We all know yoga is great for you - great for a healthy body, mind, and life. It’s even great for a healthy pregnancy. But did you know that there are some yoga poses you should not do during your pregnancy?
While yoga is a very healthy form of exercise, like all forms of exercise, you need to take care during your pregnancy. Pay attention to these don’ts, and you can practice other yoga poses all pregnancy long in a very healthy way.
Read this list, and be sure to steer clear of any that might present danger. If you’re having difficulty remembering everything, try to go to some prenatal classes and watch some prenatal videos, which will help give you an idea of some great poses for you to do. Also, pay attention to your body: if something feels uncomfortable or off, just don’t do it.
Remember: yoga can be a part of a healthy pregnancy. Just pay attention to what poses will work for you during your pregnancy, and what poses you might want to avoid.
10 No crazy breathing
In yoga, we often push ourselves to regulate our breath - inhale and exhale faster than we normally do or hold it for very long periods of time. Pregnancy is not the time to alter your breathing.
During pregnancy when practicing yoga, breathe smoothly and evenly. If you want to try breathwork, alternate nostril breathing. This can be very relaxing, but don’t do it if it feels uncomfortable.
Regular breath during yoga is completely fine, and if the rest of the class in engaging in intensive breath work, use the time to just meditate instead.
9 Avoid Deep Twisting
No twisting? Twists are a core part of yoga, but there is some worry about miscarriage risk when doing deep twists during pregnancy. Twists can constrict your circulation, and the last thing you want to do is constrict your circulation during pregnancy. Because deep twists constrict all of your organs, including your uterus, it’s best to avoid them.
8 Careful with the balancing poses!
Some prenatal yoga instructors warn about the risks with balancing poses. With larger bellies (a change to most of us), pregnant women find their centers of gravity have drastically shifted.
With balancing poses comes the risk of falling, especially with a new body shape, women should avoid balancing poses, or if they attempt them, take modifications when necessary. It’s not worth the risk of falling!
7 No Inversions
While some disagree (BKS Iyenger has mentioned in his books tales about women doing headstand during their entire pregnancies), most feel that pregnant women should not do inversions during pregnancy. Inversions bring the blood to the head, and during pregnancy, women do not want to promote any pose that brings the blood circulation away from the uterus. Many pregnant women have low blood circulation, and inversions can actually cause dizziness during pregnancy.
There’s also the risk of falling. So avoid inversions, especially as your body changes its shape.
Want to do some sort of inversion? Put your legs up the wall. It will feel nice and relaxing - but without any of the other risks that regular inversions can pose for pregnant women.
6 No Forward Folding
After the third month of your pregnancy, don’t do any forward folding. There is too much pressure on the fetus. Forward folds can also constrict blood flow to the uterus. Regular hatha vinyassa or ashtanga classes might be out, as you really shouldn't do sun salutations with all of the forward folding. You could talk to a teacher before class, asking for suggestions on alternatives to sun salutations. They might have you do a few rounds of Warrior I and II while the rest of the class salutes the sun.
5 Avoid most backbends
Backbends stretch the abdominal muscles a bit too much, so avoid backbends.
Bridge Pose is okay, though, and a restorative version of Bridge is even better! (Restorative Bridge is great for relieving lower back tension and just relaxing.)
4 No Hot Yoga
Seriously. No hot yoga or bikram yoga. And if your yoga studio doesn’t have AC in the summer, or cranks their heat a bit too much in the winter, skip it.
Getting overheated during your pregnancy can be quite dangerous, so you want to avoid elevating your body temperature as much as you possibly can. Overheating can actually cause pre-term labor - so stay away from hot environments. It can be dangerous for both you and your baby.
Are you a hot yoga lover and aren’t sure what to do? Check out these great prenatal yoga videos - which you can do from the cooler temperatures of your own home! (Just crank the AC in summer or crack the windows in winter before starting!)
3 Savasana in your nd and rd trimester
While many jokingly say that savasana (aka corpse) pose is their favorite, it’s actually tough on the body in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. It’s recommended that when you do corpse pose to “finish” a yoga class that you do a modification in the final two semesters. Try lying on your side instead, maybe even curling up with a bolster.
Women should not lay on their back during these latter two trimesters; it can put too much weight and pressure on the large vein that runs along the spine. This pressure can lessen the oxygen, nutrients, and blood flow that are exchanged from mama to baby.
2 Now is not the time for ab workouts
For once, you can relax and NOT worry about toning those abs.
It is recommended that women do not do heavy ab work after 16 weeks of pregnancy. Skip ab-intensive poses, like boat pose. Ask your teacher for modifications that won’t strain your abdominal region.
Hey, you’ve got a baby in your belly anyway...it’s not really the time to think about getting a six pack!
1 Don’t push yourself
Any serious yogi will tell you yoga is NOT about pushing past your limits. Your limits let you know when to stop, and help prevent you from getting injured.
During pregnancy, we’re more at risk for injury than our non-pregnant yogis. Don’t try to be as flexible as you were a few months ago, or even to get more flexible. Stay where you are, and enjoy that place.
During your first month of pregnancy, when your body is at most risk of miscarriage, tone it down. If you’re new to yoga and want to practice, great, but stick with prenatal practice only. Even if you practice, don’t practice as strenuously as you have in the past.
During pregnancy, when your body is constantly changing, you need to pay closer attention to what those limits are - and they are often shifting. While many women hate to admit it, they’re a lot more fragile during pregnancy. Go easy on yourself. Save the really tough classes that leave you in a pile of sweat for after your baby is born and you’re back to exercising regularly - you’ll probably want some workouts that really burn calories then anyway!
While yoga can definitely be part of a healthy pregnancy, a few modifications need to be taken to ensure that you can practice yoga safely for you and your baby! Namaste!
For Further Reading
Seema Sondhi, Yoga in Pregnancy and Childbirth, Delhi: Wisdom Tree, 2005.
Geeta Iyengar, Yoga: A Gem for Women,Timeless Books, 2002.