Pregnant? Can you still practice Yoga?

First of all, congratulations! How exciting! Second of all, yes, yes, yes! You can still practice Yoga though there are a few things you will need to keep in mind. If necessary, print this list and place it on your mat when you come to Yoga so that you can still practice Yoga mindfully and safely (I heard pregnancy makes you forgetful 😉).






1. BELLY-DOWN POSTURES

Once your pregnancy has been confirmed, it’s best to avoid any poses that involve lying or placing pressure directly on your belly (prone position) like cobra or locust pose (salabhasana). Even though your little one might only be the size of a lentil, we don’t want to place unnecessary compression on your baby. Instead swap cobra pose for cow pose or sphinx pose (first trimester only). Once you move into your second and third trimester, lying on your belly won’t even be an option!


2. LYING ON YOUR BACK

Once you reach 20 weeks of pregnancy, poses on your back lasting for more than 90 seconds should be limited. As your baby and uterus grow in the second and third trimesters, extra pressure is placed on your vena cava, the main vein that carries blood from your lower body back to your heart. During exercise, this can lead to lowered blood pressure and dizziness. Modify postures like corpse pose (savasana) by propping your back up on bolsters supported by blocks or by lying on your side instead.


3. CRUNCHES

Your belly is your baby’s home for the next nine months and your job is to protect that beautiful house. Core exercises like crunches and boat pose (navasana) compress the abdomen and should be avoided during all three trimesters. However, you don’t have to shy away from all core exercises. Creating a strong and stable core can help you prevent lower-back pain during pregnancy and build stamina for labor and delivery.

In general, safe core exercises include extended table, plank (with proper form — no dumping into the lower back!), forearm plank and side forearm plank. However, check with your doctor if you have or suspect you have diastasis recti, which is a separation of the outermost layer of abdominal muscles that affects about 1/3 of pregnant women. This determines which core exercises you are able to safely perform.


4. FORWARD FOLDS WITH FEET TOGETHER

As your pregnancy progresses and your belly grows, you’ll want to modify deep forward folds like standing forward bend (uttanasana) and seated forward bend (paschimottanasana) to make more space for your baby and protect your lower back. Instead of practicing with your feet together, take a wider stance and use blocks under your palms during standing forward bends to avoid going too deep and straining your lower back.


5. TWISTING POSTURES

Similar to crunches, “closed” twists (twisting inward) compress the abdomen and should be avoided during pregnancy. Examples of twisting postures to avoid include twisting chair, twisting crescent, revolved triangle, revolved half moon and seated twists. Open twists, however, are fine because they don’t compress your baby’s warm and cozy home.


6. PRETZEL POSES

While you won’t find “pretzel pose” in any of the ancient yogic texts — you can probably figure out which kind of poses I’m referring to — you know, those crazy, twist-yourself-into-knots poses? I try my best to avoid those altogether (because who really needs to wrap their leg around their head?), and I would certainly avoid them during pregnancy. During pregnancy, our body produces a hormone called relaxin, which relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis to help create space for your baby to pass through. As a result, there’s an increased risk of overstretching your ligaments in certain poses, which can lead to SI joint instability and lower-back pain. Be mindful not to over-stretch in any given pose during your practice.


7. DEEP BACKBENDS

While gentle backbends can be very therapeutic during pregnancy, avoid deep backbends like upward bow pose (also known as “wheel” or urdhva dhanurasana) unless you have been safely and comfortably practicing them pre-pregnancy, as they can put you at risk for diastasis recti (abdominal separation).


8. INVERSIONS

Inversions are okay to be done during pregnancy, however, the general rule of thumb is that if you didn’t have a strong inversion practice before you got pregnant, now is not the time to start. The most obvious risk includes toppling over, but other risks include compressing your cervical spine (the small vertebrae in your neck) in poses like headstand as you are now carrying more weight than your body is used to.


9. HEATING BREATHING TECHNIQUES & BREATH RETENTION

Heating breathwork techniques like “breath of fire” (or kapalabhati) should be avoided. Breath retention practices like kumbhaka pranayama should also be avoided during pregnancy. Breathing practices like diaphragmatic breathing (or belly breathing) and ujayii breathing, however, are highly recommended, but keep in mind: only if you feel good! These types of calming, cooling breathing techniques are great to carry with you into labor and delivery.


10. HOT YOGA

During pregnancy, as blood flow increases, your core temperature can also rise. Practicing yoga in a heated room with extreme temperatures should be avoided so as not to put yourself and your baby at risk for dangerous elevations of core maternal temperature.


I hope this guidelines help you to keep your Yoga practice a daily routine during your pregnancy.

It is important to let your Yoga teacher know that you are expecting, so that your Yoga teacher can give you the best Yoga experience during your pregnancy.

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