Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise to do while pregnant, plain and simple. It can help you prepare the body for labor, strengthen the pelvic floor, and promote relaxation. As with everything during pregnancy, take precautions to keep yourself, and your growing baby, as healthy as possible.
The body is not the same when a child is growing inside of it. Internal organs shift and squeeze together to make room for the growing uterus. On top of that, the storm of hormones that coarse through the body can make it feel and react much differently than you are used to. That can make yoga during pregnancy a lot more challenging, even if the yoga poses are not that difficult. A prenatal yoga practice, however, can be highly beneficial and quite relaxing. That said, you don’t have to take a prenatal yoga class to reap the benefits of yoga during pregnancy. Talk to your yoga instructor beforehand, let them know you’re pregnant, and they can offer modifications based on what trimester you’re in.
Benefits Of Prenatal Yoga Poses
The body goes through serious changes while growing another human, so it may not be able to do the same yoga poses it used to. Both experienced yogis and beginner practitioners will need to modify, or avoid certain yoga poses for that reason. Prenatal yoga, however, is a safe and beneficial form of exercise and stress relief during pregnancy. According to researchers, prenatal yoga can help improve sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, aid with lower back pain, relieve headaches, and increase strength and flexibility. It may also help enhance the endurance of muscles needed for childbirth. Now that you know the benefits of prenatal yoga, you can engage in that practice and avoid the following types of yoga poses.
Poses Lying On Your Back
During the first trimester of pregnancy, it may be very comfortable to lie on your back in corpse pose and other reclined postures. In these cases, it’s typically fine to do so. As you enter the second and third trimesters, however, experts warn against lying on your back for extended periods of time. The weight of the belly can put pressure on the inferior vena cava, a major vein that returns blood from the lower body to the heart. Lying on your back can also put pressure on the back and intestines. Instead, practice gentle twists that don’t compress the belly. Focus on extending your spine and twisting through the upper chest and back.
After the first trimester, deep backbends may not feel comfortable or accessible. The reason for this is because they require major extension through the front of the body. Since your growing belly already extends the front of the body, backbends can be quite painful. Additionally, prenatal yoga experts suggest that postpartum people continue to avoid deep backbends because they can increase the risk of diastasis recti, a common condition in pregnant and postpartum people. It’s better to swap backbends with gentler postures like bridge pose, reverse plank, or puppy pose.
Typically, lying on your stomach can elongate the front of the body and massage the internal organs. Once you confirm pregnancy, however, it’s best to avoid any poses that involve lying or placing pressure on the belly (prone position). Cobra pose and locust pose, for example, are not advised during pregnancy, as they can place unnecessary compression on your growing baby. You can still stretch in a gentle way and promote circulation to the front of the body by engaging in tabletop positions, planks and supported variations, or even camel pose.
Although you won’t find “pretzel pose” in any yoga text, you can probably figure out which poses we’re referring to. Do your best to avoid any position that requires you to twist and contort your body into a pretzel. You don’t need to wrap your legs around your head while pregnant. During pregnancy, the body produces relaxin, a hormone that relaxes ligaments in the pelvis to create space for the baby to pass through. As a result, the risk of over-stretching ligaments in certain poses increases. Stick to simpler poses during pregnancy and be mindful not to over-stretch in any pose during your yoga flow.
Headstands, shoulder stands, and handstands are not recommended during pregnancy. Inversions are poses where the head comes above the heart, sending blood from the lower body straight to the head. Although some debate exists about whether or not inversions are safe during pregnancy, the general consensus is that you should avoid them. The reason for this is because the added weight of the placenta, amniotic fluid, baby, and other organs put unnecessary stress on the diaphragm. That can affect your breathing and put pressure on the heart. Some experts say that inversions may shift the baby into a breath position later in pregnancy, but not enough data supports this as of now. If you regularly practice inversions, it may be safe to do, but talk to your doctor or prenatal specialist to determine what is safest for you.
As a final note, always err on the side of caution if you’re wondering which yoga poses are safe during pregnancy. Reach out to your doctor for their input and go from there. Remember that the body is changing and you have to adjust your poses accordingly to encourage a healthy baby.