Seven Guidelines for Prenatal Yoga

Happy relaxed fit mama tends to produce happy relaxed fit baby. During my pregnancy with Lake I practiced yoga right up until the week he was born at 41 weeks! (Pregnancy photos shown here are at week 40!) For better or worse, I didn’t make any formal adjustments to my practice, only intuitive modifications. The last trimester I gravitated towards a slower practice and I don’t recall doing any headstands! I explored a variety of teachers’ styles and experiences from home to studio, regular to prenatal. However, nowhere did I hear so clearly elucidated suggested guidelines for prenatal yoga as during my Yoga Teacher Training. Some easy modifications are intuitive while others as not, yet still fairly straightforward.

My doctor and midwife gave me the green light to engage in my yoga regular practice during pregnancy, as long as I didn’t make myself dizzy, light headed or nauseous. They explained the uterus is a very strong muscle and protects the baby really well. You won’t unknowingly hurt the baby doing yoga, it’s more that the added pressures on your body may create limitations for you (which you’ll feel). The extra demands on the circulatory system (hemodilution and supplying two bodies with oxygenated blood) may leave you short of breath sooner than you’re accustomed to. I really appreciated that explanation because it takes the fear and mystery out of exercising while pregnant. Science and medicine support exercising during pregnancy for a healthier pregnancy, baby (the baby absolutely benefits from your workout too!) and healthier happier you! Shown here at 2.5 months postpartum:

Please speak with your medical team before engaging in yoga or prenatal yoga for the first time. It’s quite possible though, that they won’t be able to provide you with specific instructions for yoga, so that’s what this list is for. I’d like to empower women, people and especially moms and moms-to be to practice yoga at the top of their license, so to speak!

These are the promised prenatal yoga modification suggestions for your perusal:

  1. With any feet together (or in a line) poses, widen your stance to hip distance or greater. This creates a comfortable space for your pregnant uterus and enhanced stability for you in the standing poses. For example, forward fold becomes wide legged forward fold, Warrior I and II alignment is feet on tracks 12″ apart etc.
  2. Ease up on deep twists by creating an “open twist” rather than a “closed twist” for a more comfortable positioning. To do this, twist with same arm/hand over knee, instead of twisting with opposite hand/knee. This is the same asana, simply turned in the other direction, creating a gentler twist with more space in the front.
  3. Pay attention lying on your back regarding compression of your inferior vena cava (blood vessel) by your pregnant uterus. This can make you light headed and diminish blood supply to yours and your baby’s body. Most conservative yoga is not to lie on your back at all. Rule of thumb: If you’re able to sleep on your back, it’s going to be okay to be in back lying postures.
  4. Legs up the wall is probably your best inversion. Lowest impact and invigorating while still being incredibly restorative and nurturing.
  5. Focus on Lengthening and Strengthening abdominal muscles, as as opposed to contraction and/or stretching abs. For abdominal strengthening, choose extensions over flexions. That translates to core stabilizing strengtheners like repetitively extending opposing arm and leg from the hands and knees position rather than sit ups/crunches.
  6. Since the abdominal muscles are already getting a nice stretch from the inside out, deep backbends are not needed and only encourages over-stretching.
  7. Relaxin is the hormone your uterus produces to soften the cervix and prepare the pelvis for the ligamentous expansion necessary for vaginal birth. It’s non-selective however and makes all your ligaments and joints more flexible. Bear this in mind so as to not overstretch and sustain injuries.

Have questions? Please ask! Take good care of yourself and relax… have fun!

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