This is my third pregnancy and yoga has been a lifesaver when it comes to relieving pain and preparing me for labor. However, as a regular on the mat, sometimes it is difficult for me to modify my practice for my growing belly and changing body, not to mention new aches and pains.
I must consider that not all yoga poses when pregnant are beneficial. Some can actually be harmful to you and your baby.
Let’s take a look at the major categories of prenatal yoga poses to avoid so you practice mindfully without your ego taking over.
4 Major Prenatal Yoga Poses to Avoid
Before I jump into pregnancy yoga poses to skip or modify let me remind you of three basic precautions.
If this is your first time doing prenatal yoga then you will want to speak with your midwife or health practitioner before beginning a routine.
Also, remember that your first trimester is the most sensitive time for your body. Hormones flood your system while pregnancy symptoms, like nausea, will be at their peak. Listen to your body if you need rest or stop if you are fatigued, especially during this stage of pregnancy.
And, lastly, since this is my third go at this, I want to mention that each pregnancy is different. With my first one, I had major lower back pain. My second, numbness in my hands and pain in my feet. The third one focuses solely on my pelvis.
This means that you need to modify according to your body’s signals and according to your current pregnancy, not someone else’s or even a prior pregnancy.
With that said, let’s get into the specific yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy.
Twists during pregnancy are a topic of much debate. While some yoga teachers and medical advisors say avoid them completely, others say open twists can work after the first trimester.
What is an open twist and why might they be ok? An open twist pose doesn’t move your abdomen. Instead, you are twisting the shoulders and the upper torso.
You can also rotate at the hips as long as your mid-section stays in line with the rest of your torso as in a modified side-angle pose.
Modified Open Twist
Try Ardha Matsayandrasana (Lord of the Fishes Pose) using a blanket under your buttock and with a modified leg arrangement. A block will also help keep your body upright by placing it under your reaching hand.
You can bend and fold both legs to one side and twist to the opposing side. Or keep one leg straight while the other is bent with your sole of the foot on the ground. If you’d like to keep your legs crossed as in a normal Ardha Matsayandrasana then try twisting toward the open inner part of your bent leg to lessen the twist.
Also, remember to keep your head and neck straight and in line with your spine. Twist with your shoulders rather than your lower back.
Backbends feel great but not so much when your uterus has expanded and a growing baby is weighing your lower back down. Therefore, full back bends can cause issues to an already stretched abdomen that puts the lower back into an arch.
Instead, modified upper backbends that open the chest and shoulders are safe and beneficial.
Use blocks to limit your backbend and do slight variations that focus solely on your upper back.
Ustrasana (camel pose) can easily be modified with blocks that lift your arms higher so your bend is much less at an arch. You can also lower your buttocks onto your calves and place your hands behind your feet for a great modification. This pose not only relieves pressure from your lower back, but it also stretches your wrists and opens your chest and shoulders.
Pressure on the Stomach
This next “no, no” maybe obvious, however, it needs to be said. Lying on your stomach is a sure way to disturb your bump. But, you also need to be aware of bending poses that may constrict your tummy as well.
For example, forward bends, or even a child’s pose, when you are in your late second and third trimester can feel uncomfortable. Luckily, there are ways to avoid this discomfort and still benefit from a forward bend, and the solution is simple.
Opening your stance by separating your legs creates space for your belly to go forward without feeling like you are going to pop.
Lying Flat on the Back
After 20 weeks your uterus and baby start to get quite heavy. This weight sits right on a major vessel called the inferior vena cava that carries blood from your heart to your lower body, including your baby.
To avoid limited blood flow, it is not recommended to lie flat on your back for long periods. In prenatal yoga, this means long savasanas need to be modified. However, all you really need to do is place a pillow or thick blanket under your hips to take pressure off of the area.
You can also choose to lie on your side for your savasana and place the pillow or blanket between your bent legs.
This last modification may be one that you may prefer to disregard, but it is up to you and your body. The reason balancing poses are not recommended is because of the extra weight on your body as your baby rapidly grows. This alters your center of gravity.
However, you may find that balance poses help you keep your body aligned during your pregnancy. So, if you do choose to do balance poses keep them simple and also have a safety net.
Stand near a wall to do tree pose or modify your balance pose to a kneeling position. You can also try easy-to-perform inversions like downward-facing dog or legs up the wall that give you the benefits of prenatal yoga inversions without the risk of falling over.
Listening to Your Body During Prenatal Yoga Poses
This list of prenatal yoga poses to avoid is a general guideline to keep you and your baby safe during your practice. However, further medications will most certainly be needed as you adjust your routine for your body, mind, and soul.
Please remember that feeling good is the goal of yoga. Don’t let your ego get ahead of your health, especially if you practiced before your pregnancy. You may need to slow down, do less, and remove asanas to make sure you aren’t hurting yourself rather than benefitting from prenatal yoga.