Yoga Poses to Avoid when Pregnant (with Safe Modifications)

Pregnant woman practicing side stretch instead of yoga poses to avoid when pregnant

Yoga offers many benefits throughout all three trimesters of pregnancy. Prenatal yoga can be a wonderful form of exercise, helping you stay strong. It can relieve stress and tension, prepare for labor, and more. However, while some yoga poses and exercises can be useful, others can have the opposite effect. So, it’s useful to know what yoga poses to avoid when pregnant.

Once your pregnancy is confirmed, it’s time to begin modifying your yoga practice even if you aren’t showing yet.

Some teachers tell pregnant women to skip yoga during the first trimester. It is up to you to decide whether you will or won’t. And you need to modify your practice progressively the further along you are. Especially if you don’t want to join a prenatal yoga class but continue to follow regular classes or practice by yourself.

Below are the types of yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy as they can be damaging to your and your baby’s health.

Yoga Poses to 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 you don’t look pregnant, your body is changing. So, you should avoid yoga poses that place excessive pressure on the lower abdomen. These are Bow Pose and Locust Pose.

In these poses, you balance the entire weight of your body on your low belly. And that’s where your uterus begins to grow and expand. Although you can’t see much yet, you may be pressing on your uterus and the baby.

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

What You Can Do

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

If this pose is uncomfortable, overextends your abdomen, or doesn’t feel safe, go for Cow Pose. It is great 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

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

Compressing it can restrict the blood flow to your heart, making you dizzy, and to your baby.

Due to this, avoid Savasana on your back.

What You Can Do

To practice Savasana during pregnancy, prop your body at an inclined angle with bolsters or blankets. You can also lie on your side propping your upper knee on a bolster or putting 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 are feeling dizzy at any point.

3. Forward Folds with You Feet Together

Normally, we hold our feet together in seated forward folds and at hip-distance in standing ones. However, during pregnancy, you’ll find that it’ll become impossible to do it without constricting your growing belly.

What You Can Do

Avoid keeping your feet too close together in standing forward bending yoga poses during pregnancy. Widen your stance, and try using blocks to prop your hands on 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 low back.

4. Closed Twists

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

What You Can Do

Aim to create space in your belly. In the second and third trimesters, you’ll benefit from open twists such as a basic seated twist. They can give you a gentle but safe stretch when you need to relieve tension in the back.

Skip Revolved Chair and widen your knees in a regular Chair Pose. Position your hand on the opposite knee and reach the other one up or behind you.

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

5. Crunches and Intense Abdominal Work

Yoga postures like Boat Pose or any exercise similar to crunches can also compress your belly. Ideally, you should be aiming to pull your abdominal muscles toward the spine when you do crunches.

During pregnancy that becomes impossible for your abdominals to do that because they are getting pulled apart by your growing uterus. As a result, your abdominal muscles would bulge out as a cone and press on the linea alba. Linea alba is the connective tissue that holds together the left and right sides of your abs.

Excessive pressure on the linea alba can cause or aggravate diastasis recti, abdominal separation.

What You Can Do

Avoiding crunches doesn’t mean that core yoga poses should be avoided when pregnant. Having a strong core can help you have a better posture, put less strain on and prevent low back pain. It can also make delivery and recovery easier.

To strengthen the core in a safe way, you can do Sunbird Pose and planks. Make sure to maintain correct form and modify planks. Do this by placing your knees on the mat if you notice that your tummy is bulging out or maintaining correct form becomes hard.

However, if in doubt, skip ab work. It’s a good idea to skip it rather than do it incorrectly.

6. Deep Backbends

Backbending postures 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.

Your little one is already doing a pretty good job at extending your abs. 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 the front body but can also be challenging for the balance. Go easy on Wild Thing and Up Dogs, too.

What You Can Do

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, put your hands on your lower back and lightly bend backward. Alternatively, prop your hands on blocks.

If Upward Facing Dog is too much for you, you can elevate your hands on blocks.

7. “Pretzel” Poses

Anything that required you to twist in a knot isn’t best for pregnancy. You may compress your belly, putting your baby at risk.

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

What You Can Do

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 practice later.

8. Inversions

When it comes to inversions such as Headstand, it’s important to always be cautious. However, pregnancy is an extremely sensitive period in a woman’s life. Starting any form of more advanced exercise isn’t a good idea.

If you had a strong inversion practice before, you may be able to keep practicing them during pregnancy. Modify and use the wall as support. Avoiding them is generally recommended late in the third trimester when the baby has already settled.

But, if you hadn’t practiced inversions before or were new to them, pregnancy isn’t the time to begin or advance in your inversion journey. You can easily tip over, fall, or place excess pressure on your cervical spine.

What You Can Do

Legs-Up-The-Wall can be a great alternative to inversions. Yet, don’t forget to prop up your upper body starting from the second trimester.

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

9. Poses that Require Deep Stretching

Like 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 You Can Do

Try 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. They can help you remain more comfortable.

What Other Yoga Practices Should You Avoid during Pregnancy?

If you are a fan of Bikram or Hot Yoga, pregnancy may not be the best time for them. Unless you are very experienced and used to the heat, you can overheat. As a result, your body may be unable to self-regulate its temperature. This means that your baby will overheat as well. It can negatively affect its development.

Relaxin increases the flexibility of the joints. Combined with the heat, this can increase the risk of injury. During the second and third trimesters, balancing may be harder, making you more likely to fall and hurt yourself.

Heated pranayamas and breath retention are other practices that you should avoid during pregnancy. You risk overheating yourself, limiting airflow to your baby and yourself, or get dizzy.

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

Have a safe pregnancy and yoga practice! And keep in mind that each day is different. What may feel good today, may not feel as good tomorrow.


There are 12 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.

  4. Caroline

    I appreciate your gentle, affirming tone in all of these interactions. Thanks for the thoughtful post, and providing alternatives wherever possible.

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