Yin Yoga | Prenatal Sequence

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Side Body Stretch - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence
Nancy Nelson

Hello yin family!

I hope you are doing well today. I’m excited to share this sequence as it feels particularly good in my body these days being now 31 weeks pregnant (29 weeks in these photos). Practicing yoga during my pregnancy has been such a gift. I was really sick the first 20ish weeks so I’m grateful to be feeling better and able to dive into this new version of my practice.

There was a time when I was resistant to having to adjust my practice… with the use of props, changing poses that don’t feel right or staying grounded when my ego told me I needed to fly. Through the years, it’s been yin that has broken down those walls of resistance and has opened me up to the sweet surrender into the truth of my practice. The journey into stillness that has allowed me to loosen my grip on what my practice looks like and allow myself to go deeper into how it feels on a mental and spiritual level – instead of only dwelling in the physical. Yin has taught me to practice (and to live) from the inside out. Which turned out to be the way to true freedom and true connection with myself. Being pregnant, it’s been humbling and exciting to explore what I need and how it’s similar and different from what I used to most often need and crave. I love being able to support my body and my baby’s growth through the practice of yoga and I’m grateful for the time of connection and meditation that yin has provided for me during these months.

Here are some details about this sequence.

  • PRACTITIONERS | This sequence is suitable for those who are both pregnant and not pregnant. Please make sure you are cleared for exercise and yoga by your health professional.
  • HOLDS | These hold times will be shorter than other ones I might encourage on my blog. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin loosens the ligaments of the pelvis and hips which helps prepare the body for labor. This hormone can also lead a pregnant practitioner to deepen into stretches further than the body is ready for, which can lead to injury in the connective tissues. Because of this, I recommend shorter hold times and a focus on finding the edge of sensation over the deepest physical depth in the poses. This is true of my yin philosophy in general – but especially in prenatal yin!
  • POSES | Most of these postures will focus on releasing areas that tend to cause discomfort in pregnancy. We will work through hip, leg and spinal postures that will help relieve built up tension and cramps/aches. We will do several rounds of cat and cow where you can also focus on a kegel type of engagement to strengthen the pelvic floor. Here’s a video tutorial if you’d like to see it in action.
  • PROPS | Utilize the support of your props and focus on making space for baby in each posture.

If you are pregnant, be sure your doctor has approved you for exercise and if something doesn’t feel right – as always – back out and find something that does. Your physical, mental and spiritual safety always matter. Only you know what that truly looks like. Trust your intuition!


Sukhasana / any preferred seated position (3 min)

Make your way into a comfortable seated position. Elevate your hips onto a blanket or small pillow if that helps you create more space for baby and sit without unnecessary low back tension. Sit tall and settle your gaze. Focus on moving your breath through the body. Visualizing the oxygen supporting not only your life as your heart beats, but also the life growing within you as your little one’s heart beats as well. What a powerful gift your breath is! Throughout our practice, if you’d like to incorporate the following mantra over yourself and baby – feel free…

Inhale – I am loved, supported and healthy.

Exhale – You are loved, supported and healthy.

Neck Releases (1.5 min. each side)

Switch the crossing of the legs, switching the opposite leg in front/on top. Rest the back of one hand into the low back so the arm comes out like a wing and the other hand in the lap where it’s comfortable. Take an inhale sitting up tall and on your exhale, drop your ear to the opposite side of the winged arm. You can adjust the head and neck in any way that feels nice as you find a sweet spot to settle into. Breathe deeply and soften the muscles through your face and shoulders. After a minute or so, switch to the other side of the stretch (changing the arm behind your head as well).

Sukhasana / Neck Release - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

Cleopatra / side body release (3 min. each side)

Extend one leg out while keeping the other leg bent in toward the pelvis. Place a bolster and/or block to the in or outside of the leg (depending on what works better for you). Begin to drop the elbow of the same side as the leg down to the prop(s) and rest your head in your hand. You can use the opposite hand to help ground the hips down or deepen the stretch through the side body by taking that arm and draping it overhead. Complete this stretch on both sides before moving onto the next posture.

Side Body Stretch - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence
Because the round ligaments that support the uterus as it grows in pregnancy are getting deeply stretched, it’s important you do not overdo this stretch in the side body. I recommend deepening only to the point at which you feel a gentle sensation through the side body. You can see the round ligaments in the image below.
Image: https://www.yoganurse.net/blog/uterine-ligaments

Dragonfly / wide legged fold (3 min)

Open both legs out wide and begin to fold forward in between the legs. Utilize the support of your bolster and other props as desired and make sure you create enough space for your baby bump as you settle in!

Dragonfly - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

Table / Cat + Cow stretches (2 min)

Make your way onto hands and knees. Begin to breathe deep ujjayi breaths and move in any way that feels intuitive to you here. If you’d like to work through some gentle pelvic floor strengthening exercises, check out the below video! Note: I don’t recommend the whole video for your yin time – just the cat cow movements practiced at the beginning!

Cat / Cow - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

Toe Squat (1-3 min)

From table, curl all ten toes under and slowly sit back toward the heels. Place a rolled blanket behind the knees if you feel any tension there as you sit back. Your hands can stay forward of you or you can add more weight (and intensity) to the pose by resting the hands in your lap and sitting upright. This pose is intense for a lot of reasons! Our feet take much more weight during pregnancy as we grow these little humans so be mindful if the sensation is too much. Encourage your breath to flow evenly and fully here and do your best to sit with the discomfort. This pose has helped with my leg cramps so much – I’m convinced of it!

