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Yoga Postures for Labour and Birth

May 3, 2011

In my prenatal yoga class, I am often asked if there are specific yoga postures that would be good to do use during labour.   The answer is a resounding yes.  There are quite a few really great yoga postures and movements that bring more comfort and ease to the birthing process.

Here they are!

The first two of postures have you on all fours.  This position has the advantage of encouraging your baby to roll their spine against your belly.  A position that your doctor or midwife will call Anterior.  This is the ideal position for birthing a baby because it is the path of least resistance and therefore makes for an easier birth for you and baby.

1. Cat Stretch – rock your hips forward and back.  Let the movement feel yummy!

Note : The swaying of the low back is not appropriate for all pregnant women.  In some bodies, it can simply be too much for the low back and cause strain.  Please listen to your body.   If it feels right, go ahead.  If it does not, then please go only to neutral (flat back) and then alternate back to the rounded position.

2. Doggie tail wagging –

This one may look and feel a bit silly – but it’s just the best in labour.  Rock your hips from side to side. play with different speeds (excited puppy to relaxed old dog) to find the rhythm that it just right for you.

3. Doggie Tail Wagging with the Ball.

This is a great adaptation of the second posture.  It’s especially nice if your energy is low or if your wrists get sore.   Another idea : Take the ball and put it in the shower with you.  Then get your partner move the shower head to direct the flow of water so that it falls over your low back as you rock back and forth.  It feels so good.

4. Child’s pose – resting and recovery.

While the first three postures are great to do during surges (by surges I mean contractions – the word surge is a great and more positive way to describe the uterus working), the following posture is recommended for the space in between surges – the rest period.

5.  Polar Bear Posture

What do you do if baby isn’t in that anterior position? Well this is where the polar bear position can help.   In this posture, your hips are lifted higher than your shoulders.  This will encourage baby to move towards the top of your uterus and up towards your lungs.  Then baby have an opportunity to move into a spine facing outward position.  Note : you will need to do this for at least 30 -45 minutes to give baby a chance to move.

6. Horizontal Figure Eights

Movements that move the hips tend to help the most in labour.  This next one isn’t technically a yoga posture.  It actually comes from belly dancing which has strong roots in childbirth.  It feels very soothing in labour.

7. Hip Circles – standing – with support.

Those surges (contractions) can be intense.  Leaning on a loved one is a wonderful way to feel and be supported during your labour.  Just sure to bend your knees so that you can really move your hips round and round.  You can also do the figure eights supported in this way as well.

8. Hip Circles on the Ball

Again moving the hips is key.  Hip circles are another great way to keep this part of the body open, loose and relaxed… just what you need to help your cervix open more easily.  You can do small circles, medium circles or really big ones.  Again just follow your body’s lead, and do what feels right.

9. Deep lunges

Once your cervix is fully opened, you will start to feel pressure as the baby makes his/her way down the birth path or canal.  Deep lunges help to create more openness in the pelvis so that baby has more space to move down into.

10. Squat

Squatting is probably the most traditional way to birth a baby.  For humans, the squatting position shorts and widens the birth path or canal.  It literally makes the path bigger.  This is a very good thing.  In addition, squatting in an upright position has the added benefit of using the force of gravity to assist your uterus in pushing the baby out.  You can squat by holding onto something (most hospitals have a squatting or birth bar) or you can hold onto your partner.  Alternatively  you can also squat against the birthing ball.

Did you use any of these movements in your labour?  If yes, please comment and tell us about your experience.

Be well,


ps. A big thank you to Katrina (and Evelyn still inside)  who volunteered to be the model for this post.


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20 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2011 4:02 pm

    I did lots of hands and knee positions while in labor and then when I was pushing I was squatting. I felt like I couldn’t bare down enough in a hands and knees position, so when a surge came, I stood up and got into a wide squat, and then when it was over, went back to a restful hands and knees.

    Great post!

  2. SHARON permalink
    June 19, 2011 9:31 pm

    Is 34 weeks to late to start practicing some of these moves?

    • June 27, 2011 9:14 pm

      Hi Sharon,

      Nope it’s not too late. These moves are meant to be done during the last stages of pregnancy and while you are in labour too. 🙂 Good luck with everything. May your passage to mothering be heart-opening and peaceful. ~ Marie

  3. September 19, 2011 5:28 pm

    I used most of these! A lot of my labour was on my knees with my arms draped over my headboard, the back of my love seat and over the top of the folded hospital bed (which resulted in a nice burn on my chin!) while I kept my hips and behind in constant motion. The only time I stopped moving was when I was in the tub and was so relaxed I nodded off between surges. I did a lot of cat stretches and doggy tail-wagging all through my pregnancy, too. Keep things limber around your middle!

