Pregnancy is known to bring on a multitude of aches and pains. When pregnant, the hormone relaxin is released throughout the body, especially the pelvic area, which causes ligaments and joints to loosen. This creates instability in the spine, leading to back pain. During the second trimester as your belly grows bigger, even more strain is placed on the lower back and hips. My back pain began towards the end of my first trimester with a tight thoracic spine area. I had spent so much time hunched over on the couch and in bed suffering from morning sickness that my upper back was constantly in pain. Around week 18 when I started gaining more weight in my belly, my lower back, especially my sacrum began hurting from the constant pull forward. Prenatal massages and chiropractic care helped, but I was in need of relief 24/7. No one can be massaged around the clock, but there are some things we can do on our own time for pain relief. I found the following prenatal yoga poses gave me a lot of relief when done daily. Even if you are not pregnant, these poses are great for improving your posture and relieving pain and stiffness.
5 Prenatal Yoga Poses for Back Pain Relief
1. Malasana– Lengthen your pelvic floor, open up your hips and relieve tension in the lower back. With your feet turned out a little wider than hip distance, bend your knees to squat, dropping your hips all the way down to the floor. If this is very uncomfortable for you or you cannot keep your heels down on the floor, place a block or two underneath to sit on. Your knees should be directly over your toes. Place your hands together at your heart center and use your elbows to press your knees away from each other, opening the hips even more. Hold this pose for one minute.
2. Double Pigeon With Side Bend- This is one of my go-to pregnancy moves because it is a hip opener, side, lower back, piriformis and glute stretch all in one. Sit on the floor cross legged with your right shin stacked on top of your left. Aim to get your right foot over your left knee and your right knee over your left foot. If you are not able to relax your right hip enough to allow your right knee to lay on top of your left foot, you can just sit cross legged without stacking your shins. Lean forward for a deeper stretch on your glutes.
After relaxing into this position for a minute, take your right hand and place it on the floor by your side as you stretch your left arm up and over your head. If you are flexible enough, lower your right forearm to the floor. You can play with this stretch to reach different areas of your lower back and side by leaning slightly forward or back. Make sure to anchor your left hip on the ground at all times to really lengthen the entire left side body. Hold this stretch for 1-2 minutes before switching sides.
3. Wide Legged Forward Fold- Decompress your spine and stretch your hamstrings for lower back pain relief. Stand with your legs in parallel wider than your hips. Fold forward at the hips with your legs straight. Place your hands on the floor for support, or if you can, cross your arms above your head and allow your head to hang, releasing the tension in your neck and shoulders. Hold for a few deep breaths, making sure to come up slowly to prevent light headedness.
4. Chest Opener Against Wall– A tight chest can also create back pain by pulling on the upper back muscles. Stretch the front body using a wall. Stand sideways with the right side of your body facing the wall. Split your legs so that your right leg is forward and left leg is back. Place your right arm against the wall either with a bent elbow at 90 degrees or straight behind you at shoulder height palm against the wall. Slowly lunge forward on your right leg as you rotate your torso to face forward in the same direction as your feet. The closer you are to the wall, the deeper the stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
5. Legs Up The Wall– Take pressure off of your spine, reduce leg and feet swelling (a common pregnancy symptom), and calm the nervous system for all-over pain relief. Kneel down on the floor facing away from the wall. Sit on your butt and roll to one side so that your hips are up against the wall as close as possible. Lift your legs up onto the wall and adjust as needed. If you feel too much strain in your hamstrings, move away from the wall. If you are early on in your pregnancy you should be able to lay flat on your back. It’s recommended that towards the end of your second trimester and during your third that you don’t spend too much time flat on your back to prevent unnecessary pressure on the vena cava which could decrease blood flow. You may also just be uncomfortable lying flat on your back with the extra weight in your midsection. In this case, place a bolster or cushion underneath your back. Lift your head slightly higher than your heart with an extra pillow or yoga blocks underneath the bolster. Stay in this pose for several minutes. The longer you can relax into this one, the more beneficial it is, so close your eyes, breathe deeply and enjoy!
Have you had back pain relief from doing yoga? What are some of your favorite prenatal yoga poses?
More prenatal exercises: Soar Through Rocky Pregnancy Symptoms With Full-Body Prenatal Pilates (Video)
Related: 4 Easy Inversions That Banish Back Pain & Improve Posture
4 Stretches For Lower Back Pain and Stiffness (Video)
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Photo: Crystal Chin