Pregnancy Yoga: Do’s and Don’ts

Pregnancy yoga do's don'ts

Pregnancy is a special yet stressful time in a woman’s life. You will experience many changes in your body that can affect both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Prenatal yoga can be extremely beneficial during this period, regardless of whether you are an experienced practitioner or completely new to yoga.

However, you need to take a few things into consideration to make sure you reap the benefits without causing harm to yourself or your baby.

Let’s take a look at the pregnancy yoga do’s and don’ts.

Pregnancy Yoga: The Do’s

1. Talk to Your Yoga Teacher

If you regularly practice yoga and would like to continue with your regular yoga classes during pregnancy, make sure to let your teacher know when you find out that you’re expecting. There are two reasons for that.

First of all, you’ll need to start modifying your practice as your pregnancy progresses, especially after the first trimester. An experienced teacher will be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to stay safe and enjoy your yoga practice.

Secondly, not all yoga teachers and studios are comfortable with teaching women during the first trimester due to the high risk of miscarriage during this period. In addition to that, many won’t have the training, knowledge of pregnancy yoga do’s and don’ts, or experience needed to safely guide you through your practice.

Therefore, don’t be surprised if you’re told to take a break and resume your practice after the first trimester is over.

2. Look into Prenatal Yoga Classes

While it’s not a must to switch to prenatal yoga classes as you get pregnant, it can be very beneficial. Prenatal yoga classes are specifically designed for pregnancy with the do’s and don’ts in mind and are taught by trained professionals.

If you’re used to faster-paced styles such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga, pregnancy yoga classes will likely seem much milder to you. Don’t worry about that. It will still be beneficial even if you don’t practice as hard as you used to.

Prenatal yoga classes are also a great way to start practicing yoga if you have never done it before.

3. Do What Feels Right

Pregnancy is not the time for hardcore practice and pushing towards new goals. (The latter is not something that yoga is about in general, but it’s especially important in pregnancy.) Instead, take the time to really pay attention to your body.

Always listen to your body and only do what feels good. If you are nauseous or dizzy or don’t feel comfortable or safe, skip the pose. Feel free to rest in child’s pose or take a break whenever you need it.

4. Take Your Time

You don’t have to rush through vinyasas, Sun Salutations, or any other transitions. Take your time and follow the pace at which your body is ready to go. Take any breaks you need, and don’t hesitate to step outside if you don’t feel well.

5. Use Props

As your body is changing, you’ll notice that certain poses won’t feel as comfortable or attainable as they did before. Use props to adapt your practice as necessary.

For instance, place your hands on blocks when you do Standing Forward Folds or balancing poses. Or use a strap in Seated Forward Folds to keep your back straight. Sit up on a block, bolster, or a folded blanket if you round your back in seated postures. The wall can help with balance in standing postures, too.

6. Modify Poses When Needed

Even if you’re not using props, adopt modifications whenever you need it. With every single day, your body will be slightly different. As a result, your practice will need to evolve, as well.

Even if you were able to do a full pose before pregnancy, it might be better if you modify it throughout pregnancy.

7. Separate Your Feet Wider than Hip-Distance in Standing Postures

Yoga poses such as Downward Dog, Standing Forward Fold, or Mountain Pose will likely feel more comfortable if you position your feet wider than hip-distance. There will be more room for the growing belly, and you will feel more stable, as well.

8. Include Plenty of Hip Openers in Your Yoga Practice

Hip openers, such as Warrior I, II and III, Malasana, Lunges, Lizards, Side Angle will not only feel good but will also develop strength in your legs and flexibility in your hips and pelvic area and prepare you for delivery.

Make sure to do plenty of them throughout your pregnancy, but especially in the second and third trimester. Press into the outer edges of your feet in Warrior Poses and Side Angle. It will ensure that you’re not dumping all your weight into one leg.

9. Be Careful with Inversions

If you practiced them before, you should be fine to practice inversions during pregnancy, given that it progresses without any complications.

You may want to practice with a wall behind you or have someone spot you for more security. Stop if you aren’t feeling well or safe.

If you’ve never done inversions before or got started briefly before getting pregnant, it’s best to incorporate them into your practice after your pregnancy is over.

10. Take Deep Breaths

While opinions on this differ, it’s best not to run out of breath when practicing yoga or any other exercise during pregnancy. Instead, make sure you take long deep breaths. It will be safer for the baby and prevent exhaustion.

Deep breathing is also vital in delivery. It will help you manage pain better and keep your stress levels in check. So, use your yoga practice as preparation for that.

Now that we’ve looked at the pregnancy yoga do’s, let’s check out the don’ts.

Pregnancy Yoga: The Don’ts

1. Don’t Practice Yoga on an Empty Stomach

It’s typically advised to practice yoga on an empty stomach or with very little food in it. During pregnancy, however, it may make you feel dizzy or nauseous.

If you are experiencing morning sickness, make sure to have a small snack before yoga. It will give you extra energy and should ease nausea. (I, personally, noticed that moving during yoga relieved my nausea. Each body is different, however, and it may feel different for you.)

