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Yoga is generally considered both safe and beneficial during pregnancy. It provides a dedicated opportunity for you to bond with your baby. It also teaches relaxation and breathing techniques while simultaneously preparing your physical body for birth. Below are some suggestions that will allow you to continue your practice during pregnancy, even if prenatal yoga offerings are scarce or unavailable.

Setting Up For Success

  • If attending a non-prenatal yoga class, be sure to introduce yourself to the instructor and let them know you are pregnant. It is also a good idea to tell them about any special circumstances specific to your health and/or pregnancy. Include your level of experience with yoga.

  • Bring water and snacks to class with you. Plan to take breaks to hydrate during class, and make sure you’ve had something light yet nourishing to eat before class begins.

  • Grab all the props! Seriously, take whatever is available to help yourself practice as comfortably as possible. I recommend at least 2 blocks, a strap, a yoga blanket, and one or two bolsters. Sitting on a bolster during seated poses can prevent or alleviate lower back discomfort, and blocks bring the floor up to you when folding forward over a growing belly gets more difficult.

Practicing Mindfully Means Practicing Safely

  • Position yourself near a wall, if possible. Due to changes in your center of gravity, you may find yourself feeling less stable in some standing postures, especially balancing poses. Having a wall nearby to place a hand on or lean against provides both stability and an increased sense of security.

  • Try to be near a fan or open window if possible. Thanks to increased blood volume, pregnant women become overheated more easily, especially during exercise. Direct access to moving air can help minimize this. If you feel lightheaded, short of breath, or hot during class, sit or lie on your mat and drink water. Classes designed to heat the body, such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa, are generally not recommended for most pregnant yogis.

  • Pregnancy is not a time to push yourself or test your limits. In the second and third trimesters, the hormone relaxin has begun to affect the soft tissues in your body. Relaxin’s job is to soften the ligaments of your pelvis and your cervical tissue to allow passage of your baby during birth. But it also affects the ligaments, joints, and soft tissues throughout your body, making you generally more flexible. Because of this, you may notice some postures come more easily and be tempted to go deeper into poses, which can easily lead to overstretching . To avoid injury, it is always a good idea to take it slow and not go into poses to your maximum ability. It is especially important to be mindful of this in Yin-style classes, where gradually-deepening poses are held for longer periods.

  • Breathe naturally or take deep belly breaths during your practice. If you are in a regular class and it involves heating pranayama (breath work) such as Ujjayi or Kapalbhati (Breath of Fire), forego this portion and instead close your eyes and focus on long, slow deep breathing. Place your hands on your belly and use the time to connect mindfully to your baby.

  • Take Savasana in a left side-lying position, specifically in the third trimester. Your growing belly places increased pressure on the large blood vessels in your torso while lying flat. Some women become dizzy, nauseous, or generally uncomfortable in this position and it can reduce oxygen delivery to the placenta. Savasana in side-lying, using props for comfort, is the safest option.

  • In the second and third trimesters, some poses become awkward or uncomfortable. Here are a few recommendations:

    • Always stand with feet hip-width distance or wider. A strong base will help you maintain your balance in all postures.

    • Fold forward with legs wider than your hips to accommodate your belly. This modification can be used standing and seated.

    • Avoid deep twists, such as Matsyandrasana/Lord of the Fishes. If twisting feels good in your spine and back muscles, consider gentle, open twists rather than twisting across the body.

    • Poses lying on the belly may become uncomfortable later in pregnancy. Rather than poses such as Bhujangasana (Cobra) or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog), instead try moving through Cat/Cow stretch.

    • Avoid deep backbends such as Chakrasana (Wheel Pose) and Ustrasana (Camel Pose). These poses place extra strain on your already stretched abdominal muscles and could cause separation. Instead, practice Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) with a block supporting your sacrum.

With a few considerations and modifications, the benefits of yoga can be enjoyed throughout pregnancy. The most important thing is to listen to and honor your body during this very special time.


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