Hot Yoga While Pregnant: Why Studies Suggest You Should Avoid It
Regular exercise and physical activity are generally recommended for a healthy pregnancy unless you have a complication or are considered high-risk.
There are many pregnancy-safe forms of exercise to choose from – more on that below.
It’s recommended that pregnant women with an existing yoga practice make necessary modifications to accommodate a growing baby and changing belly.
The first trimester is a delicate time when the risk of miscarriage is higher.
If you have a hot yoga or Bikram yoga practice before getting pregnant, you’ll want to stop practicing as soon as you get that positive confirmation that you’re expecting.
Keep reading to learn why it’s unsafe for most women to practice hot yoga during pregnancy.
What Is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga classes are performed in a heated room.
Room temperatures typically range from 85-105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bikram yoga is one of the most intense and physically demanding types of hot yoga.
It includes a rigorous sequence, including standing yoga poses and deep backbends, twists, and inversions.
Hot yogis report being able to stretch and bend with more flexibility in a heated room.
Why You Should Avoid Practicing Or Teaching Hot Yoga While Pregnant
- The potential risk of miscarriage, especially in the first trimester.
The first few weeks of your pregnancy are delicate and fragile.
Your baby’s body is forming at a rapid pace, and the risk of miscarriage is higher than in later pregnancy.
Strenuous poses that involve deep twisting and the added physical stress of extreme heat are not recommended.
- Increased risk for neural tube defects.
A pregnant woman’s body temperature should not rise to the point of overheating as this can lead to severe complications and adverse fetal outcomes.
Studies show that drastic increases in core temperature (hyperthermia), especially in the first trimester, can double the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida. (1)
Given the research, most OB-GYN’s instruct patients to avoid baths with water hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, hot tubs, and saunas.
- Stress on your body, adverse effects on the baby.
Physical activity performed in a heated environment causes you to sweat more, which in turn causes increased heart rate, blood pressure, decreased blood volume, and loss of fluids and electrolytes.
All of these factors can put stress on your baby.
Hydration is important.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially after your workout.
- Risk of overstretching and injuring joints & connective tissue.
Pregnancy is a time of constant changes both externally and inside your body.
Hormone levels are in constant fluctuation during pregnancy, and your body produces more relaxin hormone.
This hormone helps your muscles, ligaments, and tendons relax.
This “relaxing” effect is centered mainly around the pelvic area to facilitate delivery.
Relaxin production starts in the first trimester and peaks at the end of the first trimester and labor.
Thanks to the heat and the strenuous poses in hot yoga, it’s easy to overstretch, especially if you’re hypermobile.
Other Pregnancy-Safe Alternatives
You can most certainly continue your non-heated yoga practice with a few modifications.
It’s a good idea to seek guidance from an experienced yoga instructor who’s certified to teach prenatal yoga.
They can help you adapt your yoga practice to accommodate your growing belly and changing body, especially as you approach the third trimester.
Prenatal yoga classes can be especially beneficial for addressing common discomforts like back pain and round ligament pain.
Other forms of exercise generally considered safe during pregnancy are:
- Gentle vinyasa with modifications
- Hatha yoga with modifications
* Always consult with your health care provider and seek medical advice before starting any exercise regimen while pregnant.