Can you continue to practice yoga when you’re pregnant? Will it do you any good or should you choose another activity while your bun is in the oven?
Yoga is safe during pregnancy, but certain positions need to be avoided. It is important to learn which poses are safe and which are not before you embark on your yoga journey while you’re posing for two.
You may wonder why you should even consider yoga during pregnancy, but it can provide your body with great benefits. Even if you have never done yoga before, your pregnancy is a great time to start.
Yoga can benefit you and your unborn baby tremendously. But some expectant mothers steer clear of yoga because they have never done it before, or they don’t want to do it in front of others.
The good news is, although recommended, you don’t have to take a yoga class to do yoga. You can do it from the comfort of your own home. There are numerous videos out there that can guide you through a step-by-step routine every day.
What Kind Of Yoga Should I Do When Pregnant?
There are actually prenatal yoga routines. Yep, that’s yoga specifically designed for mommas-to-be.
The best part about prenatal yoga is since it’s designed with pregnant mothers in mind; its benefits are all targeted toward helping you. You aren’t limited to prenatal yoga alone, although it is highly recommended and it is the safest for you right now.
Prenatal yoga focuses on avoiding dangerous positions like lying flat on your back or any position that can interrupt blood flow to your baby. Yoga is a tremendous asset to add to your pregnancy routine and I highly recommend it to all of my patients.
Editor's Note:Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM
Prenatal yoga helps keep you happy and healthy as you progress on your journey to parenthood (1). This type of exercise is probably the most beneficial for you and your baby, and provides the least amount of negative impact.
The Benefits Of Yoga When Pregnant
There are numerous benefits associated with doing yoga when you are pregnant.
Let’s look at them.
- Improves strength and stamina: It requires both of these to be able to execute and hold yoga poses. You will be able to strengthen your hips, arms, back, and shoulders. You will need all the strength you can get for this pregnancy, labor, and birth (2).
- Breathing: There is a certain type of breathing associated with yoga that will help you tremendously during labor. It’s known as three-part breath. This might be one of the most important aspects of yoga when you are pregnant. Practicing deep breathing ensures a good oxygen supply to your baby and can help you stay calm and focused during labor (3).
- Strengthens pelvic floor: Many yoga poses you can do during pregnancy actually strengthen of the pelvic floor. This can help during labor and delivery, as well as making your pregnancy more comfortable.
- Balance: As your body changes and grows, your center of gravity also changes. Yoga relies a lot on balance, both physically and emotionally. Executing poses helps you find your balance and relax.
- Helps relieve pregnancy symptoms: A little exercise can do the body good, and a little yoga can do the body a lot of good. Yoga can relieve back pain, nausea, headaches, and fatigue.
- Relaxes your body: Yoga requires deep breathing, and this can help your body relax. When your body reaches that relaxation point, you can expect to experience better sleep and digestion (source).
- Improve flexibility: The routine poses you will do will eventually build up your range of flexibility.
- Helps you bond with your baby: Yoga allows you to solely focus on your baby in a way that can almost seem surreal. You will become more deeply connected and emotionally attached (4).
- Can provide you with a great support system: If you join a prenatal yoga class, you will be surrounded by many other empowering women who are taking the same pregnancy journey with you. Nothing is better than having a support network who fully understands your situation.
- Keeps you in shape: Many expectant moms can’t wait until they can get back to their pre-baby weight. Well, yoga helps get you one step closer. By partaking in yoga during your pregnancy, you are helping your body stay in shape (5).
The practice of yoga alone will benefit your overall well-being. You will notice improved sleep and reduced stress and anxiety. Overall, yoga helps better prepare you for labor and delivery. Not only are you learning ways to stay more comfortable throughout your pregnancy, but you are benefiting your baby too. When it comes time for your baby to make its grand entrance, you will be thanking yoga for your increased strength, stamina, and breathing and relaxation techniques.
What Are The Risks of Yoga During Pregnancy?
Like most things in pregnancy, it seems as if everything has potential risks. Yoga is no exception.
While yoga can be very beneficial for an expectant mother, it can also cause potential harm.
- Strained muscles: Certain yoga poses can cause you to strain muscles or the ligaments supporting your baby. This typically does not pose a threat to your baby, but can make you extremely uncomfortable.
- Can negatively affect blood flow: Particular movements like closed twists, can inhibit the amount of blood that is flowing to your baby (6). This is why you should notify your instructor that you are pregnant or take a prenatal yoga class designed for pregnant woman.
