Prenatal Yoga Workout

5 moves that relax and re-energize.
Discovering yoga during pregnancy -- as your body changes and new life grows within you -- can be wonderful. Prenatal yoga adapts some traditional yoga postures, called asanas, in order to meet the needs and changes of pregnancy and helps tone muscles, improve posture and relieve stress and tension by training your body to relax.

You can do the asanas below (check with your doctor first before starting, just as you would with any exercise routine) as a series or you can "mix and match," depending on how you feel on a particular day. All the movements should be done gently, never forcing a stretch. Listen to your body to best determine which postures to do, how long to hold them, and the number of repetitions. During the movements, breath in slowly through your nose, feeling the air come into your lungs, and then breath out gently through your nose. Connect one breath to another fluidly.

1. Half neck rolls

Benefits: Relieves tension in the neck and shoulders. Relaxing.
Timing: Anytime.

Description: Begin in a standing or seated position. Inhale. As you exhale, bring your chin to chest. Inhale and bring head back up to center. Exhale, and bring your right ear towards right shoulder. Hold this position for approximately 15 seconds, breathing during this time. Inhale and slowly raise your head back to center. Exhale slowly and repeat movement with left ear and left shoulder.
Repetitions: Three times on each side.

2. Shoulder rolls

Benefits: Opens up the chest and upper back, relieves tension in shoulders and upper back. Relaxing.
Timing: Anytime.

Description: Begin in a standing or seated position. Rest fingertips of each hand on respective shoulder, thumb towards back. As you inhale, bring elbows forward and lift them towards the ceiling. Exhale and bring elbows back behind you and down. As elbows come forward, feel your back opening up. As elbows come back, feel you chest opening. Make three backward circles. Repeat three times in a forward motion.
Repetitions: Three circles in each direction.

3. Cat and cow

Benefits: Stretches back and strengthens abdominal muscles. Great for relieving aches in lower back. Relaxing and energizing.
Timing: Morning, afternoon or early evening.

Description: Get on floor on all fours. This is a great position because the baby is no longer resting against the nerves in your back. Bring hands forward, palms touching the floor, and raise your buttocks and back so you form a tabletop, with your hands under your shoulder and knees below hips. Inhale. Exhale and bring tailbone slightly back, bringing energy through your spine. Your back should be very slightly curved. Let your head hang down, looking at your knees. Inhale, bringing tailbone slightly forward as you lengthen your spine and lift head towards ceiling. Exhale and repeat.
Repetitions: Three times.

4. Child's pose

Benefits: Expands chest and opens up lower back. Relaxing.
Timing: Anytime.

Description: Go onto floor on all fours, open up the knees, toes together, heels separated. Sit back on heels. Lower yourself down onto forearms and lower forearms to the floor. Bring forehead to the floor. As your belly gets bigger, you can put a pillow under your forehead. Breath and relax. Stay in this position as long as it is comfortable, concentrating on slow, rhythmic breathing. Walk hands up to chest and inhale into sitting position.
Repetitions: Once.

5. Squats

Benefits: Strengthens legs and opens up pelvic area. Energizing.
Timing: Morning, afternoon or early evening.

Description: Inhale. As you exhale, bend knees and bring them over your toes. Lower your buttocks towards the floor. The soles of your feet should be flat on the floor as you go into your squat. Bring elbows to the inside of your knees and bring hands into prayer position. If this position is too strenuous on your legs, sit on a pillow. Keep back straight and hold for about 20 seconds. Bring hands behind you, sit on your buttocks. Stretch your legs and move them up and down to release any tension.
Repetitions: Once, increasing the length of the hold as you get more comfortable with the position.

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