There are many different forms and styles of yoga, and not all of them might be suitable for pregnant women.
Even if you’re an avid yogi with a strenuous pre-pregnancy yoga practice, you’ll need to accommodate for your growing baby with specific changes and modifications.
The good news is that even if it’s your first time in a yoga class, regular practice can boost your health and wellness.
Unless you have complications or are at-risk, many health care providers recommend regular physical activity and exercise during pregnancy for better birth outcomes.
A big part of practicing yoga while pregnant is learning to listen to your body and allowing her to lead you.
Slow and gentle is more like it, especially in the second and third trimesters.
This isn’t the time to force poses or take your practice to the limit.
It’s time for nurturing and learning to be more mindfully connected to your body and your baby.
What changes in my body should I be aware of before practicing yoga?
Pregnancy is a time of constant changes both externally and inside your body.
Hormone levels are in constant fluctuation, and your body produces a much higher quantity of the hormone relaxin.
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.
Don’t overstretch your muscles or overexert your range of motion, especially if you’re hypermobile.
As you progress to your second and third trimesters, you’ll also want to avoid resting on your back for too long.
Laying down on your back puts pressure on your vena cava, a large vein responsible for transporting blood from your extremities to your heart.
Around the 16th week of pregnancy, your blood volume can double.
Thanks to your baby’s added weight and growing uterus, lying down can compress the vena cava.
It’s a safe practice to start sleeping on your side after the 16th week of pregnancy.
Preferably the left.
Yoga poses that require you to lay on your back, like savasana, are contraindicated from the second trimester onward.
Instead, you’ll want to lay on your left side.
What are the benefits of practicing yoga while pregnant?
Here’s are 21 mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual benefits of adopting a regular yoga practice:
- Lowered stress and anxiety levels
- More balanced moods
- Increased mindful awareness
- Increased body perception and intelligence
- Strengthened intuition
- Reduced irritability
- Improved sleep
- Lowered blood pressure
- Increased heart rate variability
- Less lower back pain
- Improved nausea
- Connective tissue health
- Decreased inflammation
- Hormonal balance
- Healthy nervous system function
- Less shortness of breath
- Healthy weight management
- Strengthened pelvic floor and hips
- Increased endurance for labor and birthing
- Increased gratitude and meaning for your experience
- Increased inner peace
- A spiritual connection to yourself and your baby
What styles of yoga should I avoid while pregnant?
Avoid hot yoga and Bikram yoga during pregnancy because they take place in an overly heated room.
Overheating your body while pregnant can harm the fetus and lead to complications.
Power vinyasa and similar fast-paced styles should also be avoided as your heart rate shouldn’t rise too high either.
What is prenatal yoga?
Like regular yoga, prenatal yoga is considered a mind-body practice that incorporates physical poses (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditative practices designed to help you manage stress, strengthen the body, and calm your nervous system.
Yoga teachers certified to lead a prenatal yoga class are specifically trained in prenatal anatomy and safety.
The goal of prenatal yoga is to help strengthen the body and mind in preparation for birth.
Many poses focus on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, while postpartum yoga has the opposite focus.
What yoga poses (asanas) should be avoided?
In general, you’ll want to avoid deep twists, backbends, and full inversions.
Some poses to be avoided include:
- Revolved side angle pose
- Full wheel pose
- Bridge pose
- Bow pose
- Cobra pose
- Locust pose
- Full camel pose
- Upward facing dog
- Forward fold
- Twisted chair
- Boat pose
- Abdominal poses
- Jump-backs and transitions
- Breath retention techniques
*Modifications or substitutions for these poses are available in prenatal classes. Check with your yoga instructor.
Yoga For Each Trimester:
Many women are fatigued and nauseous during this time.
If this is you, aim for short and gentle yoga sessions that focus more on relaxation than getting a “workout” in.
Restorative yoga, gentle yin yoga, and yoga nidra are suitable for these first few months.
Some gentle poses are:
- Hip circles
- Neck and shoulder rolls
- Chair pose
- Downward dog
- Seated forward fold
- Butterfly pose
- Squat pose
- Side angle pose
- Tree pose
As your belly grows, your center of gravity can become more unstable.
Be sure to take care with balancing poses and always be near a wall if you lose your center.
As your energy returns and nausea subsides, you’ll likely want to do more and be more active.
Take advantage of this time and increase the physical aspect of your practice more.
All of the first trimester poses plus:
- Hero’s pose
- Triangle pose
- Warriors I, II
This last trimester can be your “birth prep” time, where you focus more on strengthening your pelvic floor, thighs, and hips.
Focus on gentle endurance and listen to your body.
Your yoga practice can change – one day, it can be more restorative, and the next can be more physically demanding.
Find a balance that works for you.