Yoga for Pregnancy: 2nd Trimester by Jenn Falk photos by Cara Brostrom
Pregnancy welcomes a journey unlike any other, and once youâ€™ve hit the mark of around 14-16 weeks...the second trimester and the pregnancy itself suddenly become very real. Every womanâ€™s experience remains so very particular to them as an individual. And with it there are SO many resources, opinions, research articles, and advice to navigate. Yoga can be an important tool to aid a woman through this incredible yet strange transition for body, mind, spirit. Continuing a steady yoga practice throughout pregnancy and into motherhood is a way into and through yourself along the ups and downs of the experience. Yoga is not only a way to maintain harmony in your spirit, but to stay at ease with the constant changes in your physical state. The journey of growing a child, and then having to nourish and care for them...can be full of both exuberant joy and interesting unknowns! The more at ease with yourself you are, the smoother transition you can have. Again, the experience is so perfectly unique to every woman. We often forget this fact in our media- driven culture. In addition, there are so many varying opinions out there about yoga in relation to pregnancy (among ALL of the other opinions surrounding pregnancy, birth, and parenting). The approach offered in this second trimester guide is meant to provide a grounded, honest, and open outlook for inspiration. The aim is to encourage you to be yourself, to love yourself, and to listen to what you and baby know is best.
Short introduction of my pregnancy experiences for background insight: Both of my pregnancies were risk-free, non-invasive, healthy terms with midwives, and birthed naturally, in a hospital. I was 29 when birthing my first son and 33 years old with my second (pictured in this guide near the latter end of my 2nd trimester). I had already been practicing yoga for a decade when birthing my first son. I relay this information so that you can take note of my background, age, and pregnancy circumstance. Comparison is the worst when pregnant...and yet all women do it a little. I want you to know that I had ideal experiences, and even still it wasnâ€™t always full of energy and heart blasts. I had beautiful births coupled with a lot of work and intuition on my end to support myself in the proper ways. Pregnancy, for me, was not super easy, at least physically...but also not a complete drag. In Western society, we live in these parts of the world with safe and wonderful birthing access, but often with a lot of stigmas attached and hardly any feminine intuition respected. (It is getting better...yes!) The worst part about pregnancy (in American culture), is the lack of emotional support offered, and all of the judgments and competition that come about when dealing with birth and then motherhood in all of its complicated facets. The realization is that we, as women in our own communities have the power to unite and support one another through the process of becoming a mother. This is where I have found the yoga practice to merge as a pathway to support and acceptance. In sharing my journey with other local mamas and teaching prenatal yoga, I see the shifts and beauty that can come from vulnerable truths of so many amazing pregnancy, birth, and mothering experiences. Becoming a mama has been my largest threshold to cross as a woman to date. In fact, I believe going from person to parent is one of THE biggest shifts
anyone can have. Itâ€™s the ultimate growth experience that forces one to change and become responsible for anotherâ€™s life while still taking care of, trusting, and honoring what it is that we, the parents, are. The following guide offers posture/sequence ideas, and insights I present for during the second trimester as your inspiration. You can create your own practices from them, add to them, and grow from them. The aim is to show that you can stay both strong and soft through the pregnancy experience. We all come from different yoga backgrounds and different life backgrounds. We all have different body types, and in pregnancy we all gain weight unique to our baby and body. Keep this in mind and may you find love and beauty from the practice and from this guide. Ultimately, your body and your baby are your biggest teachers through it all.
*All professional photographs in this guide are copyright Cara Brostrom Photography and were shot when I was in my 6th month of my 2nd pregnancy. *All material in this guide is copyright Jenn Falk Yoga. *You can find me at: www.yoginijennfalk.com and on Instagram as @jennpfalk I teach yoga in the Somerville-Cambridge-Medford communities of Boston, MA.
