9 Types of Yoga Poses to Avoid when Pregnant (with Modifications)

yoga poses to avoid when pregnant

Yoga can be beneficial throughout all three trimesters of pregnancy. It can relieve stress and tension, increase strength, prepare for labor, and more.

However, while some poses can be useful, others can have the opposite effect.

In addition to that, many yoga teachers who are not certified in prenatal yoga aren’t taught how to teach pregnant women. As a result, many aren’t familiar with the specifics of pregnant female bodies and the modifications that they need.

Pregnant women are told to listen to their bodies (even by me). Yet, sometimes it may be easier said than done. Or, you may simply be worried and question everything that you do. I surely did, and the world around us often makes it seem like everything that you do is wrong.

So, some extra knowledge on what types of yoga poses you should avoid when pregnant won’t hurt, right?

Once your pregnancy is confirmed, it’s time to start modifying your yoga practice even if you aren’t showing yet. Some teachers may tell you to skip yoga during the first trimester altogether. It is, however, up to you to decide whether you will or not. And you should modify your practice progressively the further along you are.

For your reference, below are the types of yoga poses to avoid when pregnant as they can potentially cause damage to you or your baby.

Yoga Poses You Should Avoid when Pregnant

1. Belly-Down Yoga Postures

As soon as you know that you are pregnant, it’s best to start going easy on belly-down yoga poses.

Even if your baby is still tiny and nothing is seen yet, yoga poses that place too much pressure on the lower abdomen should be avoided. These are Bow Pose and Locust Pose.

In these poses, you balance the entire weight of your body on your lower belly. And that’s where your uterus is starting to grow and expand. Although you may not yet see much yet, there is still risk that you are placing pressure on your uterus and the baby.

During the first trimester, you can still practice Sphinx Pose and Cobra Pose. Yet, once you start showing, skip them until after you’ve given birth and recovered.

What to Do Instead?

If you feel comfortable, you can practice Upward Dog. It can open the chest, strengthen the arms, expand the font body, and lengthen the hip flexors. Place blocks under your hands to elevate your upper body and provide it more space.

If Upward Dog is uncomfortable, places too much pressure on your abdomen, or simply does not feel safe, go for Cow Pose instead. It too is excellent for opening the chest and the front body. And, combined with Cat Pose, it creates more mobility in the pelvic area.

2. Prone Yoga Poses

Once you reach 16 weeks or 4 months of pregnancy, avoid yoga poses where you need to lay on your back for long periods of time. Some experts say that up to 20 weeks is fine, too. After that our uterus becomes heavy and can press on vena cava, a large vein that runs to the right of your spine.

Compressing it can restrict blood flow to your heart, make you dizzy, and may restrict blood flow to your baby, too.

So, avoid Savasana on your back.

What to Do Instead?

To practice Savasana during pregnancy, prop your body up with bolsters or blankets. Or lie on your side propping your upper knee on a bolster or placing blankets between your knees.

You are fine to practice Bridge Pose and rest for a few breaths before repeating it. However, exit the pose by rolling onto your side if you start feeling dizzy at any point.

3. Forward Folds with You Feet Together

Normally, you hold your feet together in seated forward folds and at hip-distance in standing forward folds. However, during pregnancy, you’ll find that it’ll be rather impossible to do so without compressing your growing belly.

What to Do Instead?

Avoid placing your feet too close together in standing forward folding yoga poses when pregnant. Widen your stance. Use blocks to prop your hands if that feels more comfortable.

In Seated Forward Fold, widen your feet and lower down with a flat back. You can also sit up on a block or a blanket if that feels easier on your lower back.

4. Closed Twists

Closed twists such as Revolved Chair, Revolved Triangle, Revolved Side Angle, Lord of the Fishes, and similar poses compress your belly. You limit the space that is available in your belly and may even restrict blood flow to it. Therefore, you should avoid these yoga poses when pregnant.

What to Do Instead?

Aim to create space in your belly instead. Opt for open twists such as a basic seated twist. They can be great to relieve tension in the back and give you a gentle yet safe stretch.

 Instead of Revolved Chair, widen your knees in regular Chair Pose. Place your hand on the opposite knee and reach the other one to the sky.

Go for Side Angle instead of Revolved Side Angle. Prop your elbow onto your knee and your hand on the bottom of your belly.

5. Crunches and Intense Abdominal Work

Poses like Navasava or any type of crunches also compress your belly. Ideally, you should be aiming to pull your abdominals toward the spine when you do any type of crunches.

During pregnancy that becomes impossible as your abdominals to do that because they are getting pulled apart by your growing uterus. As a result, your abdominals would bulge out as a cone and put too much pressure linea alba, the connective tissues that hold together the left and right side of your abdominals.

And too much pressure on the linea alba can cause or aggravate diastasis recti, abdominal separation.

