5 Benefits of Practicing Yoga While Pregnant

prenatal yoga in bend oregon

I have been fortunate to work with many pregnant mamas through my prenatal yoga class in Bend, Oregon at Midtown Juniper Yoga. It is always a blessing and joy to watch these strong, beautiful women share their vulnerability, while nurturing themselves and their babies throughout their pregnancies. Often times the women that come to my class already have a yoga practice, but occasionally prenatal yoga is their introduction to yoga and what a wonderful loving way to be introduced to the practice and to experience all of the benefits of prenatal yoga.

Here I would like to share the benefits of prenatal yoga with you. If you’re reading this you’re likely already pregnant or know someone that is. Congrats! What an exciting time. As you seek out prenatal yoga classes in your area I encourage you to talk with the instructor before class. Find out their training. Do you like their energy? Do they also teach birth prep? Do they have a network of providers that they can recommend? Can they offer you modifications for both prenatal yoga classes and regular group classes?

Here are 5 Benefits of Prenatal Yoga:

  1. Reduced stress and anxiety.
  2. Improved sleep.
  3. Relief from common pregnancy related aches and pains.
  4. Connection with a community of women and your baby.
  5. Improved muscle tone, strength and flexibility.

Contraindicated Yoga Postures During Pregnancy:

  1. Deep twists.
  2. Prone postures (lying on your belly).
  3. Deep backbends.
  4. Inversions.
  5. Lying on your back for a long period of time (savasana).
  6. Standing with legs wide for an extended period of time.

Don’t let this list of contraindicated postures scare you. They can all be modified into a beautiful and fulfilling yoga practice… a practice where you can enjoy all the benefits of prenatal yoga.

I could easily make this list twice as long, but I’d like to keep it short and simple.

Need pregnancy yoga resources or live somewhere where you cannot find a prenatal yoga class? Here are some highly recommendable resources:

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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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What’s A Bandha?

Hey yogis, I’m here to clear things up about the bandhas. I’ve been to more than my fair share of group classes in which the yoga instructor says something along the lines of “engage mula bandha” without any extra guidance. There are so many new yoga students right now and honestly I’d like to give you a hand, to demystify the bandhas, and encourage you to keep coming back to your yoga mat time and time again. I know experiential guidance is even more powerful than just reading, but this blog post will at least get you started in the right direction… if you still need more clarification feel free to message me or join me for a Bandha Workshop.


Bandhas are the activation and engagement of muscle fibers, in strategic areas in the body, that support in the toning and lifting of the systems of the body against the natural laws of gravity. Bandhas are used to stabilize the spine AND to draw kundalini upward.

3 Main Bandhas:

  1. Moola bandha (mula bandha)- The root lock
  2. Uddiyana bandha- Upward flying lock
  3. Jalandhara bandha- The throat lock

2 Secondary Bandhas:

  1. Hasta bandha- hand lock
  2. Pada bandha- foot lock



Mula bandha forces the prana upward and prevents it from escaping out the lower outlets.

Mula Bandha Basics:

  • Begin by practicing in a seated posture.
  • Isolate the different parts of the pelvic floor (front-stopping pee, back-stopping poo, middle- pulling in and up (without engaging front or back))
  • Lift from the perineum (male) or cervix (female); similar-ish to a kegel

Activating and engaging mula bandha tones and supports the internal organs of the lower abdominal cavity and brings much needed awareness to the space between the pubis (front) and the coccyx (back). This connection between front body and back body is usually saved for the psoas muscle, which due to habitual patterns of hip flexion in what we do for work and play is one of the major causes of lower back pain. Continuous awareness of the space between the pubis and coccyx and sitting bones in yoga poses and transitions can help alleviate already existing tightness, tension and/or lower back pain and can reduce the potential of lower back injury.

Gross (clench) vs. Subtle (lift) action

Practicing with a more gross, clenching sensation is okay when you’re learning to identify the muscles necessary to perform the bandhas, but in a regular asana practice the engagement is much more subtle… perhaps 20%.

Get Familiar With Your Pelvic Floor

Physiologically, this bandha is a diamond shape hammock of muscles that spans the space between the bones of the pubis in the front, the two ischium (sitting bones) on the sides and the coccyx in the back. These are your coccygeus, iliococcygeus, and the pubococcygeus muscles – known together as your Levator Ani, which form a part of the pelvic floor.