The second 3 months
This time of the pregnancy is
with diastasis recti. So itâ€™s fine in this
typically the most easeful when it
stage of pregnancy to practice plank-
comes to movement, and yoga. You
to-down dog in transitions and to
are now becoming clearly pregnant
keep some overall core strength, but
and hopefully moving beyond the
be very mindful and donâ€™t strain.
first trimester hormonal disruptions
The smaller images are:
that cause sickness and extreme
(1) toe squat, (2) supported warrior
fatigue. Continue to listen to your body and baby first and foremost. Some days you will be up for a flowing, energizing, and
3, and then (3) supported eye of active practice. Other days it will be meditation and yin. In the following pages Iâ€™m providing you some inspiration for both styles of practicing. On this page...you see Plank Pose (only hold this as a transitional pose...as the load of the baby on your abdominal wall is a precursor to the tissues expanding
needle/figure 4 shape, at the wall.
Yin Postures Begin by sitting in a comfortable,
Next, you might take some moments
meditative seat. In photo 1, I’m using a
to shake it all out, and then open the
bolster against the wall to sit with ease
legs out to a seated straddle pose/
for 5 minutes or more to begin with
dragonfly (image 4). You can stay sitting
some breath awareness/meditation. Once
on your blanket or support. Place your
you are comfortable, take a moment to
hands behind your thighs for a moment
sway the hips/torso a bit, shake out the
to aid your arms in straightening out
shoulders and neck and then settle in to
your torso, flex your feet and get rooted
your breath. Bring first finger and thumb
in your seat. Then move your hands to
to touch and rest them at your belly. This
the inside of thighs and gradually relax
may connect you to your inner guidance
your feet and legs. Stay curious and soft
and to your baby in a sweet way. Aim to
with your breath here for 3-5
follow your breath for 5-10 minutes here
minutes...perhaps moving the arms
as a way to check in with yourself and to
further forward if your lower back feels
welcome some peace.
okay to do so. When ready to come out
Next, try coming to your hands and
of the shape, do so in slow motion. Lean
knees for some cat/cow connection, and
back onto your hands and begin to bend
then settling into a supported child’s
knees, place feet to the mat and then
pose. In photo 2, I’m using 2 blocks
rock the knees side to side to shake it
stacked under a bolster to provide a cozy
slant and then a blanket for under my
Finally, you’ll find yourself moving
knees. You can do this with pillows at
into swan/sleeping swan pose (image 5).
home, or anything that might offer you
You can get there from your seat by
some room for your baby and belly. Stay
leaning to the left and sending your right
for 3-5 minutes to find a grounded
leg back behind you to extend it out of
the hip. Move the left knee out as wide as
Then come to your seat and shake
your shoulder and prop your hips up as
your legs out. When ready, place the
needed so that your torso is level. Use a
soles of your feet together for butterfly
bolster or support under your arms or
pose (photo 3). You might sit on a
chest as well. Stay here with gentleness
blanket or even a pillow for added
and ease for 3-5 minutes, then lean back
support. Sit up tall with the natural
to the left to swing right leg around to
curve in your low back. You could also
the front and shake out before taking the
place supports under your thighs or
knees. Start with one hand over heart
End in a side-lying resting place or
and one at your belly. If you’d like, from
back in a meditative seat. Find a
there you might come forward a bit for
moment of gratitude for your current body and your baby.
some stretch and love into the tissues in your hips/legs, but only if comfortable. Stay for 3-5 minutes.
Tips for your Active Prenatal Yoga Practice: ~AVOID~ -rapid breathing or breath retention techniques -vigorous twists--(generally, gentle ones are fine, and you can also practice opening in poses the opposite way from the twist to create room for the belly) -vigorous and deep backbends (such as wheel pose or camel...unless you’re really used to them and feel okay) -putting full pressure directly on the belly once you're more into the 2nd trimester, and/or once it simply feels odd -most active inversions, (unless you are an experienced yogini practitioner and it still feels good and natural to take handstands, headstands, arm balances, etc.) -deep forward bends, and once in 2nd trimester (always fold forward with knees bent and legs as wide as needed) -trying anything new--(meaning, don’t take up vinyasa or power yoga now if you aren’t used to it) -pushing to your edge (yes, time to get less goal-oriented in your practice) -overheating and dehydration (skip those super hot and intense classes!) -teachers that push a fast-paced class and/or continue to enforce you to take all postures, when they might not know what it’s like to be pregnant with all of the ebbs and flows -intense core work--(but please continue core work, especially for your transversus abdominus...such as in side plank variations.) Mostly, I mean that it’s wise to begin to slow down a bit and stop doing sit-ups, jump backs, and the like. **please reference the work of Katy Bowman and Jill Miller (in the resource section of this guide) for all of the details on safely and effectively relating your entire core and your pregnant body
~DO~ -breathe very slow, deep, focused, and evenly (this will become more and more important as you near the actual birth!)