- Can compress your uterus: Poses that require you to lay down on your belly can compress your uterus, which is not good for you or your baby.
- Can compress blood vessels: By lying flat on your back, you can compress the aorta and vena cava (7).
- Can move your baby out of the birthing position: If you choose to do inversions once your baby is in the proper birthing position, there is a chance your baby will flip and possibly become breech.
- Potential falls: Some yoga poses require you to have a great deal of balance. That might be something you lack at this time, so you should avoid poses that require you to stand on one leg, or use reliable support.
If you have never done yoga, it is important you focus specifically on prenatal yoga to stay safe. Someone who is experienced with yoga can still partake in her normal routine, but needs to include modifications.
What Safety Precautions Should You Take?
If done correctly, yoga is usually safe. The potential risks usually come when an expectant mom tries to push herself a little too far, or does not follow her doctor’s orders.
Pushing yourself will only increase your chances of causing potential damage to you and your baby.
Yoga Safety Precautions
To ensure maximum safety, there are some precautions that you can take (8):
- Try to avoid or limit yoga during the first trimester.
- Only partake in yoga with a doctor’s permission.
- If you aren’t used to yoga, make sure you start slowly.
- If you join a yoga class, make sure your instructor knows you are pregnant.
- If something makes you uncomfortable or it hurts, stop.
- Avoid hot yoga.
- Stay away from poses that can cause strain or compression near your abdomen.
- If a pose is even slightly risky, modify it or choose an alternative.
- Never push your limits.
- Focus on your breathing — your baby relies on that oxygen, too.
- Avoid backward bending.
- Avoid poses that solely focus on the abdominal muscles.
- Avoid pressure on your belly.
- Don’t be afraid to say no.
Yoga In The First Trimester
Most healthcare providers say yoga is safe during the first trimester, but it is usually advised to use modifications. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, your doctor may advise against you partaking in yoga during this period.
The most important thing is to listen to your body. If you are over-fatigued, extremely nauseous, or experiencing headaches, maybe you should push yoga to the side for a little bit. If your body is fighting you to rest, but you want to exercise — you should rest and then see if you can work in some fitness.
Once you get through the first trimester, your energy levels will come back up and your hormones will have balanced out. If you feel like nothing is changing in your body, that’s just because there aren’t any changes you can visually see (9).
Yoga may seem simple, but it does take practice.
First Trimester Yoga Tips
You now have a growing baby inside of you, so it’s important you take extra precautions and have an increased awareness of your body.
If your doctor has approved, you can still do your typical routine yoga, you just need to make specific modifications (10).
- Abdominal work: Try to limit the work you do on your abdominals. Your body is trying to prepare for its outward expansion, and overworking your abdominals can be seen as fighting back.
- Avoid jumping: You should avoid any positions or poses that would require jumping or jerking. You can supplement jumps for steps to still partake in positions requiring this movement.
- Steer clear of inversions: It is important you don’t put your body in a position that would encourage blood circulation to flow away from your uterus.
- Belly down: It’s okay for you to still partake in poses where you will be belly down. This is because your uterus is still rather small, so it is protected by your pelvis. You should be sure to avoid the bow pose and locust pose because they put direct pressure on your uterus (11).
- Eliminate backbends: Backbends tend to overstretch your abdominals and compress your uterus.
- Focus on relaxation: Pay special attention to your breathing, and maybe even focus more time on meditative practices.
- No deep twists: You can still do twists that focus on the upper back, but eliminate those twists that focus on the deep belly.
- Avoid hot yoga: It is important you do not overheat when you are pregnant — a higher body temperature can be dangerous for your baby.
Just remember to keep it gentle this trimester. Chances of miscarriage are the highest, and you don’t want to hinder implantation.
Best Poses During The First Trimester
These are the best poses for you to do during the first few weeks of pregnancy:
- Cobra pose: Decreases stiffness in the back and increases flexibility.
- Butterfly pose: Improves circulation and relieves anxiety.
- Cow pose: Improves balance and posture.
- Cat pose: Improves blood circulation and relaxes your mind.
- Mountain pose: Helps steady your breathing and relieves aches and pains.
If you are looking for a safe routine, but are not sure where to start, this video has a great prenatal yoga sequence. This sequence is great for beginners and those with a vast amount of yoga experience. The best part about this sequence is it is safe for all trimesters.
Yoga In The Second Trimester
Most women will begin their prenatal yoga experience during the second trimester. Hopefully, your morning sickness has dwindled by this point, and you are starting to feel more like yourself.