Uddiyana bandha unites apana and prana at the navel center, the bandha described is called the rising or flying bandha.


Uddiyana Bandha Basics

  1. To learn Uddiyana Bandha practice in either a seated posture (with spine long) or standing posture with feet hip width and hands on thighs.
  2. Inhale fully inflating belly and lungs then exhale fully and forcefully until empty.
  3. With the breath held out draw your diaphragm in and up to hollow out the belly.
  4. Release your breath and uddiyana bandha when you cannot hold the breath comfortably any longer.
  5. Never exhale or inhale AS you move the body into the lock. Breathe after or before movement as appropriate.

Uddiyana Bandha increases vitality, toning effect on the visceral organs, muscles, nerves and glands, stimulates blood circulation and absorption. The heart is gently massaged and squeezed by the upward pressure of the diaphragm. The suction or negative pressure in the thorax draws venous blood up from the abdomen into the heart and at the same time, arterial blood is drawn into the internal organs.

Chakras most affected are:

Manipura (solar plexus), Anahata (heart), & Vishuddi (throat).

*contraindications: stomach or intestinal ulcers, uncontrolled high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma or raised intracranial pressure



Jalandhara prevents an upward leakage of prana. Jalandhara regulates the circulatory and respiratory systems, stimulates the thyroid to balance metabolism, and is said to cure diseases of the throat.

Jalandhara bandha basics:

  • Can be practiced in most postures.
  • Full expression: shoulders up, chin to chest and jawline back.

Chakras most affected are:

Vishuddi (throat)

*contraindications: uncontrolled high blood pressure and heart disease


Maha bandha, or the Great Lock, is a combination of mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara bandha. Maha bandha should only be practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

Don’t worry if bandhas continue to feel foreign. As you continue your yoga practice you will become more aware of the inner workings of your body.


Pelvic Floor Dysfunction No More!




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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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What’s the Difference Between Cobra Pose & Upward Facing Dog

As a new yoga student it can be super confusing when the yoga instructor isn’t exactly clear on the difference between cobra pose and upward facing dog in a vinyasa flow class…. so lets take a moment to clear things up and help you figure out which one is best for your body.

Step 1: Let’s take a moment to look at each pose separately

Cobra Pose Sanskrit: Bhujangasana


Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose strengthens the muscles of the back, legs, and arms. It is often taught toward the beginning of a vinyasa flow class or as a preliminary backbend to deeper backbends.

Here are 7 Tips to Improve Alignment in Bhujangasana

  1. Lie on the floor on your belly with hands underneath your shoulders and fingertips just back behind your collar bones.
  2. Either squeeze your legs together or take them so they’re hips width distance. Press your toe nails into the mat and engage your legs. Press your pubis (commonly called your pubic bone) into the mat and think of lengthening your tailbone down toward the earth (this will help take some of the compression out of the lower back).
  3. Draw your elbows in and shoulder blades down your back.
  4. With an inhale breath peel your chest up off the mat using the strength of your back. Gaze is forward and down with the jaw line drawing slightly back to maintain length in the cervical spine.
  5. Think of engaging your lower abdominals to provide stability to your lower back.
  6. Elbows stay bent in Cobra Pose. And shoulders continue to draw down your back.
  7. You may use the strength of your arms to lift a little higher, but know to back off when you feel any compression in the lower back.

Exhale to come out of the posture.

Upward Facing Dog Sanskrit: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana


Upward Facing dog is used most commonly in a vinyasa class as a linking posture that links Chaturanga Dandasana to Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). It is important to maintain stability through your center and keep your legs engaged.

Here are 7 Tips to Improve Alignment in Upward Facing Dog

  1. Since upward facing dog is normally taught from Chaturanga that is how we will address it here. To make sure your shoulders are in the right place for your upward facing dog it’s important to press forward on your toes when you take your chaturanga, so your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  2. With an inhale begin to pull your chest forward through the arms and roll over the tops of the feet.
  3. Your legs are engaged. Tops of your feet pressing into the mat with legs and pelvis off of the floor.
  4. Your arms are straight and perpendicular to the floor with your shoulders stacked directly over your wrists.
  5. Engage your lower abdomen to maintain stability in the lower back.
  6. Gaze (drishti) can be forward or up, but make sure you’re not dropping your head back and collapsing into the cervical spine.
  7. When you’re in the posture make sure your shoulders aren’t lifting up to the ears. Shoulders are drawing down and back is the shoulder blades draw in and down.

