5 yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy (what you should do instead)

Newly pregnant and wondering what yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy? Avoid these 5 types of poses during pregnancy and what you should be doing instead.

I was teaching pregnancy yoga years before I ever experienced pregnancy. Thinking back now, I cringe at how little I knew. (Please accept my apologies if you were one of those ladies in my first classes. I promise I do better now that I know better).

It wasn’t until I fell pregnant and struggled to move through my regular yoga practice that I realised how much I needed to change my yoga practice for pregnancy. The easiest way to modify your practice is to attend pregnancy specific yoga classes. But if you do want to keep attending regular classes or start your own home practice, use these 5 modifications to help you to keep practicing safely during pregnancy (and hopefully beyond as well.)

yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy

5 yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy

Would you rather watch a video about yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy? I’ve got you covered. Scroll to the bottom of this post for the video version instead.

1. Poses that compress the belly

During pregnancy you want to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your belly. Some women may still be comfortable lying on their belly, but it’s best (and safest) to avoid these poses altogether. That means all prone positions (lying on the belly) should be avoided during pregnancy. Eg. Crocodile, Bow pose, Cobra, Up dog, etc

For the same reason, we avoid closed and deep twists during pregnancy because they put pressure on the belly. Open twists are still okay to practice as long as you still feel comfortable in them.

What should you do instead?

Many prone poses can be modified to hands and knees pose. For example, instead of bow pose where the belly is compressed, you can come to hands and knees and reach one hand back to find the ankle. This allows you to create the same stretch in the shoulders, chest and hip without putting pressure on the uterus.

Twists are also easy to modify. Simply change from practicing closed twists to open when pregnant. That being said, some women will also feel uncomfortable practicing open twists during pregnancy. Always listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

open twist during pregnancy

2. Poses that crunch the core.

The abdominal muscles naturally separate during pregnancy to accomodate the uterus and growing baby. For this reason it’s important to avoid poses that require strong abdominal work as this can make your abdominal separation worse and the recovery process longer. Gentle core work is okay (think planks on the knees, tabletop, etc) and being aware of these muscles (ie. being able to activate them when needed) throughout pregnancy can make recovery easier.

What should you do instead?

Pregnancy is a time to let go of exercise to look a certain way, and instead embrace movement that makes you feel good. It’s a good idea to practice core engagement during pregnancy yoga, but forget about poses that require strong core work. Instead of boat pose which is all core work, choose to focus on creating length in comfortable seated poses. These poses will help to create space in your body as baby gets bigger and make breathing easier, without straining your body. Plank pose is okay to practice, although towards the end of your pregnancy I would recommend coming to the knees to reduce the amount of work your abdominal muscles need to do.

pregnancy yoga

3. Poses where you risk falling

Active inversions are yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy as they require too much core strength for stability. A lack of core strength increases your chance of falling out of the pose, potentially injuring yourself or baby. Gentle inversions are still okay as long as you feel comfortable. I still teach legs up the wall pose, supported bridge and downward facing dog in my pregnancy yoga classes, and always encourage my students to choose what feels right for them.

As your centre of gravity and blood pressure changes during pregnancy, moving too fast can cause dizziness and a loss of balance. Move slowly from low to high (and vice versa) during pregnancy yoga so that you don’t risk falling and have time to listen to your body during your practice.

What you should do instead?

Instead of your typical headstand, shoulder-stand or handstand at the end of your yoga practice, choose more gentle inversion options like legs up the wall or supported bridge. Remember that a yoga practice is not about practicing each pose perfectly. Especially during pregnancy, yoga is a time to focus on how your body feels.

legs up the wall

4. Poses that require too much “effort”

Pregnancy is not the time to push yourself in any physical activity. Throughout pregnancy the hormone relaxin is released into your body to allow your pelvis to open for baby to grow and move through during birth. This hormone loosens the ligaments that support the joints in the body and puts you at greater risk of injury if you push yourself too hard during stretching poses.

Opening the pelvis too much can cause instability and result in conditions like SPD and SI pain. Trust me when I say these issues make daily life incredibly painful. Hip openers might feel incredibly good while you’re practising them, but moving in too deep can cause issues later on. I often see this in women who are already considerably flexible like yoga teachers, dancers and gymnasts.

What should you do instead?

It’s not all bad news though. Many of your favourite yoga poses are still able to be practiced during pregnancy, you just need to only go to about 80% of your usual range. One way to do this is to embrace props in your pregnancy yoga practice. Place bolsters, blocks and blankets under your body to decrease the amount of pressure on your joints and keep you practising safely throughout pregnancy.

pyramid pose during pregnancy

5. Strong back bends

Deep backbends are yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy. The curve of the lumbar spine is already increased during pregnancy as the weight of the belly pulls the pelvis forward. Practising deep backbends can make this imbalance worse. Backbends are also not recommended during pregnancy as you don’t have the abdominal strength to move out safely. For example, in camel pose you need to strongly engage your core to lift yourself back to a high kneel. Without this core strength you run the risk of injuring yourself as you move out of camel pose.

What should you do instead?

That doesn’t mean you need to avoid backbends altogether during pregnancy though. You can still practice backbends, just keep them gentle and supported. Use a bolster or block under your upper back to practice a gentle backbend like this one below.

yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy
Where to now?
  1. Watch the video below to see examples of yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy.
  2. Download my free pregnancy yoga guide to learn more about practicing yoga safely during pregnancy.
  3. Join me for a pregnancy yoga class on Youtube.
  4. Join the Online Yoga Circle for all my premium pregnancy yoga classes, including a full birth preparation course.

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