-welcome a more restorative, gentle practice at least a couple of times a week (this is a time for more surrender in your life, and less Go-Go-Go--especially if you're feeling extra fatigued or nauseous) -continue to attend public or online non-prenatal classes that are either: all-levels (or slow) vinyasa, hatha, or gentle/ restorative/yin -work your core in a safe way. Your inner core consists of the multifidus muscles in your back, your transversus abdominus along the sides of your abdomen, your pelvic floor, and your diaphragm. All of these areas can still be strengthened, and released as needed during pregnancy. (Non-crunches core work is fine throughout the pregnancy. Once your belly starts to stretch and you are into the 2nd trimester, then begin to modify more intensely and be mindful of your changing shape. All yoga will help keep the core strong for the birth, but stay mindful to how you feel. Allow your energy to soften around “being in shape” to being strong and connected.) -squat, squat, squat more than kegel, kegel, kegel. **again, read Katy Bowman’s work (see resource guide) for more detailed information -mindfully check-in with yourself every time you're on your mat. Some days will be better than others. Take it slow and listen.
Active Posture Ideas To practice yoga while pregnant is an
vitality and choose to practice in a
unforgettable experience. Your body is
more active hatha style, the following
changing each day and during this
pose suggestions may be something to
trimester is when you will beginto feel
follow and serve as inspiration for
the life inside you moving! So, seeing
you. There are many more shapes you
if you can still practice yoga in similar
can choose from, and there are
ways as before you had a baby in your
various ways to align oneself, or
body...can be tricky! If you’ve been
transition through the poses. This is
practicing yoga for many years (as I
when an in-person class can be
had before getting pregnant), then
helpful. Even so, may this guide serve
you might be surprised at some of the
you well in sparking some creative
things you can still do with the extra
movement and mindful resting states
weight and belly. I didn’t “flow” while
to aim for a balanced nervous system
pregnant in any vigorous manner, but
through the ebbs and flows that
I was still able to keep up with the
pregnancy can bring.
standing postures you will see pictured here. They helped me feel strong and steady, even if I had to move pose to pose and get into them slower and with more mindfulness. If you’re newer to the yoga practice, you may not want to try standing balance postures without the wall next to you, or you may skip certain shapes, such as supported cobra. An aim of the practice is get us more tuned in with ourselves. In that intuitive check-in on the mat, we will come closer to knowing how to birth our babies and how to handle anything that comes with the pregnancy or even motherhood. This is the gift of the practice, and the practice is a gift from yoga for the pregnancy. On the days you feel your
**Begin with your breath. Stand strong in mountain pose/upward salute (image 1)! Tree Pose (image 2). Spend 5 breaths on each side. Standing pigeon (image 3). Use blocks under hands, reach seat back and heart forward. 5 breaths on each side. Squat (image 4). Feet go as wide as pelvis, root down, left heart, stay mindful. Seated wide angle pose/butterfly (image 5). Breathe with ease as long as you need. You can fold forward a bit, or stay upright. *The following images can be done in sequence or you can pull shapes out and pick ones you wish you try. If a pose is on one side, repeat on other side, too.
