August 14, 2018 by Sonia Ribas

As a Prenatal Health Coach and Yoga Teacher, Yoga is by far my favorite type of exercise during pregnancy.

Studies show that moms-to-be who participate in prenatal yoga have a lower incidence of prenatal disorders, low birth weight babies, and lower pain and stress. Yoga also helps prepare for labor, minimize discomfort and back pain, ease morning sickness, stay in shape, control weight gain and connect to your baby.

I practiced yoga through my 3 pregnancies and really enjoyed its benefits. If you choose yoga as a prenatal exercise, make sure you always listen to your body: the teacher might say something is safe but, if it doesn’t feel good, don’t hesitate to modify or even stop the practice.

In this article, I will explain some principles and some postures to avoid, in order to keep your practice safe during pregnancy. The key concept to bear in mind is to protect the baby’s space: avoid compressing it and you’ll do great! (Note: also check my post “Yoga Practices And Postures For Pregnancy”).

Here are the postures and practices you should avoid during pregnancy:
    • Overheating. You might feel tired and nauseous, so take it very easy. Heated yoga, like Bikram, is best to avoid as you don’t want to raise your core temperature above a safe level. You also want to watch your hydration levels, and we all know how sweaty a heated class can get!
    • Overstretching. The important thing to remember is your body is producing a clever hormone called relaxin. This is fantastic prep for labor, however, it does mean you run the risk of over-stretching your muscles. So you have to be very careful and avoid any overstretching sensation.
    • Full inversions, especially during first and third trimesters. As tempting as might be to continue practicing shoulderstand, headstand, or handstand, I recommend to avoid them during the 1st and 3rd trimester: to minimize miscarriage probabilities and to ensure your baby stays with head down at the end.
    • Belly Down Postures. After the first trimester it just isn’t comfortable to lie flat on your tummy, nor is it particularly good for the baby. So avoid postures like cobra, locust, or bow pose.
    • Twists. When you revolve your chair or revolve your triangle, you minimize and squeeze the baby’s space. It can also affect blood circulation to the baby.
    • Crunches. You want to avoid compressing your baby’s space. So can still work on your core with exercises like plank or other isometric moves.
    • Major backbends. Practicing major backbends like wheel after the first trimester runs the risk of over-stretching the abdominals
    • Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog. This is usually fine to do until late in your pregnancy, when the weight of the stomach may prevent you from keeping your pelvis raised. You may also find that the size of your stomach prevents you from completing a vinyasa sequence. To keep your belly from hitting the ground, perform the sequence on blocks. You can also come down on your knees if the weight is too heavy to support. At some point, the stretching of upward-facing dog may be too much for your stomach and at that point, you’ll want to skip it and transition straight into downward dog from standing poses.
    • Forward Fold with legs together. You just won’t have space and your balance might be compromised. Simply spread your legs wide before coming down into your fold to give the belly room to relax.
    • Lying on your back. It is generally recommended against past about 20 weeks. So as the baby grows and puts pressure on the Vena Cava, you’ll need to modify your Savasana. Lay on the left side of your body, use a bolster/pillow between your legs, a pillow to support your belly depending on how far along you are and a block to support your head.

I really hope you enjoy the benefits of yoga during your pregnancy. While there are things we need to do to practice safely, rather than focusing on what you can’t do, take note of the limits and work around them. It may even enable you to access new and unusual sensations in familiar postures and learn to enjoy new postures!

Want more? Find me at @soniaribascoach for more insights on pregnancy and mom health.

Sonia Ribas

Sonia is a health coach, yoga teacher, prenatal specialist and a mother of 3. Learn more about Sonia by visiting her website and Instagram account.