The Dos and Don'ts of Prenatal Yoga

Pregnancy is a beautiful, challenging, and life-changing time in a woman’s life. For avid yogis or even just women who enjoy yoga, keeping up with a regular yoga practice might be a real priority. It can bring a sense of routine and calmness into an otherwise hectic nine months.

It’s totally okay to keep doing yoga as your pregnancy progresses, but it is very important to be aware of how yoga may affect your body and your baby, and to keep in mind your safety as you go through your practice.

Here are some do’s and don’ts of prenatal yoga as you go through each trimester.

First Trimester

DO have a conversation with your teacher. As soon as you feel comfortable letting the secret out, your yoga instructor should know. She can help you make adjustments during class and help you through the next few months with your yoga practice.

DO what feels comfortable. Your body knows what feels right and what doesn’t. If something hurts or feels wrong, stop what you’re doing and try a modified version of the pose or rest in child’s pose for a few breaths. Also, if you have any specific medical conditions, talk to a doctor before continuing your yoga practice, as some might be dangerous to you or the baby. An example of this would be if you suffer from preterm premature rupture of membranes, or pPROM, yoga should be discontinued immediately.

DO look into specifically prenatal classes. While most yoga instructors are taught how to adjust for pregnant women, some teachers study prenatal practice specifically and might be better able to help you than a regular instructor. Look for classes and DVDs that are specifically labeled prenatal to receive extra tips on ways to modify poses throughout your pregnancy.

DON’T do extreme breathing exercises. Anything that involves holding your breath or quickening your breath too much isn’t safe for your baby at this stage. Try keeping your breath steady throughout the practice.

DON’T do yoga on an empty stomach – especially if you suffer from morning sickness. Always make sure you have something to eat before your practice. Even something light a few hours before you practice can help immensely. Don’t push yourself if you’re not feeling your best. You are growing a human, after all.

Second Trimester

DO take advantage of this time. The second trimester is the best time for prenatal yoga. Morning sickness is (hopefully) gone and you’re starting to show without being big enough to affect your everyday life. This is the time to use yoga to build your strength and become more comfortable in your changing body.

DO create a community. If you are going to prenatal yoga classes, you’re surrounded by other pregnant women. Try to connect with them and build a support group for each other. Some are probably first-time moms, some might be having a second or third, but there is probably at least one person there that you can relate to. Having a group of women who also enjoy yoga to cheer you on and support you can make a huge difference in the coming months.

DON’T do deep twists. Mild twists are still fine, but deep twists can hurt more than they help at this stage of your pregnancy. Try side bends instead to stretch out your waist and back muscles, which will help you be more comfortable as your baby grows.

DON’T lie flat on your stomach or flat on your back. Once you start to show, the uterus isn’t protected by the pelvis as it was in the first trimester. This means that laying on your belly is a no-go. Avoid putting direct pressure on the stomach area to protect the baby. Lying on your back is equally dangerous, as the weight of your uterus may restrict blood flow to your growing baby. Try placing a pillow under your hips to keep them elevated.

Third Trimester

DO prepare yourself to give birth with malasana and deep breathing exercises. As you near your due date, you can use yoga as a way to mentally and physically prepare to give birth. Physically, yoga is helping your body become more open and comfortable. Mentally, you can use breathing exercises and mindfulness to prepare you for what’s to come. Labor is no easy task, so using some of these techniques may help you.

DO go slow. It’s very important at this stage to take it easy. Don’t push yourself too hard. Listen to your body, and as things become harder, make your yoga practice easier. That’s the beauty of yoga – you can continue your practice and modify it as necessary. As you get closer to your due date, continue to practice with caution and pay attention to your body.

DON’T do inversions. Even if you’ve been comfortable with inversions prior to pregnancy, by the third trimester your baby is moving into the proper position for delivery and inversions have the potential to move your baby’s position. Avoiding multiple inversions will help keep your baby where they should be. The exception to this rule is if your baby is in breech. In this case, mild inversions could help turn your baby.

DON’T do hot yoga. For most women, hot yoga should probably be avoided during the entire pregnancy, but especially during the third trimester. Any sudden changes to your body temperature could result in elevated blood pressure and added stress on your growing baby. Even experienced yogis can struggle in the extreme humidity of a Bikram studio, so stay safe by keeping to a standard yoga practice during your third trimester.

Your journey through pregnancy is an exciting one! Use your yoga practice to enhance the feelings and emotions you are having and to make your body more comfortable and prepared for labor, delivery and motherhood.