  4. Gillian permalink
    October 27, 2011 2:13 am

    Hi Im now four days overdue and i think the longer time you have to think about labour the more anxious you get ….seeing these poses in action has now given me great confidence and i am again looking forward to the process and will embrace every minute …… Thanks

    • October 27, 2011 10:28 pm

      Wishing you all the best Gillian. Remember your strength and trust your body and your baby. Blessings from me.

  5. December 11, 2012 6:38 pm

    Thanks….Will try these. I just want to say, if you can do number 9 (lunge) while having surges, then you are awesome. I don’t think I could move much when I was ready to push.

  6. cat permalink
    February 5, 2013 10:08 am

    As a labor and delivery nurse/childbirth educator I employ these positions frequently. I am so happy to have resources like this page to refer my students to, thank you for supporting natural birth and a woman and fetus’s innate ability to achieve non-medical birth. As a mother of three young boys I appreciate these positions for labor and delivery, I used cat stretches and polar bear positions during pregnancy and birthed my second and third son on hands and knees which eliminated the need for the episiotomy that accompanied the birth of my first son who was delivered in lithotomy position (on my back with knees pulled toward my body-puts a lot of stress on the perineum).

    • February 7, 2013 5:02 pm

      So glad to have created something that is helpful for your students. All the best.

  7. Elizabeth permalink
    November 17, 2013 12:34 am

    The last position of squatting is actually how I birthed my last son. It was not a planned position, but where my body naturally positioned itself when I listened to it during transition. The gravity and openness of the pelvis was one of the neatest births for me as there was no need to push. As soon as I felt him start to crown, I stopped pushing and allowed gravity and my contractions to guide him out. The position allowed me to feel every inch in his voyage through the birth canal and fully embrace the birthing process. Such an amazing experience! Looking forward to birthing in this position again and also using the cat stretch & polar bear positions to help relieve pressure.

  8. Laura B permalink
    September 19, 2016 6:30 pm

    I was unable to deliver naturally with my last birth because I couldn’t keep from clinching with the pain. I did bikramthroughout all my last pregnancy and this one, but just couldn’t relax during surges. Any tips?

    • October 12, 2016 3:50 am

      Just as practicing your yoga postures helps you get better at them, the same can be said for relaxation. I would recommend that you continue with your yoga practice as long as it feels right in your body and continue making adaptations along the way, but also add in a deep focus on breathing and relaxation. The more profoundly you practice relaxation and breathing, the better you’ll get and the more effective those tools will be for you during the labour. I practiced yoga postures throughout my first pregnancy. I was healthy and had a natural birth – BUT it hurt A LOT. During my second pregnancy, I stumbled on a book by a prenatal yoga instructor who described two of her natural births as painless. I was intrigued. I was committed to the benefits of natural birth for me and my baby… but thought WHOA if I can be more comfortable and have a natural birth – I WANT THAT! I used a combination of visualization, deep relaxation and breathing which was amazing. First of all it completely enhanced my experience of pregnancy, and during labour – I was way way more comfortable. Mostly the sensations of labour felt like tightening and pressure rather than pain. There was some discomfort near the end, but overall I was so much more at ease, relaxed and comfortable that it really convinced me of the power of the mind and the importance of preparing the mind for labour. If you are interested in working with me privately online to learn relaxation and breathing, drop me a line at

  9. November 3, 2016 4:32 am

    Love your page!!! I find it super inspirational and well informed! I will be sharing with my students in my Prenatal Yoga and Birth Prep classes here in Sweden! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Corina permalink
    February 21, 2017 6:09 pm

    I loved doing cobra pose during contractions. It made the contractions pain free! I kept thinking….is this okay? Am I cheating??? Curious if anyone else found this. It doesn’t seem to be common but it worked wonders for my birth which was pain free.

    • March 16, 2017 6:34 am

      Hi Corina,

      So super interesting. I haven’t heard of that myself – but I’m so glad that you found something that worked for you. 🙂

  11. February 28, 2017 4:08 pm

    You are a generous woman. Lovely content.


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