What to Do Instead?

Avoiding crunches does not mean that you should skip core yoga poses when pregnant. Having a strong core can help you have a better posture, put less pressure on and prevent lower back pain, make delivery and recovery easier.

To safely work on your core, you can do Sunbird Pose and planks. Make sure to maintain correct form and modify planks by placing your knees down if you notice that your tummy starts bulging out or maintaining correct form becomes hard.

However, if in doubt, skip ab work. I personally believe it’s best to not do any at all rather than doing it incorrectly.

6. Deep Backbends

Backbends aren’t just working on your back. They are also extending the front body. In deep backbends, quite a lot of extension is going on in your abdominal area.

Since your little one is already doing a pretty good job at extending your abdominals, adding deep backbends to the mix can strain or even damage your connective tissues and result in diastasis recti.

That’s why, skip poses like Full Wheel, Full Camel, and Dancer’s Pose. The latter not only can over-extend front body but can also be challenging for the balance.  Go easy on Wild Thing and Up Dogs, too.

What to Do Instead?

You can either skip them altogether or practice modified versions of these poses. For instance, do Bridge Pose instead of Full Wheel. Or, don’t go all the way down in Camel Pose. Instead, place your hands on your lower back and lightly bend backward. Alternatively, place your hands on blocks.

If Upward Facing Dog is too much for you, you can use blocks too.

7. “Pretzel” Poses

Anything that required you to twist in a knot is not best for pregnancy. You risk compressing your belly and putting your baby at risk.

Since the hormone relaxin loosens your joints, such poses can strain or even dislocate your joints and ligaments. You can also easily overstretch yourself if you are not careful.

What to Do Instead?

Take the time to practice poses that can be beneficial throughout the respective trimester or prepare your body for birth.

Or, simply rest or take a few minutes to sit in meditation and observe the sensations in your body. You will always be able to advance in your yoga practice later.

8. Inversions

When it comes to inversions, you should always be cautious. However, pregnancy is an extremely sensitive period in a woman’s life.

If you have had a strong inversion practice before, you should be able to do them (or modified versions of them) in pregnancy too. At least for some time. Avoid doing them late in pregnancy when the baby has already settled.

But, if you have never practiced inversions before or were rather new to them, pregnancy isn’t the time to start your inversion journey. You can easily tip over, fall, or place too much pressure on your cervical spine.

What to Do Instead?

Legs-Up-The-Wall can be a great alternative to inversions. Yet, don’t forget to prop your upper body up starting from month 4 or 5.

Or you can always do a few rounds of Cat-Cows or simply rest.

9. Poses that Require Deep Stretching

Similarly to pretzel poses, deep stretches can hurt your joints, muscles, and ligaments if not done carefully.

So, go easy on poses like Splits and Lizards.

What to Do Instead?

Opt for Half-Splits or, if you are more advanced, modify splits by using blocks and blankets. When it comes to lizards, you can also incorporate props such as blocks or straps.

What Other Yoga Practices Should You Avoid When Pregnant?

If you are a fan of Bikram or Hot Yoga, pregnancy isn’t the best time for them. You can easily overheat and your body won’t be able to self-regulate its temperature. This means that your baby will overheat as well.  As a result, it can negatively affect the development of your baby.

Heated pranayamas and breath retention are other types of yoga practices that you should avoid. You risk overheating yourself, limiting airflow to our baby and yourself, or get dizzy.

Instead, go for deep belly breathing or Ujjayi Pranayama (also known as Victorious or Ocean Breath). Both resemble breathing practices taught in childbirth classes and can be beneficial during labor, too.

Have a safe pregnancy and yoga practice!

There are 10 comments

  1. Yoga for pregnanacy

    Nice post, Thank you for sharing a Yoga Poses to Avoid when Pregnant. By this Post, many ones come to know about yoga for pregnancy.

  2. Abigail

    I was wondering about some of these. I keep seeing pregnant yogis doing backbends and inversions on insta and this confuses me a bit. Would you say it’s still OK to do these?

    1. Karina

      Hello and thanks for your question. These are written with an average yogi in mind. Keep in mind that most influencers you’ll see on the gram will have more experience than the average person so not all they do will apply to everyone. Inversions can be dangerous in pregnancy if you are not careful and/or don’t have the strength to provide enough support. Backbends also need strength and control, and they can cause problems later on if you don’t do them carefully.

  3. Kelsey

    I feel like my upper back is really tense all the time. Backbends would generally help, but they aren’t recommended. Any suggestions?

    1. Karina

      Hi there, deep backbends are not recommended, however, you can still do gentle backbends and chest openers. Try Puppy Pose and Updog with your hands on blocks. A great way to open shoulders is by taking a strap, belt or a stick in your hands and moving your arms back.

      Remember to be gentle and mindful o your body. If anything doesn’t feel good, skip it.

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