make sure the blocks aren’t too far apart so they can support the weight of the bolster
Lay the bolster vertically on the blocks to create a slope
Sit with your sacrum touching the bottom of the slope
Bend your knees and touch the soles of your feet together. Let your knees open to the sides. You can slide blocks or rolled blankets underneath your knees for additional support
Lay back on the bolster. You can place your hands on the ground or on blocks with the palms facing up. Or you can place one hand on your heart and the other hand on your belly to feel the breath rise and fall
When you are ready to come out of the pose, bring the knees back together. Use one arm to brace your body as you roll to one side and press yourself up
12. Legs up the wall (viparita karani) with a bolster
You can use this as the final resting pose to open the chest and improve circulation in the feet and legs.
Place a bolster or long pillow up against the wall. The pillow should be parallel to the wall
Sit on the bolster. Align one side of your body with the wall
Begin to gently lower your back down as you lift your legs up the wall
Place your arms on the ground with your palms facing up or place one hand on your heart and the other hand on your belly to feel the breath rise and fall
When you are ready to come out of the pose, lower your legs down as you bend your knees. Gently bring both legs to one side and press yourself up
Common Misconceptions About Yoga Poses During the First Trimester
There can be confusion around the “do’s and don’ts” of yoga during pregnancy, especially as your baby continues to develop. Below are a few poses you may have heard not to practice. However, during the first trimester, they can be safe when practiced with awareness, alignment and props (as long as your doctor doesn’t advise differently). Ultimately, it is important to listen to your body and modify or come out of the pose if a position feels uncomfortable.
Backbends: During the first trimester, backbending may or may not feel like a movement you want to explore. If your body is craving gentle heart-opening, backbends can be safe to perform when initiating the movement from the mid-spine (chest and rib area)
Twists: While I don’t recommend deep twists during pregnancy (because you want to maintain space for your belly and growing baby), it can be safe to explore open, gentle twists from the rib cage area
Laying on your back: In the second and third trimesters, lying on your back may compress a major blood vessel that takes blood to your uterus, making you feel dizzy and possibly reducing blood flow to your fetus. However, in the first trimester, it is generally safe to lay on your back in postures if it feels comfortable for your body
The first trimester of pregnancy is a potent time to connect with your body, develop curiosity, embrace change, explore spacious movements and practice self-care. I am here to support you during this journey. Leave me a comment below and let me know how these yoga postures felt. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about a one-on-one session, send me a message using the contact form at the bottom of my homepage or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!
With love and gratitude, Shannon