It’s likely your energy levels have returned to fairly normal by this time too, so you probably can’t wait to get back into the swing of things.
The challenge with this trimester is you’re going to have to begin modifying poses that accommodate your growing belly. You should still have a decent amount of mobility to be able to move freely (12).
Many of the poses you do during the second trimester should focus on strengthening and stretching. If you have begun to show, make sure you have noted your uterus is no longer protected by your pelvis.
Second Trimester Yoga Tips
All of the tips that were mentioned for the first trimester, also apply to the second trimester with one exception — belly down poses. You should no longer partake in poses that require you to lay on your belly.
Here are some other tips you should know.
- Standing poses: You can still do standing poses, but use a chair or bar to support yourself.
- Avoid straining: You don’t want to put unwanted pressure on your body, so modify your poses to avoid straining.
- Use alternatives: If there are certain poses you are missing, you can modify them to make them safe for you to do. If you don’t know how to do this, take a prenatal yoga class and they can show you many tips and tricks.
- Begin eliminating supine positions: The weight of your growing baby can cause a major vein to become compressed when you are lying on your back. This can lead to dizziness, nausea, and other complications. It is best to avoid these positions (13).
- Focus more attention on breathing: You should begin paying close attention to your breathing and learning new breathing methods. These will become very useful during labor.
Best Poses During The Second Trimester
If you’re looking for some great poses to do in your second trimester, you can start with these.
- Open chair twist: Maintains spinal health.
- Tree pose: Should be done by leaning on something for support.
- Standing hand-to-foot: Helps you maintain balance and adjust your center of gravity.
- Warrior 2: Helps open up your hips and strengthen your legs.
- Reverse warrior: Helps loosen tight obliques.
You should always have any yoga routine verified by your doctor to ensure maximum safety. Don’t push yourself — if something hurts you need to stop.
Yoga In The Third Trimester
The third trimester may be the trickiest because you now have to accommodate that basketball-sized bump into your yoga routine. Unless otherwise specified by your doctor, yoga is safe during your third trimester. You just have to make sure you don’t push yourself too hard.
There are numerous poses you can do during this trimester that will help prepare you for labor and delivery.
You should try to focus a lot of attention on poses that will promote the correct positioning of your baby, improve your breathing techniques, and relieve back and hip pain.
Third Trimester Yoga Tips
The tips from your first and second trimester carry over into your third trimester. It is probably in your best interest to avoid one-legged poses. Your center of gravity is now extremely altered and it makes it much more likely you could fall (14).
Here are some other tips you should consider.
- Try more open poses: Your body is becoming more cramped for space, so sticking to poses that cause you to be more open can be very beneficial.
- Spend time learning relaxation techniques: You will need as many ways as possible to help you relax during labor, so you should start learning and practicing these techniques now.
- Incorporate alignment poses: This type of pose can help relieve aches and pains, as well as prepare your body for birth.
- Embrace your figure: Don’t let your new body shape hold you back. This is a special time in your life and you shouldn’t worry about how silly you might look when doing yoga.
- Focus on comfort: If anything makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t do it. There are many other beneficial options out there.
Best Poses During The Third Trimester
Check out these fun poses to do in your third trimester.
- Garland pose: Great for opening up the hips and strengthening the pelvic floor.
- Pigeon pose: Helps release tension in the lower hips and back.
- Reclining bound angle pose: Gently stretches your pelvis and groin.
- Rocking lizard pose: Helps strengthen the pelvic floor.
- Corpse pose (lying on the left side): This pose helps master breathing and relaxation techniques (15).
If your baby is breech, doing inversions or the bridge pose can help your baby turn into the correct position. These poses should only be done if you know for sure your baby is breech. Otherwise it can cause a correctly-positioned baby to move the wrong direction (16).
There are certain poses and movements you can do that will be extremely helpful for you once labor begins.
Below is a video clip that will guide you through a yoga routine designed specifically for birth preparation. Not only does this help you get in tune with your body, but it helps relax your mind as well.
The Bottom Line
Exercise benefits you and your baby. Yoga is a great way to relax, cut down on aches and pains, and help you prepare for delivery.
Yoga will help you bond with your baby, learn excellent breathing techniques that will benefit you in labor, strengthen your birthing muscles, improve your relaxation, and reduce your stress levels.
As long as you seek permission from your doctor, and you don’t push the limits of your pregnant body — yoga is safe.
Yoga can be a helpful and emotionally-inspiring part of your pregnancy journey. So what is holding you back?
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