Prenatal Modifications for Yoga Practice
Most individuals are able to continue a regular yoga practice through their eighth month of pregnancy with modifications. If your body is telling you something is not right, listen.
Below you will find general gentle rules of thumb for practicing while pregnant, as well as some specific suggestions based on your trimester and/or on the most important things to avoid/or modify during pregnancy.
Please note: It is important to discuss your mindful movement and exercise program with your doctor.
In general, avoid strong closed twists while pregnant. A closed twist is when the legs are narrow and you are compressing in the belly – usually resulting in creating increased mobility in the low spine. And open twist is when the legs are in a wide base in alignment with the hips, and the low spine can remain long, no compression in the belly – usually resulting in increased mobility in the upper spine only.
First Trimester –
In the first trimester avoid twists below the cervical spine/neck.
Or, to be on the safe side, avoid twists all together in this stage of pregnancy.
Second and Third Trimester –
In the second and third trimester, seek gentle open twists with no compression on the belly.
It is good to avoid deep twists in the low spine, and any twists that compress the belly. But gentle open twists that mobilize the upper part of the spine are safe and beneficial during the second and third trimester.
If you come across twists in a practice:
Instead of a twist, you can use this time to align the spine tall and take 1-3 long, slow, deep breaths, then pick up after the twist.
You may also use the twist time to repeat a positive affirmation to yourself and babe, “I am flexible. I am safe. I love you.”
In general, it’s best to avoid “belly up” core exercises. Instead, focus on core postures that tone the back and side lines of the body. There are some safe and core strengtheners that can be done during pregnancy, based on your comfort level and where you are on your yoga journey.
If you come across belly up core exercises in a practice:
For belly up core, you can modify with the following postures:
- Table Top with spinal balance/Bird Dog pose- opposite arm and leg extended for a few breaths.
- Kegels (contracting and releasing the pelvic floor)
- For more restful modifications you may do cat/cow or child’s pose with a block or pillow under the head.
Instead of a core work, you can also use this time to align the spine tall and take 1-3 long, slow, deep breaths, then pick up after the core routine.
You may also use the core exercise time to repeat a positive affirmation to yourself and babe, “I am strong. I am safe. I am loved.”
In general, pelvic work and hip openers are great in prenatal yoga, but it is advised that you go much easier in the third trimester, when the body is producing more hormones (relaxin) which is opening you naturally. Overdoing it can lead to pelvic imbalance/pain so as a general rule of thumb – when doing hip openers – practice hugging the outer hip (abductors) in order to stabilize.
It is also good to practice kegels or elevators in all to engage the core and support your hips in the yoga posture.
Practice cat/cow pelvic tilts to help soften and stretch the pelvic joints. This will also help alleviate strain in the muscles of the low back. (This is also a great way to encourage baby into a good birthing position!)
If you come across deep hip exercises in your third trimester:
Practice diaphragmatic breathing.
Practice your kegels. Imagine your pelvic floor is an elevator, relax on the inhale, feel the elevator lifting on the exhale.
You can also use this time to align the spine tall and take 1-3 long, slow, deep breaths, then pick up after the core routine.
You may also use the core exercise time to repeat a positive affirmation to yourself and babe, “I am secure. I am open. I am love.”
Take Space & Create Stability
As you grow, take up more space in standing poses, starting with Mountain Pose. Step the feet a bit wider to ensure you have a stable base.
Lunges are safe and best with a focus on pelvic floor lift. It is also great to focus on that outer hip hugging in during lunges. As you grow, take a wider stance for more stability in the posture.
Relax & Find What Feels Good
Take Savasana or any reclined postures on your side. A pillow for the head/neck as well as blankets or a pillow between the legs is nice, offering support for the legs, hips, belly, and spine.
Every expecting individual is different. Honor what your body is telling you and celebrate the process of finding what feels good for you.