Exhale to exit the posture.

Step 2: Let’s Compare Cobra Pose and Upward Facing Dog side by side

Cobra Pose

Upward Facing Dog

Elbows bent and drawing in Elbows straight
Hips and legs are on the ground Hips and legs are off the ground
Tops of feet pressing into mat Top of feet pressing into mat
Legs together or hips width If coming from down dog feet are hips width
Lower abdominal muscles engaged Lower abdominal muscles engaged
Shoulders drawing down the back (away from the ears) Shoulders drawing down the back (away from the ears)
Gaze is forward and down Gaze is forward or slightly up
Tailbone drawing down toward the floor Tailbone drawing down toward the floor
Inhale to enter/exhale to exit Inhale to enter/exhale to exit

Step 3: Now the big question: Should I be practicing Cobra Pose or Upward Facing Dog?

Cobra Pose is truly a foundational posture. It’s great for improving strength of the lower back and reducing lower back pain. It helps lay the groundwork for deeper backbends by warming up the muscles of the back. This posture also strengthens the glutes, legs and arms. Cobra pose is a safe way to backbend in a vinyasa class for almost everyone. If you have any limitations in your lower back I highly recommend practicing cobra pose. I do not recommend straightening the arms. And I encourage you to be mindful as you backbend, so you’re not compressing the lower back… especially as your back becomes more flexible.

Upward Facing Dog is common mostly in vinyasa style/power yoga classes. I think that it is important to be able to move from high plank to chaturanga (low plank) to upward facing dog to downward facing dog without bringing the hips, knees, thighs down to the mat. If you have the strength to do that you have the strength in your core to support the lower back in this posture.

I recommend always warming up your lower back with a few rounds of low cobra before moving into upward facing dog… so that may mean that you take the first three vinyasas of your yoga class with cobra pose instead of upward dog.

If you’re new to yoga start practicing cobra pose and once you feel strong and confident in cobra begin to practice upward facing dog. Remember the tips I’ve listed here and enjoy your practice.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Love and Light,


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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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How to Teach Chaturanga Dandasana


Now is the time to brush up on your knowledge of chaturanga dandasana, so you can teach the pose safely. It is important to keep your student’s shoulders safe in their vinyasa yoga practice. It takes time and patience to master chaturanga.

Chaturanga has gotten a bad rep in the yoga community and has been dubbed the “shoulder shredder” and it’s not without due cause. This pose, when done incorrectly, can destroy the rotator cuff, injure the deltoids, and cause chronic pain in the upper back/neck. So why do we practice it?

Chaturanga Dandasana is an integral part of our yoga practice and when done properly builds strength and stability in the shoulder girdle and builds strength in our core. It’s important to fully master chaturanga before moving on to more advanced arm balances and inversions.

I’ve broken this post down into a few sections. I encourage you to read through all of the sections as there are many components to chaturanga dandasana.

Alignment Cues and Teaching Tips for Chaturanga Dandasana

As always, remember to build the posture from the ground up. A stable and strong posture needs a strong and sturdy foundation.

  • Hands are shoulder width distance.
  • Fingers are spread wide.
  • Press down through knuckles of index finger and thumb (hasta bandha)
  • Start from Plank Pose with the feet hips width distance.
  • Press forward onto your toes, so your heels stack over your toes.
  • Lower halfway down to create a 90 degree angle at the elbows.
  • Elbows stay in close to the body. Don’t let them wing out to the side.
  • Stretch the crown of your head forward and create a long line from the heels out through the crown of the head. Draw your tailbone down toward your heels.
  • Draw the navel in toward the spine to support the lower back.

