Q: I just found out I’m pregnant! I’d love to continue my yoga practice but am not sure what poses are safe and which ones I should avoid?
Congratulations, yogi mama!
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Exciting times ahead 🙂
Good on you for wanting to keep up with your yoga practice and taking care of yourself and your growing babe.
Maintaining health and wellness is so important during this time.
Please do keep in mind that you’ll need to make specific changes and accommodations to your pre-pregnancy yoga practice, especially as your belly grows.
You’ll also need to avoid heated styles such as Bikram and Hot Yoga.
These styles elevate your core body temperature too much and that’s not safe for your baby.
Fast-paced yoga styles like power vinyasa and ashtanga might also need to be avoided if you don’t already have an established practice.
These types of classes can raise your heart rate too much.
This is especially true of the early weeks and the first trimester.
Go gentle on yourself, mama
Remember, these first weeks of pregnancy your body is hard at work creating a little human body and an additional organ – the placenta!
Because the first trimester is often a time of feeling exhausted, fatigued, and nauseous, you may want to take it easy and opt for prenatal yoga classes, as these classes are specifically designed with your safety in mind.
You can also try restorative yoga, gentle prenatal yin yoga with the supervision of an experienced yoga instructor, yoga nidra, and gentle pranayama (yoga breathing).
Poses to avoid
Overall, you’ll want to avoid deep backbends, deep twists, and inversions during pregnancy.
You’ll also want to avoid strenuous standing poses without support, as a pregnant woman’s sense of balance is compromised.
Deep backbends may overexert the abdominal muscles and lead to developing or worsening diastasis recti, the separation of the large abdominal muscles.
Those muscles are already being overworked and overstretched as the baby grows, so it’s not advised to work them any harder.
Twists, especially deep twists, might contract the uterus.
Twists should be especially avoided in the fragile first trimester, even if you’re not showing yet.
Here’s a list of yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy, especially as your bump grows*:
- 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
- Full inversions
- Boat pose
- Abdominal poses
- Full sun salutations
- Jump-backs and transitions
- Breath retention techniques
*Modifications or substitutions for these poses are available in prenatal classes.
If inversions were part of your regular yoga asana practice before pregnancy, you might be able to keep at it if you don’t have a high-risk pregnancy.
Please check with your doctor, OB-GYN, or midwife first to make sure.
Why you should be careful with over-stretching
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 connective tissues 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.
Don’t practice yin yoga unsupervised; always consult with an experienced yin yoga teacher.
Why you should be careful with vertical poses
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 flow from your extremities to your heart.
Around the second trimester and specifically week 16, 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.
Examples of safer poses for pregnancy
- Open twists
- Supported or partial camel pose
- Chair pose
- Child’s pose
- Supported seated forward bend (using a cushion, block, or bolster)
- Modified sun salutations
The focus of the second and third trimesters
As your belly and baby grow even more modifications will be necessary.
The height of the second trimester and the entire third trimester are considered a time for getting into warrior mode and “birth prep.”
This means focusing your yoga practice on strengthening your pelvic floor and building stamina.
Lunges can help condition your thighs.
Hip openers can work with the pelvic floor and open you up.
Restorative poses like supported legs up the wall may also help relieve lower back pain.