Prenatal Yoga: Dos and Don’ts

Pregnant female students touching their abdomens during prenatal yoga class.

Pregnancy is a special but stressful and challenging time. You will experience countless changes in your body that can influence how you feel physically and mentally.

Prenatal yoga can be very beneficial during pregnancy, no matter whether you are an experienced yogi or a complete beginner.

Nonetheless, you should consider a few things so that you can reap the benefits of prenatal yoga without causing yourself or your baby any harm.

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

Prenatal Yoga: The Dos

  1. Talk to Your Yoga Teacher

    If you would like to continue your regular yoga classes with your regular yoga teacher during pregnancy, let your teacher know that you’re pregnant. That’s due to two reasons.

    You’ll need to start modifying your yoga practice as your pregnancy progresses. An experienced yoga teacher will offer advice on what you should do to remain safe and enjoy your practice.

    However, not each yoga teacher and yoga studio is comfortable with teaching pregnant women during their first trimester. That’s due to the high risk of miscarriage during this period. Moreover, many teachers don’t have the training, knowledge, or experience necessary to safely guide pregnant women through their practice.

    So, you may be told that you should take a break and restart your yoga practice once the first trimester is over.

  2. Find Prenatal Yoga Classes

    Pregnant females keeping balance during prenatal yoga class.

    While you don’t have to switch to prenatal yoga classes when you get pregnant, it can be beneficial. Prenatal yoga classes are designed specifically for pregnancy and are taught by trained professionals.

    If you usually practice faster-paced yoga styles like vinyasa or Ashtanga, prenatal yoga classes will probably seem much milder and easier to you. Despite that, they will still be beneficial even though your practice may not be as intense as it used to be.

    If you have never done yoga before pregnancy, prenatal yoga classes are a great place to get started.

  3. Do What Feels Right

    Pregnancy is not the time for intense practice and pushing yourself toward new goals. Instead, pay attention to your body.

    Always listen to what your body is telling you and do only what feels right. If you feel nauseous or dizzy or aren’t comfortable or safe, feel free to skip the pose. Take a break and rest in Child’s Pose (Balasana) whenever you need it. As your belly grows, you’ll need to practice Child’s Pose with your knees wide apart.

  4.  Take Your Time

    There’s no need to rush through transitions between poses, vinyasas, or Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations). Take your time to move and follow your body’s pace. Take breaks any time you need them and step outside if you aren’t feeling well.

  5.  Use Props

    Props are a great help for Yoga and pregnancy.

    As your body is going through numerous changes, certain poses are no longer going to feel as comfortable or accessible as they were before. So use props to modify your practice as needed.

    For instance, you can prop your hands on blocks in standing forward bends or balancing poses. You can also use a yoga strap in seated forward bends to hold a straight back. Sit up on a folded blanket or a bolster if your back rounds in seated poses. Finally, the wall can help you maintain balance in standing postures.

  6. Modify Yoga Poses When Needed

    Even if you don’t use props, modify postures whenever you need it. Your body will be slightly different with every passing day. So your yoga practice will have to evolve as well.

    Even if you could do full poses before your pregnancy, it may be beneficial if you modify them during pregnancy.

  7. Separate Your Feet Wider than Your Hips in Standing Yoga Poses

    Yoga postures such as Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Tadasana (Mountain Pose), or Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose) will probably be more comfortable if you place your feet wider than your hips. Your growing belly will have more room, and you will feel more stability in the poe, as well.

  8. Practice Hip Openers with Care

    Keep in mind that your flexibility is going to increase during pregnancy, especially as you near labor. Therefore, you need to be mindful of how deep you go in any yoga pose so that you do not destabilize your joints.

    As you enter a pose and find your edge, take a step back to reduce the intensity. You will still be working on flexibility, yet without compromising your joints.

    And always keep in mind that you are in control of your yoga practice. If anything feels uncomfortable, skip the pose altogether. If however, you have any prior issues with your hips, do consult a doctor to clarify if such poses are okay to practice.

  9. Be Careful with Inversions

    If you had a strong inversion practice before pregnancy, listen to your body when it comes to continuing inversions. At some point during pregnancy, many expecting parents find active inversions like handstands become uncomfortable. 

    Consider working with a qualified prenatal teacher to explore inversion alternatives and other safe practices. If you’ve never worked on inversions before, it’s best to add them to your practice after your pregnancy.

    Always stop inversions if you don’t feel well or safe.

  10. Take Deep Breaths

    While you’ll come across different opinions on it, try not to run out of breath during pregnancy. Instead, take deep breaths. It will be safer for you and your baby and prevent you from becoming exhausted.

    Deep breathing is also essential in delivery. It will help you manage pain better and ensure that your stress levels don’t spike. So, you can use your yoga practice to prepare for that.

    Now that we’ve looked at the dos of pregnancy yoga let’s see what the don’ts are.

