Yoga is a wonderful practice during pregnancy, whether you are a beginner or experienced. That said, there are certain asanas, or poses, that are contraindicated while expecting. Even for the most flexible and most advanced, it is important to respect the changing dynamic within your body and refrain from pushing the limits. Not only will doing so keep your body safe, it will give you a chance to delve deeper into pranayama and meditation; these are arguably more beneficial to you anyway as they are the root of yoga. In any case, we like to move as part of a healthy lifestyle, and yoga asana certainly is one way to keep moving during pregnancy. In order to reap the full benefits from the poses though, they need to be intentional and safe. What may have been your favorite pose before pregnancy, may now be something that could cause injury or pain.
Often people scoff. “That doesn’t seem dangerous!”. And they are right when dangerous is defined as “on the cusp of death”. But I like to take a more nuanced approach and think about the risk verses reward ratio. Is this pose absolutely vital to do? What benefits can I gain? What risks do I incur? And lastly, is this necessary? When thinking within that framework, you may find that the answer does shift and change as you do.
Which yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy?
There are three poses though, that I rarely, if ever, teach during pregnancy as the risk for injury and/or prolonged discomfort is too great.
- Warrior I. I am not a fan of Warrior I during pregnancy as it is a difficult pose to do anyways since it’s full of tiny nuances. The strain it places on the hips and back are common. When pregnant, it can overstretch through the quad muscles up towards the psoas muscle. Because of this, it can place undue pressure on the sacroiliac joint and exacerbate round ligament pain. Instead, you can do a modified version by holding a higher stance and not focusing on “squaring” the hips.
- Pigeon. Like Warrior I, pigeon would probably feel good at first when stretching out those tight muscles, but there are a couple reasons to wait it out. Firstly, it is an extreme hip opener. The last thing a pregnant body needs is an abundance of hip openers. A few? Fine. More than a few? You have relaxin to do all of that! Secondly, it places a ton of pressure on the pelvic floor. Instead, you can do a modified version with a chair, or lying on your back. Yep, you can be on your back for short periods of time!
- Headstand/handstand. It may seem obvious, but anytime you bring the pelvis above the heart, you are diverting oxygen away from the baby, and directing a pull of blood to your head, risking dizziness and falls. Even the most advanced practitioner is susceptible by a sudden drop in blood pressure. After all, your blood volume during pregnancy doubles-that’s a lot for the heart to circulate. There is another reason though. These inversions require a ton of intra-abdominal strength/usage. This places you at risk for diastasis recti. That is no fun!
Reach out for advice!
If you have questions about how to safely practice yoga while pregnant, find an experienced teacher, come to class, or send us an email for a personalized plan.