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Yoga modifications while pregnant

Yoga can be a wonderful de-stressor and time for bonding with your baby. However, pregnancy will naturally change your practice once you’re expecting. Below are modifications to keep in mind as you move through the next nine months. (As always, consult your doctor about exercise as it specifically relates to your unique pregnancy and needs.)


  • Physically, your body is basically the same as it was pre-pregnancy, even if it doesn’t feel that way. You can continue with your regular yoga practice as usual including lying on your back and ab work as long as it feels good.  This is an important time to listen closely to your body. If you feel uncomfortable in a posture, for example lying on your stomach with those super sensitive breasts, modify to fit your needs. It is up to you whether you’d like to disclose your news to your teacher at this time.


  • Hot yoga. Your body will be extra sensitive to warmth in your pregnancy and it is not recommended to overheat your body. If you love hot yoga, try finding a class that is still challenging but is done at a warm, not hot, temperature. Consider placing your mat near the door or by a window in case you do get too hot.
  • Inversions. For most women, inversions are perfectly safe during pregnancy. However, if you have a history of miscarriages, some doctors recommend avoiding inversions, especially in the first trimester and beginning of the second. Also, inversions should not be held for long periods of time.
  • Some breath work. Breath work is an integral part of yoga. Some practices such as ujjayi are perfectly safe throughout pregnancy. However, avoid breathing techniques that call for breath retention and kapalabhati, which is meant to heat the body.


  • For most women, the second trimester marks a time of renewed energy and vigor. Take advantage and get to class as much as you can.


  • Lying on your back. Lying on the back later in pregnancy can compress the inferior vena cava, the vein that brings unoxygenated blood from the lower body to the heart. My OBGYN felt it was safe for me to lie on my back until 20 weeks, even though some literature says to avoid the back after week 13. Consult your doctor and modify your practice accordingly. This may include lying on your side during savasana. Use bolsters and blocks for added comfort.
  • Ab work. Besides the fact much of the ab work we do is on our backs, it can feel uncomfortable in the second trimester. During abs, I recommend coming to all fours and lifting one leg behind you and one arm in front of you. Alternate leg and arm while the class does their crunches. This is also a great time to work on kegels.
  • Twists: closed belly twists should be avoided. It helps that a growing belly naturally makes closed belly twisting feel rather awkward. Instead twist in the opposite direction as other practitioners. You want to make space for your belly, not constrict it.


  • You may find poses that felt good during the first part of your pregnancy are becoming more difficult, don’t panic. Be kind and patient with yourself. This is not the time to push beyond your limits. Listen to your body and put your ego aside.


  • Continue with the modifications you’ve been making throughout your pregnancy.
  • Make space. As your belly grows, make space for it. This includes opening the feet wider in poses like chair and in forward folds.
  • Avoid overstretching. The hormone “relaxin” will make your ligaments and joints extra stretchy. It might be tempting to come deeply into poses, but backing off a bit is better in the long run.
  • Consider a pre-natal class. Pre-natal yoga can be done at any stage in pregnancy. For more frequent practitioners however, it may not be until the third trimester, if at all, that it feels like the right time.

Written by Lisa Chase.


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