Gil Katz, E-RYT 500, WCS

Yoga precautions during pregnancy

Yoga can be very beneficial for pregnant women. It helps you breathe and relax. Calms both mind and body, providing physical and emotional stress relief.

You’re more at risk for strains, pulls, and other injuries right now because the pregnancy hormone relaxin, which allows the uterus to expand, also softens connective tissue.  Avoid overstretching by only going to about 60-70% of your full ability.  Avoid stretching the muscles too much, particularly poses that work your abs. As your belly expands, it’s difficult to support the weight with your rectus abdominus  (six-pack muscles), so you use your obliques (side ab muscles). Overly-strong obliques can pull your abdominal muscles apart, causing a condition known as diastasis.  Avoid risk by skipping poses that target your core, especially your obliques — worry about getting your abs back in shape after the baby arrives.

From the second trimester on, when your center of gravity really starts to shift, consider doing standing poses with your heel to the wall or use a chair for support, to avoid losing your balance and risking injury to yourself or your baby.

When bending forward avoid compressing your abdomen. Hinge from the hips, leading with the breastbone and lengthening the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head. Seated forward bends, place a yoga strap behind your feet and hold both ends. Try placing a blanket under your buttocks to elevate the body, and open the legs about hip-width apart, to give your belly more room to come forward.

Keep the pelvis in a neutral position during poses by engaging the abdominals and slightly tucking the tailbone down and in. This helps relax your glutes and the hip flexors, which can help reduce or prevent sciatic pain down the back of the leg, a common side effect of pregnancy.

When practicing twisting poses, twist more from the shoulders and back than from the waist, to avoid putting any pressure on your abdomen. Do open twists.  Go only so far in the twist as feels comfortable.

When practicing Sun Salutations, consider campers pose & modified charuranga dandasana variations. See below for alternative Sun Salutation sequence

Listen carefully to your body. If you feel any discomfort, stop. You will probably need to modify each pose as your body changes. Work with your teacher to customize your yoga to suit the stage of pregnancy you’re in.

In general, these poses are safe in pregnancy:

  • Baddha Konasana
  • Cat-Cow (All fours positions can help get the baby into the optimal position for birth (head down, back to your belly)
  • Cobra (in the first trimester, if you feel comfortable doing this face-down pose)
  • Seated forward bend (with modifications)
  • Side angle pose -Parsvakonasana
  • Standing forward bend
  • Triangle pose
  • Hip openers will help create the flexibility that will make giving birth easier

These poses should be avoided:

  • Deep Backbends- omit bridge after 4th month- do supported bridge
  • Balancing poses on one leg (unless supported by chair or wall)
  • Camel
  • Handstands
  • Upward bow
  • Uddiyana Bandha Also avoid postures that trigger the abdominals to engage
  • Legs up the wall & bridge in 3rd trimester

Modified Sun Salutation Sequence:

This approach removes the transition from plank (Chaturanga) to upward dog. The reason for this is to avoid lowering the belly to the floor and putting pressure on it.

Stand with your feet hip width apart, instead of the usual stance with feet together.

  • #1 – Inhale arms up
  • #2 – Exhale fold forward, lifting the breastbone to keep pressure off the belly. Place the hands on thighs ( if advanced practice -in front of the feet instead of beside the feet )
  • #3 – Inhale to look forward and lengthen the spine
  • #4 – Exhale to Downward dog
  • #5 – Inhaling, walk the feet forward -placing hands on thighs
  • #6 – Exhale, do not fold forward just stay as you were
  • #7 – Inhaling, arms reach up

Then resume the Salutation as normal. This way you can stay with the flow of the class, you’re just taking an extra breaths in downward dog while others move from plank to upward dog.

During Sun Salutation B, if you find it difficult to step the foot forward into the Warrior 1 posture, substitute the Sun Salutation B for more repetitions of the Sun Salutation A.