2. Don’t Do Hot or Bikram Yoga

According to studies, exposure to excessive heat during pregnancy increases the risk of neural tube defect and other malformations. So, I advise you to not do Bikram or Hot Yoga during pregnancy. The same goes for yoga practice outside in very hot weather. Blast your AC if need be.

3. Don’t Do Jump-backs and Jump-throughs

In most cases, jumping is not recommended. It’s a high-impact exercise that also increases the risk of falling.

4. Don’t Practice Closed Twists

Open twists are not only fine but can also relieve tension in the back and upper body. However, avoid deep closed twists. They can put pressure on the growing belly and restrict blood flow to the uterus.

5. Don’t Lie On Your Belly

This one should be obvious. As you start showing and your bump grows, avoid poses that involve lying on your belly such as Cobra, Sphinx, Locust, and Bow.

You should be able to practice these yoga poses during the first trimester though I would recommend not practicing Locust or Bow as they place too much pressure on the lower belly.

Yet, if you aren’t feeling safe, skip these yoga poses altogether. Alternatively, you can place a folded blanket under your hips. This will elevate your front body and your lower belly will be in the air rather than pressing against the mat.

6. Don’t Lie Flat on Your Back for Extended Periods of Time

In the first trimester, lying on the back is not an issue. Your uterus and baby are still very small. However, later in the pregnancy, this can cause discomfort.

A large vein called vena cava runs on the right side of the spine. It returns blood from the lower part of the body to the heart. The expanding belly can press on the vena cava and, thus, result in lower blood output. This could mean restricted blood flow and less oxygen to you and your baby.

Don’t panic though. Your body will let you know if that happens. You’ll start feeling dizzy or lightheaded.

So, avoid prone poses where you need to lie flat on your back. Lie in Savasana on your side instead or prop your upper body up.

Supported Bridge pose is absolutely fine.

7. Don’t Practice Deep Backbends

Your abs go through quite a lot during pregnancy. And backbends are basically an intense extension of the front body.

Poses like Full Camel and Full Wheel can feel uncomfortable, overextend your abdominals, and increase the risk of diastasis recti.

Upward Dog should be fine as long as you don’t feel too much pressure on your belly or lower back. Try placing your hands on blocks if that feels better.

You can also modify Camel by placing your hands on your lower back or blocks instead of going all the way down. Focus on extending the upper part of your body.

During the later stages of your pregnancy, you may be tilting your pelvis forward as you walk. If modified Camel feels uncomfortable on your hips, it’s best not to do it. Go for Extended Puppy Pose instead.

8. Don’t Do Intense Ab Work

Some yoga poses such as Sunbird can be beneficial for maintaining core strength. This can help you feel more secure and prevent lower back pain.

However, avoid any yoga poses that involve crunching or cause your belly to pop out into a triangle. This puts too much strain on the connective tissues and can result in diastasis recti.

9. Don’t Overexert or Dehydrate Yourself

Pay attention to your breath and heart rate. If you are getting tired, run out of breath, or feel lightheaded, slow down, go easier, or take a break. Also, keep a water bottle nearby.

It’s generally advised not to drink during yoga. But, during pregnancy, you need a lot more liquids than usual. So, if you feel like taking a sip of water, go for it.

10. Don’t Practice Certain Types of Pranayama

While deep breathing is extremely good, avoid pranayamas that require shallow and rapid breathing (Kapalbhati Pranayama) or breath retention. These restrict the oxygen that you and your baby get and can make you feel lightheaded or dizzy.

Most importantly – stay safe, enjoy yoga and your pregnancy!

Let’s Talk!

Are you currently pregnant? Do you practice prenatal yoga or go to regular yoga classes? Which of the pregnancy yoga do’s and don’ts did you find the most useful and why?

There are 8 comments

    1. Karina

      Thank you for your comment, Annette. My pregnancy went really well and the little bundle of joy is already here. Thanks!

  1. Lynne

    I was told to skip yoga during the first trimester but I kept practicing at home on my own. This cleared up a lot of questions. Thanks a million!

    1. Karina

      Hi, Lynne,
      I see that happening a lot. But, personally, I see nothing wrong with practicing yoga during the first trimester as long as you have a healthy pregnancy and you take the necessary precautions.
      I kept practicing too. It actually made me feel better and eased my nausea.

  2. Kirsten

    This is extremely comprehensive. I’m 12 weeks pregnant. I’ve had terrible nausea, but it’s getting better. So I’m thinking about going back to yoga.

    1. Karina

      Congratulations! My nausea/ morning sickness was terrible with both pregnancies. I did, however, notice that I felt better after moving. Make sure to start small and take it easy. Take care of yourself and the little one.

  3. Lizzie

    So glad I found this list! So helpful. First pregnancy and I’m an avid yogi but I’ve been so fearful of practicing and thus helps me find my new normal for the next few months!!

    1. Karina

      Congratulations! Thank you very much for your feedback, it means a lot to know that it’s helpful.
      I totally understand. During my first pregnancy, I was worried about every little thing. But our bodies are very smart and they know what’s right and what’s not. If we tune in with them and practice mindfully and with caution, making any necessary adjustments, yoga can have so many benefits during pregnancy.
      Stay safe and take care of yourself and the little one!

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