7 Tips to Keep Your Student’s Shoulders Safe When Teaching Chaturanga Dandasana:

  1. Keep your hands shoulder width distance, fingers spread wide and press down into the base knuckles, particularly of the thumb and index finger.
  2. As you begin to lower down make sure your elbow points are pointing straight back behind you. They are not “winging” out to the side or “squeezing” into the sides of your rib cage. Remember: CHATURANGA IS NOT A PUSH UP! When the elbows wing out to the side the heads of the arm bones dip down, the shoulders round and the sternum sinks.
  3. Only lower half way down, to create a 90° angle at the elbow ie. your forearm is perpendicular to the floor and your upper arm is parallel to the floor.
  4. Think of drawing the shoulders away from your ears in Plank Pose and as you lower. Try not to collapse between the shoulder blades. Try to keep the shoulder blades on your back.
  5. Keep your core strong, press back through your heels, lift the fronts of your thighs and draw the navel in. Stretch the crown of your head forward, gaze is only slightly forward and down (don’t let the head hang).
  6. As you move from Plank Pose to Chaturanga press forward on your toes as you lower down, this will set you up for Upward Facing Dog.
  7. As you work on building strength it’s important to honor your body where it is TODAY, not where you want it to be. It’s okay to lower your knees down to the mat, so you can slowly and safely move through your chaturanga. You can also practice chaturanga at the wall.

Benefits of Chaturanga Dandasana

  • Strengthens wrists, arms (triceps!), and shoulders
  • Strengthens and tones the entire body (hello legs!)
  • Prepares the body for arm balances and inversions

Contraindications for Chaturanga Dandasana

  • Shoulder or wrist injury
  • Pregnancy (although this is debatable)

I hope you find these tips helpful. Please feel free to message me if you need more clarification. I’m always happy to help.

Love and Light,


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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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Reduce Chronic Lower Back Pain With Yoga; Part 3 Restore

Hello yogis! Here is part three to the four part series on reducing lower back pain. During part three we will be focusing on restorative postures for the lower back. These posture will focus on relieving tension throughout the body: lower back, shoulders, neck and hips.

Restorative postures, in general, are held longer than the more active postures. You may want to stay in the following postures for anywhere from 3-7 minutes. Remember to start slow and gradually add time. If during the postures you feel any tension building please change the posture; sometimes just changing the posture a quarter of an inch or adding an extra prop can make the posture more comfortable and more restorative. In restorative yoga postures there should be no muscular effort.

Restorative yoga postures for lower back pain are a great way to start and end your yoga practice… and when your back is feeling cranky, maybe it’s your only yoga practice. Know that that is okay. Sometimes when I practice yoga at home I will only do a couple of yoga postures all supported by blankets, blocks, bolsters because that is exactly what my body needs. As you develop your home yoga practice remember to listen to your body and honor your body’s limitations.

Let’s get started with our restorative yoga practice.

1. Supported Child’s Pose


Allow the weight of your torso to be heavy as it rests on the bolster or pillows.

Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back and hips. Calms the mind and induces the relaxation response by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Instructions: From hands and knees take your hips wider than hip width and draw your toes to touch. Bring your bolster lengthwise in front of you and snug the short edge of your bolster right between your knees. If you don’t have access to a bolster you can use a stack of folded blankets or firm pillows. Hinge forward from your hips and drape your body over the bolster and allow your forearms and hands to rest down on your mat. Begin with your right ear down and hold for 2-3 minutes then switch your left ear down and hold for an additional 2-3 minutes. To exit the pose begin to bring your awareness back to your breath and use an inhale breath to lift up out of the pose using the strength of your arms.

2. Deer Pose Twist (Supported Prone Twist)


This prone supported twist is a nice way to slowly release muscles of the back.

Benefits: The Deer Pose Twist gently stretches lower back and hips. This gentle twist also stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System which regulates our Relaxation Response.

Instructions: To set up for the Deer Pose Twist you will want a bolster (a couple of firm pillows or a firmly folded blanket will also work perfectly) and you will place your bolster on the floor in front of you lengthwise. Starting on the right side, sit next to the short edge of the bolster with your right hip and right thigh snugged up to the short edge of the bolster and your leg bent a bit more than 90 degrees at the knee. Your top leg (left) will also have about a 90 degree angle at the knee. Snug your left knee into the sole of your right foot and allow your inner shin/calf to rest on the floor (legs look like a swastika). Turn your upper body to face your bolster and take one hand to either side of the bolster, framing the bolster and squaring your shoulders. Inhale lengthen your spine long and as you exhale gently lower your torso down onto the bolster. Left or right ear can come down to the bolster, whichever feels best on your neck. Hold the posture up to five minutes. To exit the pose use an inhale breath to lift your torso up gently and slowly and then switch sides and hold for an equal length of time.