Active Posture Ideas
Polar Bear/Melting Heart: Knees back, hips up, torso down
Table pose: knees lined with pelvis, hands with outer shoulder
Cow pose...you can then round a little into Cat pose...rotating a few
Alternate leg and arm extensions, from table
Down Dog-only hold 2-3
Alternate arm and leg extensions, from table
Three-legged Dog-only hold
Plank pose-only hold 1-2
Active Posture Ideas
Chaturanga/low push-upwith bolster support
Cobra pose-with bolster support
Side plank variation- with top leg as support
Standing wide-legged forward fold
Triangle pose-with block support
Eagle pose (you can also be in
Standing pigeon variationwith block support
Warrior 3 variation-with block support
chair pose with these arms)
Active Posture Ideas
Half Moon- with block support
Standing hand to foot pose-
Upward Salute, to Mountain pose
Fire log pose/double pigeonstack shins, feet and knees
Seated wide-leg fold/ dragonfly
Seated wide-leg side bend/ lateral dragonfly
Pigeon pose-with bolster support
Side-lying rest-on left side with bolster support
variation with open hip
Second Trimester insight: Once you’ve reached these middle months of pregnancy, you’re probably beginning to look deeper into how and where you’d like to birth your baby. There’s still adequate time to find the team you want for birth, and the classes you’d like to take in preparation. If it’s your first pregnancy, this idea can be quite overwhelming. Depending on where you live, your financial situation, and your health/ health of baby...the options for the actual birth can vary greatly. If you are lucky enough to have a wide array of options (home, birth center, hospital...?), then it becomes more about putting in some research time about what is important to you and perhaps to your partner as well. Once you’ve looked into the options, then it could be helpful to do a vision session with your partner or for yourself. Weigh out the pros and cons, and write out your fears and ideal situations. From that, you may have a clearer view of what scenario for the actual birth makes you feel the most comfortable. It can be really hard to decipher what you feel pressured to do and what expectations you have on yourself about the birth, versus what scenario actually makes you feel the most at ease and the most safe and comfy. What do I mean? Well, some women feel pressured by family (or themselves) to birth in the hospital when what they really want is a homebirth. Or some women feel they really want a non-invasive homebirth at all costs and harbor judgements toward hospital birth. The scenarios are endless (I’ve seen it all) and if you live in a place where you can pick your birthing option of choice, you’re lucky to get to do so and feel out the experience that will best suit you and your family. Some women really want a natural birth but end up needing an epidural in the end, or a C-section. I offer these examples now for the second trimester because I’ve found through all of my years working with pregnant women that the more we can face our fears, our expectations, the opinions of others, and the high standards we place on ourselves...the more at ease we can be with our actual birth when it happens. Birth is unpredictable. Birth is raw, primal and intensely beautiful. It’s a time where we have to somehow strike a balance between staying soft in heart/spirit (and relaxed in the pelvic floor), with strong in body and mind to stay focused and also flexible with whatever life brings to us in the moment. I feel strongly about letting women know that you are supported and never alone in your experience...no matter how you plan to birth! In addition to our physical fears and choices for birthing, I like to remind my prenatal yoga students that each one of them is in different life-emotional moments than the other. This can also play a large part in your choices and experience as a whole. A midwife or situation that works for one of you may not work for another. Some may be going through some high stress in their career or
going through intense life transitions all at once...and so all of this comes into play when choosing how to birth. It pays to use your mindfulness practices, like yoga, to truly listen to your intuition for what you crave and need. For example, my husband and I were on a big international trip when we decided that we wanted to both get married and see if we get pregnant. It happened! And so there I was getting married during my 2nd trimester just a few months after that intention! There was a lot to plan and many logistics/life shifts happening. I knew that I wanted the least invasive pregnancy and a natural/drug-free childbirth...but I decided to work with midwives in a hospital. This meant that all of the paperwork and finite logistics about childbirth were already taken care of. And I felt the most at ease, stress free, and safe in my heart about it all with a strong support team. And so it was. Fast forward to my second pregnancy. That time around, I ended up learning of some heartbreak between my parents and that they decided to separate (and later divorce) after 30 + years of marriage. So, in came another wave of strange emotional components and family dynamics that again, made me feel most at ease to stick with the same midwife-hospital team that had gone so smoothly the first time around. And, so it was! Of course we donâ€™t always know how or why our births happen in the ways that they do. But I do notice in my own experiences, and through watching/listening to scores of other women Iâ€™ve worked with, that when pregnant women choose the place/people/team for childbirth with openness and through a lens of feeling the most taken care of with the least amount of expectation, then usually the ideal birth outcome prevails. So perhaps these middle months are the time you begin to truly look into your current moment. Your current body. Is your pregnancy risk-free? Are you living close to family? Are you listening to others or to yourself? Are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself? Do you need a lot of support or will you thrive by having a team that backs off? Perhaps a little of both? Maybe all that you uncover is that you could use more journaling time, and more yoga to settle your nerves around birthing. Maybe you find that you do really want to switch your birth team and plans. We are lucky to live in a time when there are many choices and the best ones are made when the woman gets to freely choose from her own heart. From that place, the rest of the pregnancy and birth will unfold from a place of sincerity and trust, and this is part of natural life progression. There are always at least some unplanned moments, and some moments to get through/overcome during this whole experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum. No woman I have ever known has had completely smooth sailing in every way through all of the stages. You are never alone in your choices, or in your experiences. Truly. There is always another mama out there in this world who has/had a similar experience. In that thought, may you find the most comfort and love. May you enjoy and nourish yourself in this center moment of the pregnancy!
My Top Resources: There are tons and tons of books, teachers and websites one could list, however, these (listed in abc order by last name) are the ones that have most influenced me about movement during pregnancy, and overall health/lifestyle for a mom-to-be...
--Katy Bowman (Diastasis Recti, Move Your DNA, Alignment Matters) --Elena Brower (Art of Attention) --Tian Dayton (Journey Through Womanhood) --Hari Kaur Khalsa (A Woman’s Book of Meditation, A Woman’s Book of Yoga)
--Jill Miller (Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls, The Roll Model)
--Sarah Powers (Insight Yoga) --Aviva Romm (The Natural Pregnancy Book, Natural Health After Birth)
--Linda Sparrowe (Yoga Mama, The Women’s Book of Yoga and Wellness)
--Alissa Vitti (Woman Code)
--Yogaglo.com, for a wonderful array of online practices for pre and post-natal-teachers: Carole Westerman, Stephanie Snyder, Jo Tastula, Elena Brower
My personal birth team--Gratitude and Love: Cara Brostrom-- for saying YES to photographing me during every stage of my second pregnancy, so that I could both have photos for my own documentation and also for my vision to share with women in my own community and beyond. Youâ€™re a visionary artist and fellow mama who I feel honored to walk the path with. Thank you, thank you.
My sister, Laura--for being a sounding board as I shared things I wanted to share with my prenatal yoga classes and beyond. For being my friend and my sister, both with our boys to mother and our changing bodies and changing everything. Iâ€™m so grateful for you. And that you went first. Hehe.
The rest of my family--both my Pici family and the Falk family, for watching/supporting me as I learn and grow, for supporting our growing family, for aiding in my ability to teach and do what I love.
The Mt. Auburn Midwives in Cambridge, MA--for being just what I, personally, needed for the proper noninvasive and natural care during my pregnancies. For providing the wisdom and the support during both of my births in that they ended up being exactly perfect for me. And for helping so many in our community do the same.
ALL of YOU. The women in my community (and beyond) who have practiced yoga with me during your pregnancies, have emailed me, been on social media with me, and have trusted me to teach and hold space for you. YOU are the reason that I continue this work. Thank you for being a part of my life and itâ€™s an honor to share with you.
My dear husband, David, for your support that holds strong in how I want and need to share this practice. And for all the love. My amazing sons, Isak and Gus, who are my true and only teacher-gurus in this life.
From long-time yoga teacher, and mama of 2…Jenn offers up a simple guide for the middle moment of pregnancy, the second trimester! With some...
Published on Oct 6, 2016
From long-time yoga teacher, and mama of 2…Jenn offers up a simple guide for the middle moment of pregnancy, the second trimester! With some...