Pose modifications are essential for Yoga and pregnancy.

Prenatal Yoga: The Don’ts

  1.  Don’t Do Yoga on an Empty Stomach

    Traditionally, you should do yoga on an empty stomach or with only a little food in it. However, during pregnancy, you may end up feeling dizzy or nauseated if you do that.

    If you suffer from morning sickness, have a small snack before doing yoga. It will provide you with extra energy and can also ease nausea.

  2. Don’t Do Hot Yoga or Bikram Yoga

    Studies show that exposing yourself to excessive heat when you are pregnant ups the risk of different malformations such as the neural tube defect. So I advise that you avoid Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga during pregnancy. The same goes for doing yoga in very hot weather. Turn your AC on if need be.

  3. Don’t Do Jump Throughs and Jumpbacks

    In most cases, jumping in yoga practice or other exercises is not recommended. It’s a high-impact exercise and increases the risk of falling.

  4. Twist with Care

    During pregnancy, it’s best to avoid twists such as Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana) or Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana). They can put pressure on your abdominal area and restrict blood flow to your uterus. If you want to practice twists, do not twist as far as you can. This goes for all three trimesters. Stay well inside your comfort zone; twist only to about 80 percent of your usual range of motion.  

  5. Don’t Lie On Your Belly

    As your belly grows and you start showing, avoid yoga poses that require you to be face down on your belly such as Sphinx Pose (Ardha Bhujangasana), Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), Locust Pose (Salabhasana), and Bow Pose (Dhanurasana).

    You should be able to do most belly-down yoga poses during the first trimester. Nonetheless, I recommend that you skip Bow Pose and Locust Pose as they create too much pressure on the lower belly. 

    However, if you don’t feel safe, skip them altogether.

    Healthy lifestyle concept. Pregnancy Yoga and Fitness. Young caucasian pregnant yoga woman resting after working out in prenatal Savasana

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

    In the first trimester of pregnancy, yoga poses where you are lying on the back are not an issue. Your baby and uterus are still very small. Nevertheless, past the first trimester, it’s best to avoid them.

    The Vena cava, a large vein, runs to the right side of the spine. It returns deoxygenated blood from the lower part of the body to the heart. The growing belly can press on this vein and restrict blood flow. This could mean less oxygen for you and your baby.

    No need to panic, though. Your body will tell you if that occurs. You’ll feel dizzy or lightheaded.

    So, in any yoga poses where you need to lie flat on your back, prop your upper body up using bolsters, blocks, and blankets. 

    Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) and Supported Bridge Pose (Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) are both fine.

  7. Don’t Do Deep Backbends

    Your abs experience quite a lot of pressure during pregnancy, and backbends are essentially an extension of the front body.

    Yoga poses like Camel Pose (Ustrasana) or Upward Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) can overextend your abdominal muscles and increase the risk of developing diastasis recti.

    Upward-facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) is okay as long as there isn’t excess pressure on your lower back or belly. If that happens, place your hands on a couple of blocks and see if you feel better.

    You can modify Camel Pose by holding your hands on the low back or blocks rather than going all the way down. If Camel feels uncomfortable, regardless, it’s best not to do it. Opt for Uttana Shishosana (Puppy Pose) instead.

  8.  Don’t Do Intense Ab Work

    Some yoga postures, like Bird Dog Pose (Parsva Balasana), are great for developing core strength. This can help you remain more stable and prevent pain in the lower back.

    However, avoid any poses that involve crunching or result in your belly popping out into a triangle. It strains the connective tissues and can cause diastasis recti.

  9. Don’t Dehydrate or Overexert Yourself

    Using a chair to modify for prenatal yoga poses.

    Pay attention to your heart rate and breath. If you are starting to feel tired, run out of breath or become lightheaded, lower your pace, or take a break.

    Also, make sure you have a water bottle nearby. Traditionally, it’s recommended not to drink during yoga practice. During pregnancy, however, you need to drink a lot more liquids than you usually do. So, if you need a sip of water, just go for it.

  10. Don’t Practice Certain Types of Pranayama

    While deep breathing is a must during pregnancy, avoid pranayamas with shallow and rapid breathing, Breath of Fire (Kapalbhati Pranayama), in particular, or Breath Retention (Kumbhaka). These restrict oxygen flow, potentially making you lightheaded or dizzy.

    Most importantly, make sure that you stay safe and enjoy both yoga and your pregnancy!

 

karina norton

Karina Norton is a certified yoga instructor currently living and teaching in the south of Spain. She is passionate about anatomy and uses her background in weightlifting and dance to teach creative and safe classes.  Karina primarily teaches a variety of mixed-level Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Yin yoga classes and workshops and particularly enjoys working with women during their prenatal and postnatal journey. She continuously learns about different aspects of yoga and blogs on her website, yogabykarina.com.

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