When I was pregnant with my first child, I could barely move during the first trimester. Balancing nausea and exhaustion with working all day took every ounce of energy. But as I moved into the second trimester, I slowly (very slowly) began to feel like my old self again—and prenatal yoga became a part of my regular exercise routine.

Prenatal yoga is a fantastic way to stay active during pregnancy, preparing both body and mind for labor. “One of the many benefits of yoga is that it deepens your connection with your body,” says Brihony Smyth, certified yoga teacher and instructor of Alo Moves Prenatal Glow series. “During pregnancy, yoga can benefit expecting mothers as it can help with relaxation, tension release, increasing blood flow, overall feeling good, and so much more.”

As you move through the third trimester and start to think about labor, certain yoga poses can help prep your body for the big day. “Yoga helps to produce oxytocin, the feel-good hormone we naturally release from our pituitary glands,” shares Steph Ball-Mitchell, certified prenatal yoga teacher and founder and lead trainer of Online Yoga School. She also explains that oxytocin is the hormone involved in labor contractions.

Related: 6 expert tips on how to prepare for your first birth

Can you use yoga poses to induce labor? Not exactly, but they can help. “If the baby is not yet in the right position, or the cervix hasn’t softened yet, these won’t induce labor,” shares Kate Lombardo, Yoga Director at Yoga Renew Teacher Training (and mom-to-be). “They’ll only work if it’s go-time.” Which means you can safely employ these poses throughout your pregnancy. But once you’ve reached full-term, at 37 weeks? These poses are certainly worth a try to get things going.

One thing to note: As with starting any new exercise regimen during pregnancy, be sure you’re cleared by your doctor or midwife before beginning.

Try these 4 yoga poses to induce labor

Malasana or yogi squat

Also called “garland pose,” malasana is a gentle squat that opens the hips and pelvis—perfect for labor prep. It’s also a pose that some women may find themselves naturally gravitating toward during labor. “This position opens the inlet of the pelvis to allow for baby to move down towards the cervix,” shares Lombardo. “It also puts you in a position to relax the pelvic floor, which is important through the labor process as well.”

How to do it: Ball-Mitchell says to start by stepping the feet just past hip distance with toes facing slightly out. “Lengthen your spine and keep your hands on your thighs for support as you slowly begin to bend the knees and lower the hips down into a squat.”

Ball-Mitchell suggests placing a rolled towel under the heels to help if heels come up. Smyth suggests using a block, the tall way, for extra support, “Make sure to take your elbows to your inner knees to help you push your knees out and really reap the benefits of the pose: stretch your adductors and inner groin muscles.”

Related: 6 ways you can induce labor naturally

Goddess pose

Celebrate your inner fertility goddess with this pose that opens the hips and pelvis. Lombardo explains that Goddess pose “puts both of the legs in external rotation, which helps to open the pelvis and make room for baby to move downwards into the right position for birth.”

How to do it: Start by standing with the legs wider than hips distance, around three to four feet apart. “Turn both heels to face in and the toes to face out,” explains Lombardo. “Bend the knees and lower the hips about halfway down as if coming to a high squat position.” You can place your hands on your hips or bring them to a prayer position at the heart.

Baddha Konasana or bound angle

Bound angle is a seated yoga pose perfect for opening the hips and pelvis to help bring baby into the world. ” It opens and lengthens the pelvic floor while strengthening the outer hips,” Ball-Mitchell shares. “It also helps to calm the mind and prepare for labor and delivery.”

How to do it: Start seated with the soles of your feet together and knees wide. “Engage your glutes to open your abductors and inner groins,” Smyth explains. “Focus on mildly folding to get the stretch to the back of your body and erector muscles.” Ball-Mitchell and Smyth also encourage using yoga props like blankets or blocks under knees or thighs for extra support.

Related: 5 ways to prepare your body for labor—from strength training to meditation

Tabletop pose

Anything that keeps the pelvis and hips moving and relaxed can be a blessing for a very pregnant mama. “A lot of women actually labor in this position,” Ball-Mitchell shares. Add a few hip circles or cat-cow tilts, and you have a perfect labor-inducing flow. “During pregnancy, you can’t really work or strengthen your core or front body,” Smyth explains, “But this pose can help strengthen your back and side body muscles which will help you support and protect the weight of your belly and body.”

How to do it: Start in a tabletop position with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Ball-Mitchell suggests placing a blanket under the knees for extra comfort. “Move your knees back and your wrists up about an inch. Bring your hips forward on an inhale, and begin circling your hips to the left, going only as wide as is comfortable for you,” she explains. Let your breath guide your movement, inhaling to circle the hips wider and exhaling to bring them back in.

Smyth also suggests gentle cat-cow while in tabletop to open up the lower back and pelvis even more. “Focus on your cow pose, drawing your shoulder blades down and opening your chest,” she says.

A quick word of caution

Using yoga poses to induce labor can be helpful, but if you’ve never done yoga before or are unsure how your body will respond, you may want to check in with your OB-GYN or midwife before trying them. “I’d recommend attending a prenatal class and [connecting with] a teacher or instructor who guides you through poses and helps with modifications,” shares Smyth.

Home programs are an option if local classes aren’t accessible to you. “If you’re starting at home, make sure to practice what feels good, take it easy, make sure not to go too deep into poses,” Smyth explains. She encourages mamas to use yoga for labor as a tool for stress or pain relief instead of an opportunity to push themselves. “Overall, your practice should feel good in your body. You should avoid practicing poses that make you feel dizzy or bring discomfort to your body.”

Featured experts

Steph Ball-Mitchell is a certified prenatal yoga teacher and founder and lead trainer of Online Yoga School’s yoga teacher training programs, where she’s trained and certified hundreds of prenatal yoga teachers.

Kate Lombardi is a yoga teacher, trainer, wellness educator, mindset coach, yoga director at YogaRenew Teacher Training, and co-owner of the Hudson Yoga Project in Hoboken, NJ. 

Brihony Smyth is a certified yoga teacher and instructor of Alo Moves Prenatal Glow series with over 10 years of experience building teacher trainings, online content, festivals and retreats.