Your body is simply not the same when you are carrying a developing child. Your internal organs shift and squeeze together to make room for your growing uterus. Additionally, the cocktail of hormones running through your blood make your body feel and react much differently than you may be used to.
Both your own safety and the safety of your growing baby are important to consider when it comes to your yoga practice. Fortunately, it’s totally possible to continue practicing yoga throughout pregnancy, with a few key modifications.
Is It Safe to Practice Yoga While Pregnant?
If you already have an established yoga practice, you don’t have to give it up entirely once you get pregnant. Many poses will be safe to continue while others may need to be modified or omitted. It is a good idea to let your instructor know that you are pregnant.
As a rule, starting any new type of exercise while pregnant is probably not a good idea.1 If you have never practiced yoga before, or you have minimal experience with yoga, sticking to prenatal yoga classes is your best bet. These routines are gentle and designed specifically for expectant mothers.
Yoga Poses to Avoid While Pregnant
“Poses to avoid during pregnancy are generally any pose that puts pressure on the abdomen,” Aylin Guvenc, an Every Mother prenatal yoga and pilates instructor told Verywell, “Other poses to be cautious of are twists, that put pressure on the organs, and later on in pregnancy lying flat on the back which can restrict circulation.”
While pregnant, refrain from practicing:
- Poses that put pressure on the abdomen
- Deep twists
- Lying flat on your back (later on in pregnancy)
Abdominal Work in Pregnancy
“Poses [that put pressure on the abdomen] create unnecessary compression and restrict blood flow,” said Guvenc, explaining that, “They can exacerbate mechanical strains on the body and contribute to conditions such as diastasis recti, when the abdominal muscles split in pregnancy.”
Poses to avoid in this category include:
- Crow pose
To Twist or Not to Twist
You may have heard that twists are a no-no during pregnancy, but that is not strictly true. Open twists towards the third trimester are generally OK with your doctor’s approval and they will most likely feel great.
Twisting should be done from the shoulders, as opposed to from the abdomen. Continue to ensure that your entire baby bump stays open and does not fold or bend at all. “Instead of twisting, think about gently rotating only the upper back and broadening your collar bones,” explained Leah Keller, founder of Every Mother and certified personal trainer.
During the first trimester, however, it is advisable to avoid twists altogether. Twists can cause uterine contractions.
Early on in pregnancy, when your developing baby is the smallest and the risk of miscarriage is the highest, twists are not considered safe.
What Is the Risk of Lying on Your Back During Pregnancy?
Lying on your back during pregnancy can be problematic if it puts pressure on the vena cava. The vena cava is your body’s largest vein. The vena cava’s purpose is to transport blood from your body’s extremities back to your heart.
Normally, lying on your back would not put excessive pressure on the vena cava, but a pregnant person has the weight of her unborn baby, placenta, and extra uterine fluid sitting right atop the vena cava if they lies on their back. This amount of pressure can decrease blood flow to the uterus and the brain, which could make you feel dizzy or even affect your baby.
During the early stages of pregnancy lying on your back should not be a problem, as long as your doctor gives you the OK. Exactly when it becomes unsafe will vary from person to person and from pregnancy to pregnancy. If you prefer to follow a rule, stop lying on your back after 20 weeks of pregnancy. If you feel uncomfortable or lightheaded when you lie on your back, you should stop these positions.
Supine poses can be modified by turning onto one side or the other often with the use of pillows and bolsters. Keller advised, “Instead of lying on your back in savasana, try propping yourself up into a reclined cobbler’s pose or reclined goddess pose.”
Are Balance Poses Safe While Pregnant?
If balance poses were part of your practice before you became pregnant, it may be safe to continue them if you feel comfortable doing so. However, any poses with a risk of falling that you have not tried previously are best to avoid.
If these poses are a part of your practice and you would like to continue them while you are expecting, be aware that your center of balance will change as your pregnancy progresses. You may want to consider standing close enough to a wall or bar to catch yourself if you slip, or use props like blocks as an extra precaution.
What About Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga feels amazing but as a rule, it should be avoided during pregnancy. Expectant persons should take care not to raise their core body temperature above 102 degrees Fahrenheit.2
Overheating in the first trimester may impact fetal development and could possibly contribute to miscarriage. Later in pregnancy it is still best to put your Bikram classes on hold because the extreme heat can put you at risk for fainting due to low blood pressure and dehydration.
When Can I Resume My Practice?
Getting back to your normal routine may take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. Keller suggested listening to your body to know when it is safe to resume your regular practice. However she also advised postpartum people to continue to avoid deep backbends because this can lead to or exacerbate diastis recti.
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