Yoga for Pregnancy: 3rd Trimester and Birth by Jenn Falk photos by Cara Brostrom
Once the stage of 29 weeks of gestation is reached, the pregnancy begins it’s final prenatal trimester! This can feel like such a milestone because you’ve already made it through at least 6 full months of creating a being. Your belly is fully engaged in the process and there’s hardly any mistaking the pregnancy from the outside point of view. Every woman’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. 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 third 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.
Background: 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 3rd trimester). I had already been practicing yoga for a decade when birthing my first son. And, had already been teaching yoga (including prenatal yoga) for 6 years. 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 pretty ideal experiences, and even still it wasn’t always full of energy and heart blasts. I had beautiful births coupled with a lot of focus and intuition on my end to support myself in the proper ways. Pregnancy, for me, was not super easy (in the sense that I felt so physically different that my nonpregnant body)…but it was 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
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. It’s the ultimate growth experience that forces one to change and become responsible for another’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 third 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 the 8th-9th 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 third 3 months
The final stretch is here. You
Your yoga practice during this
know that at some point during this
trimester will most likely reflect the
final trimester (typically in the 9-10th
slowdown preparation. As your belly
month of pregnancy), the baby will
continues to expand and the loads on
arrive to the world! You begin to feel
your pelvis (and everything)
the changes and shifts as your baby
grow...mindful movement will be key.
makes larger movements from the
And a steady meditation practice
inside, drops into position around
through yin yoga could be just the
week 37, and your belly expands
much more than youâ€™d ever realize was possible. This is the time for more hip circles from table pose, walking, gentler movement, and welcoming a deeper slow-down mode. At some point there will be much more pressure in your pelvis and on your cervix, and you will feel the fatigue that begins to welcome the want for the chance to finally meet your baby.
thing to prepare for birth.
Supported Childâ€™s pose
Polar bear/melting heart pose
Circling/swaying from table pose
Cow pose (pelvic tilts from table pose)
Isometric table pose (use body force to stabilize to mat)
Plank pose (use as just a transition
Supported low pushup (knees down)
Tap belly to mat in low pushup and then press back to polar bear
pose and not for long hold)
Polar Bear (try some rhythmic pulses
Down Dog (hold for short transition moment)
Supported Side Plank
Funky thread the needle
Table pose circling/swaying/ stretching/breathing
Squat at the wall
Down Dog at the wall
Standing wide-leg fold, using wall for support
Supported/reclined pelvic tilts/stabilizing/resting
from supported pushup into polar bear)
Preparation for Birth At this point in the pregnancy
into that when the time comes.
the body is working hard to
The poses pictured here are
continue to allow for even
some more options to try daily
more load on the structure,
as you get nearer to the
while growing the baby to its
birth size and weight. Every woman will have varying symptoms during this phase and especially in the final weeks of waiting for baby to be ready to birth! This is a great time for the yoga practice to shift into yin energy gear. Even when practicing hatha poses,
-Reclined squat with props, (add any poses in this bolster set up that help you feel some release, like: letting the legs rest down the mat, or figure 4 pose while reclined on the props). -Seated wide-angle pose
you might approach them with
a gentler, longer hold, and
-Supported saddle pose or toe
compassion to your changed
squat with some side stretches
shape. Taking the time to hold
or shoulder stretches (think
poses that might feel intense
(think dragon lunge yin-style for 3 minutes) while observing
-Supported childâ€™s pose.
and focusing on the breath
can be just the preparation
You might even try to do some
needed for getting through
of these shapes while relaxing
active labor surges. If you can
in front of a film or tv series.
breathe through those shapes now, then you might just tap Page 7
Remember: -your birthing experience will be unique to you. -your due date is actually more like a due month. -your yoga practice is less important than your overall health and wellness. -you can do it. -you can trust yourself. -your breath is your most effective tool to get through the surges -you are love
â€œIn this way, every birth is a natural birth: each of us is part of nature, not separate from it, and nature is always stunning in its variety. Your birth, then, is part of the natural world, however it unfolds.â€? ~Lauralyn Curtis
One example of a Birth!
hours long. I pushed for about 30-40 minutes
So in the middle of August, I was 41 weeks
(second birth!) and then my August (Gus) released
pregnant, when I birthed my second child. It was
into the water and then onto my center to meet him
another midwife-supported natural birth in our local with such relief and love. hospital, but this time it was a water birth! After laboring at home with ease and support from my husband (and my mom there to watch our older child), the active labor portion was only around 2 Page 9
My Top Resources: There are tons and tons of books, teachers and websites one could list, however, these (listed in alphabetical order by last name) are the ones that have most influenced me about movement during pregnancy, and overall health/lifestyle/emotions for a momto-be… -Katy Bowman (her site, nutritiousmovement.com, plus her amazing books such as: Diastasis Recti, Move Your DNA, Alignment Matters)
--Elena Brower (her book and practices: Art of Attention for mind-body-spirit connection and preparation) --Tian Dayton (the book: Journey Through Womanhood for emotional-spiritual wisdom) --Hari Kaur Khalsa (A Woman’s Book of Meditation, A Woman’s Book of Yoga —for kundalini guidance and love) --Jill Miller (Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls, The Roll Model—for anatomy study and fascial release techniques) —Heng Ou (The First Fory Days: The essential art of nourishing the new mother) --Sarah Powers (Insight Yoga for wonderful yin yoga inspiration and background) --Aviva Romm (The Natural Pregnancy Book, Natural Health After Birth—for wisdom from an MD/ herbalist/midwife with a beautiful array of perspectives and wisdom) --Linda Sparrowe (Yoga Mama, The Women’s Book of Yoga and Wellness—for yoga practitioners who become mamas and are looking for practice inspiration) --Alissa Vitti (Woman Code—for connecting to your reproductive organs and your whole health in a female body) —www.yogaglo.com —for a wonderful array of online practices for pre and post-natal yoga-- Look for 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 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 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 to continue this work. Thank you for being a part of my life and itâ€™s an honor to share with you. My husband, David, for the support that holds strong in how I want and need to share this practice. And my amazing sons, Isak and Gus, who are my true and only teacher-gurus in this life.
Prenatal yoga postures, and supportive guidance for the end of pregnancy.