HOW TO PRACTICE SAFELY DURING PREGNANCY

For a one page summary of  5 pointers for Safe yoga practices during pregnancy  DOWNLOAD HANDOUT 

by Suzanne Swan

1. Focus on stability & strength rather than flexibility & endurance

The hormone Relaxin loosens the muscles, tendons and ligaments which increases your risk for injury if you push yourself too far in terms of flexibility.  Listen to your body and modify your practice if any pose causes discomfort or your pelvis feels sore and inflamed after the practice.

  • AVOID over extending or holding a pose for extended periods (>30 secs)
  • PRACTICE
  • within 75% of your flexibility,
  •  shorten your stance,
  • and/or use props blocks, chair or wall to create stability,
  • Safe squat is 40 cm from ground.

Standing poses Shorten the width of your stance to create space for the pelvis to turn with your upper body and also to avoid over-stretching. If you have pelvic pain place a block between your thighs.  Modify single leg postures such as half moon, warrior 3 and tree pose using a chair, block or wall for support

  1. Mountain pose, Tadasana
  2. Warrior I, Virabhadrasana I
  3. Standing forward bend, Uttanasana
  4. Chair pose, Utkatasana
  5.  Warrior I, Virabhadrasana I
  6. Extended side angle pose, Utthita Parsvakonasana
  7. Triangle pose, Trikonasana
  8. Warrior II, Virabhadrasana II (with block/chair)
  9. Warrior III, Virabhadrasana III (with block/chair)
  10.  Wide-legged forward bend, Prasarita Padottanasana
  11. Upward salute, Urdhva Hastasana
  12. Tree pose, Vrksasana
  13.  Eagle pose, Garudasana

Squatting Avoid deep squats if you suffer from hemorrhoids, knee pain, pelvic pain, recti muscle separation, Do supported squat pose,  Malasana,with blocks  under sit bones or bolsters (>40cm from ground). Do not do squats if your baby is in a Breech position after 32 weeks or your baby is Posterior at 36 weeks. Do Puppy pose instead to create space for the baby to rotate.

2. For forward bends, closed twists and backbends use supported modifications

You will need to modify poses to make space for your growing belly. 

  • AVOID compressing the uterus (forward bends or closed twists) or overstretching the abdominal muscles. (backbends)
  • PRACTICE
  • with chair in forward bends to create space between your ribcage and hipbones,
  • Do open twists moving from the head to the waist only,  
  • Restorative poses like supported bridge and reclining butterfly generally offer similar but less demanding backbends.

Forward bends Create space for your baby by keeping the area between the ribcage and hips ones elongated.  Sit up on a cushion and widen the legs for comfort.

Closed twists Move towards the open side and away from the leg in front in seated twists or do a seated easy pose, Sukhasana.  Avoid standing twists instead do standing versions that faces your belly outwards

Backbends  - avoid strong back bends Choose the restorative back bend versions like Reclined butterfly pose, Baddha Konasana with bolster under spine and blocks under knees or Supported Bridge,Setu Bandha Savangasana with block under pelvis.

3. For inversions, twisted standing poses, lying on your stomach and intense abdominal work use substitute poses

  • AVOID going upside down as you can strain the sacral & uterine ligaments and place pressure on your expanding abdominal muscles (ie. shoulder, hand/head stand). Compressing the abdomen in twisted standing poses (ie revolving triangle, etc) and abdominal poses like boat or plank are also to be avoided
  • Usually lying on your stomach is no longer comfortable after 20 weeks. Most women avoid prone poses such as cobra, locust and bow poses all the way through the pregnancy.
  • PRACTICE
  • substituting these contraindicated poses with similar poses ie. Legs up the wall inversions,
  • open standing poses,
  • and cat pose or balancing cat instead of lying on your stomach,
  • Practice abdominal strengthening by doing pelvic tilts and  contracting the Mulabanda, pelvic floor muscles during  easy seated or cat pose.

Inversions Do Legs up the wall, Viparita Karani instead of handstand, headstand or shoulder stand. Downward Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana is considered an inversion and is safe to do during pregnancy for one or two breaths at the most. Alternate with cat pose.

Lying on your stomach Do a cat pose, Marjaryasana instead of Cobra or Upward dog. You can use a bolster in the early months to support the upward dog pose.  Do Balancing Cat, Utthita Cakravakasana rather than Locust or Bow. You will find that if you balance on your limbs ie. Knees, hands or elbows you will strengthen your muscles of the back and belly.

Abdominal poses The general rule is to avoid compressing the abdomen so do poses like Cat pose , Marjaryasana and  Balancing Cat , Utthita Cakravakasana, instead of Boat pose, Navasana or Plank pose both of which overload the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.  Practice instead contracting the Mulabanda, pelvic floor muscles during  easy seated or cat pose.

5. Lying on your back

  • AVOID lying flat on your back if you feel dizzy, sweaty, nauseous or short of breath
  • PRACTICE
  • using props  to ease pressure off your back or lie on left side.
  • research has demonstrated that it is safe to lie on your back using  modifications.
  • use a blanket of bolster to raise the back off the floor and ease the pressure off the inferior vena cava (returning vein to the heart).
  • as a rule of thumb if you feel dizzy, sweaty, nauseous or short of  breath, turn on to your left side in relaxation.

For Corpse pose, Savasana, lie on your back if comfortable and place a bolster underneath your knees or lie on your left side to avoid pressure on the major vein (from 28 weeks the uterus is heavier and when lying on your back you may notice breathlessness, nausea or dizziness). Place a blanket between your legs for pelvic stability. Try elevating your spine with a blanket or bolster during other reclining positions, ie. . Hero pose, Virasana

Breathing/ Pranayama

  • AVOID fast rhythms like shining skill, Kapalabhati or breath holding, Viloma.
  • PRACTICE the slow breathing practices like the ocean breath, ujjayi and alternative nostril breathing, Nadi Shodana bring focus and preparation for birth

Note: Dizziness: If you get dizzy when standing for a long time or coming up from the ground, move slowly and avoid taking your arms higher than your head, instead place your hands on your hips for stability or at your chest in prayer pose.  If feeling dizzy when lying flat on your back,  turn onto your left side.

Breech baby: Avoid squats if your baby is in a Breech position after 32 weeks. Do Puppy pose instead to create space for the baby to move