Toe Squat - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence
You can interlace the hands behind the head for an additional neck and shoulder release here if you wish.

When done with this stretch, come back to table and roll out the ankles/pat the feet rapidly on the floor to release the sensation a bit.

Tadpole / Frog (3 min)

Begin to make your way into a wide legged childs pose (tadpole). Creating plenty of space in between the legs for baby and allow the chest to melt toward a prop or the floor. If you’re ready to go deeper in the inner thighs and groin, move toward frog pose. Come into table and widen the knees and feet as far as feels appropriate for you. Keeping the hips centered between the knees, now sink your chest to a prop toward the floor and settle in. Hips can shift slightly forward or back if needed. Cushioning the knees can be helpful if you have sensitivity in those joints.

Tadpole / Frog - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

Ankle Stretch (1 min)

Make your way out of the posture slowly and rise up onto the heels with the legs in close together. Take these few moments to reconnect with the heartbeat and breath, maybe moving through several rounds of humming bees breath. Come back to your mantra….

Inhale – I am loved, supported and healthy.

Exhale – You are loved, supported and healthy.

Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

Dangling (3 min)

Make your way to standing and take the legs out a bit wider than the hips (to the edges of the mat perhaps). Begin to fold down halfway resting the hands to a block, lengthening the spine. Over several moments, slowly begin to fold over the legs into a dangling position – completely relaxing the head and allowing the knees to bend if needed. Back can round slightly as well. Incorporate any initial desired movements and eventually find a place of stillness to land in. Feel the connection to the earth beneath you, supporting you in this moment.

Dangling - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

Squat (3 min)

From dangling, rise back up halfway and turn the toes out, heels in. Slowly sit into a squat position either supported on a block or let the hips sink toward the ground without a prop. Sit up tall allowing the bloodflow to move out of the head and re-circulate through the lower extremities a bit more. You can take traditional hands at heart position here with the hands or add a wrist stretch by bringing the back of the hands together. Encourage the breath to move fully through the lungs here as you land into the posture.

Squat - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

Deer (3 min each side)

Come to a seated position and set up in your deer pose. Take one shin in front of you and the other shin out to your side. You can also take your swan/pigeon pose here if you prefer. Slowly fold forward toward the front shin and settle into the sensations you feel along the way. Utilize props to help you create as much space as you need here for your breath to move deeply and for baby to still have space.

Deer - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

After you complete the first side, move into this next posture.

Reclined Deer / half saddle (2 min)

From deer begin to rise back up and thens lowly walk the hands behind you as you lean toward the space at the back of your mat. The foot at your side can be turned down or you can rest onto the big toe edge of the foot as long as it feels safe in your ankle and knee. Walk the hands back as far as you’d like until you feel a good amount of sensation here through the hip flexor.

Reclined Deer - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

Move to the other side of deer and reclined deer.

Savasana / reclined butterfly with ankle wrap (5 min)

Unravel from the previous pose and take any closing postures you’re craving. Set up a bolster behind you elevated to a block or two so the bolster is at an angle for you to recline on for final rest. You can choose to simply take the legs straight forward (or any other desired shape) OR you can bring the legs into butterfly and wrap them with a yoga blanket. Directions below…

Blanket Wrap - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence
1. Take the blanket and unfold it until it’s at it’s longest possible fold length.
2. Begin to roll it up from there and then place it over the tops of the feet and inner ankles.
3. Wrap it around the shins and pull it through under each leg behind the ankles.
4. Tuck the ends into the portion wrapped over the feet to secure it.

Take your rest and enjoy the feeling of openness you’ve created!

Supported Fish / Butterfly - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

Fetal (1 min)

After your rest time is complete, come to the left side for a few moments to observe the shifts that have taken place in the body, mind and spirit here. Recognizing that you are new in this moment. Repeat your mantra to yourself a few times to bring your awareness back to the fact that you and baby are loved, supported and healthy in this moment. Relish in this gift as long as you’d like before coming up and moving into the rest of your day.

Fetal Pose - Prenatal Yin Yoga Sequence

Namaste, mamas!

Join me for the upcoming webinar on Prenatal Yin!


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6 Responses

  1. Thank you! I was wondering if there were any suitable rebound poses while pregnant? Or do we skip rebounds to avoid lying on the back?

    1. That’s a great question! I am currently pregnant and just find a neutral shape that works for my pregnant body in between postures. So instead of lying on my back (traditional rebound) I might just come upright or lie on my side for a few moments to feel the effects before moving on. Hope that helps! -Nancy

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Titles for Website (38)
Nancy Nelson
Nancy Nelson
Nancy is the fearless leader here at Nancy Nelson Yoga! She has been instructing yoga since 2012 and is certified as a Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT 500, YACEP) with Yoga Alliance. She loves guiding yoga classes in all forms – from sweaty vinyasa flows, to slow mindful movement - but her favorite style to practice and teach is yin yoga. She attended a formal 50-hour Yin Yoga training with Bernie Clark and Diana Batts in the fall of 2018 and it truly propelled her into developing her yin focused website, webinars and trainings.

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