3. Supported Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Supported butterfly pose supported cobbler's pose

As your lower back begins to release over time you may reduce the incline of the bolster.

Benefits: Supported bound angle pose gently opens the muscles of the groin and inner thighs, reestablishes the lumbar curve and gently opens the chest and shoulders.

Instructions: You will want a bolster (or stack of firm blankets), two yoga blocks (or a couple of phone books or other thick firm books), a couple of pillows and a bath towel. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it. Place your bolster or a firm stack of blankets behind you lengthwise on your mat, place your blocks in a ramp-like fashion underneath the far edge of your bolster (one on the lowest setting and one on the highest setting), place your folded bath towel on the far top edge of the bolster (it will be used to support your head and neck) and then you will take a seat with your sacrum (lower back) next to the short edge of your bolster and then lower your torso down onto the bolster with the folded towel supporting your neck and head. Bend your knees and guide the soles of your feet to touch and allow your knees to fall out to the side (butterfly pose) and place a pillow or any other prop you have available underneath your thighs or knees, so you feel supported in this posture. Let your arms rest our by your sides with your palms facing up toward the ceiling. Stay in this pose for 3-7 minutes.

4. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana Variation)

low-back-pain-pigeon-pose-eka-pada-rajakapotanasana variation

This is the full expression of the posture. You can place a bolster or stack of blankets/pillows lengthwise in front of your to support your torso and/or a block, book or pillow underneath the hip of the the bent leg.

Benefits: Pigeon pose opens the hips and lower back. It specifically stretches the piriformis. When the piriformis becomes tight it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and causes shooting pain down the leg.

Instructions: Begin in either downward facing dog or table top pose and guide your right knee up toward your right wrist and your right foot will land somewhere between your left wrist and your left hip (the more parallel your shin is to the front edge of your mat the more difficult the posture will be ie. the closer your foot is to the left hip the easier the posture will be). Extend your left leg long straight back behind you. From here you can place a block, pillow or book underneath your right hip (to keep your hips level)  and place your bolster or stack of blankets lengthwise in front of you. You can stay upright OR fold over your bolsters. Find a slow steady breath. Hold the posture on each side for 2-5 minutes.

5. Corpse Pose (Supported Savasana)

Supported Savasana

Corpse pose with knees supported helps relieve tension in the lower back.

Benefits: Supported Savasana helps the entire body relax. Having the knees propped by a bolster or stack of pillows/blankets helps reduce tension in the lower back and sacrum. This is a deeply restorative posture.

Instructions: To come into supported savasana place a bolster or stack of blankets/pillows crosswise on your mat. You will place your legs over the top of the props so your knees are bent, but supported. It’s okay if your feet don’t reach the ground. If you would like you can place a pillow or folded blanket underneath your head and neck for support and/or a blanket over your body for warmth. You want to feel comfortable and supported in this posture. Stay in this posture for 5-15 minutes.

Bonus Pose: “Legs Up The Wall” Pose (Viparita Karani)

legs up the wall pose viparita karani

Viparita Karani improved circulation, reduces fatigue, and may also help with insomnia.

Benefits: Legs Up The Wall pose or Viparita Karani helps improve circulation. Helps boost the immune system by aiding the circulation of lymph and also help calm the mind by reducing anxiety and increasing the body’s relaxation response. It is an excellent posture to do before bed.

Instructions: If you have hardwood floors (or other hard floors) in your house you may want to drag your mat (or a blanket) over to the wall with the short edge of your mat against the wall. The mat or blanket will provide your body with a bit of insulation against the cool floor. To come into the posture you will take a seat on your left hip and snug both hips as close to the wall as you can, then lay down on your left side and then roll onto your back and extend both legs up the wall. Let your legs rest heavily against the wall and let your arms wither rest by your side or bring both hands to your belly. Close your eyes. Stay in this posture for 2-5 minutes.

These 6 restorative yoga postures help heal and nourish the body whether you are experiencing lower back pain or not, so why note share your yoga practice with a loved one?


I’m always happy to hear from my readers. Feel free to contact me if you need any extra guidance, modifications or recommendations. What you liked about these postures or what you didn’t like.

Check back soon for part 4…. my first yoga video… a guided practice that combines all three previous parts plus a little extra.


Love and Light,


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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
Autumn Adams
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