Prenatal Safety Guidelines
To protect your health and your baby's health during prenatal yoga, follow basic safety guidelines. For example:
1. Talk to your health care provider. Before you begin a prenatal yoga program, make sure you have your health care provider's OK. You might not be able to do prenatal yoga if you are at increased risk of preterm labor or have certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or back problems.
2. Set realistic goals. For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity and 30 minutes of Pranayma (breathing exercise) is recommended on most, if not all, at least alternative days of the week. However, even shorter or less frequent workouts can still help you stay in shape and prepare for labor.
3. Pace yourself. If you can't speak normally while you're doing prenatal yoga, you're probably pushing yourself too hard.
4. Stay cool and hydrated. Practice prenatal yoga in a well-ventilated room to avoid overheating. Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated.
5. Avoid certain postures. When doing poses, bend from your hips — not your back — to maintain normal spine curvature. Avoid lying on your belly or back, doing deep forward or backward bends, or doing twisting poses that put pressure on your abdomen. You can modify twisting poses so that you only move your upper back, shoulders and rib cage.
6. Avoid inverted poses, which involve extending your legs above your heart or head, unless you're an experienced yoga practitioner. As your pregnancy progresses, use props during postures to accommodate changes in your center of gravity. If you wonder whether a pose is safe, ask your instructor for guidance.
7. Don't overdo it. Pay attention to your body and how you feel. Start slow and avoid positions that are beyond your level of experience or comfort. Stretch only as far as you would have before pregnancy.
8. If you experience any pain or other red flags — such as vaginal bleeding, decreased fetal movement or contractions — during prenatal yoga, stop and contact your health care provider.
9. Avoid hot yoga, which involves doing vigorous poses in a room heated to 100 to 110 F (38 to 43 C). Such practice can raise your body temperature too much, causing a condition known as hyperthermia, lightheadedness, dehydration, and other complications and may cause harm to baby.
10. Ashtanga and other types of power yoga might be too strenuous for women who aren't experienced yoga practitioners. Gentle Hatha yoga, restorative yoga and prenatal yoga are preferred styles of yoga during pregnancy.
11. Many women prefer to wait until the end of the first trimester to begin practicing yoga, particularly if they are experiencing severe morning sickness or fatigue or have a history of miscarriage. Others, especially those who have practiced yoga before, may find prenatal yoga to be very helpful in easing nausea and fatigue. Many women practice well into their third trimesters and close to their due dates.
1 If you're attending a regular yoga class (one not specifically geared to pregnant women), be sure to tell the instructor you're pregnant, and which trimester you're in.
2 Don't do any asanas (poses) on your back after the first trimester – they can reduce blood flow to the uterus.
3 Avoid poses that stretch the muscles too much, particularly the abdominals. 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.
4 From the second trimester on, when your center of gravity really starts to shift, do any standing poses with your heel to the wall or use a chair for support. This is to avoid losing your balance and risking injury to yourself or your baby.
5 When bending forward, hinge from the hips, leading with the breastbone and extending the spine from the crown of the head down to the tailbone. This allows more space for the ribs to move, which makes breathing easier.
6 Keep the pelvis in a neutral position during poses by engaging the abdominals and slightly tucking the tailbone down and in. This helps relax the muscles of your buttocks (your gluteus) and the hip flexors, which can help reduce or prevent sciatic pain down the back of the leg, a common side effect of pregnancy. It also helps prevent injury to the connective tissue that stabilizes your pelvis.
7 If you're bending forward while seated, place a towel or yoga strap behind your feet and hold both ends. Bend from the hips and lift the chest, to avoid compressing your abdomen. If your belly is too big for this movement, try placing a rolled-up towel under your buttocks to elevate the body, and open the legs about hip-width apart, to give your belly more room to come forward.
8 When practicing twisting poses, twist more from the shoulders and back than from the waist, to avoid putting any pressure on your abdomen. Go only as far in the twist as feels comfortable – deep twists are not advisable in pregnancy.
9 Listen carefully to your body. If you feel any discomfort, stop. You'll probably need to modify each pose as your body changes. Instructor can help you customize your yoga to suit the stage of pregnancy you're in.
In general, these poses are safe in pregnancy:
Cobra (in the first trimester, only if you feel comfortable doing this face-down pose)
Seated forward bend (with modifications as described above)
Side angle pose
Standing forward bend
Triangle pose, warrior pose
Avoid these poses:
Balancing poses on one leg (unless supported by chair or wall)
Headstands, shoulder stand, Plough pose