When can you start pregnancy yoga?

start pregnancy yoga


I’m often asked by students – “When is it safe to start pregnancy yoga?”.  In many cases their doctors have recommended it or their friends have told them yoga is great for pregnancy. So let’s talk about what you need to get started. 


Why yoga for pregnancy?

Obviously I’m completely biased but I think yoga is the best type of exercise to be doing while you’re pregnant. It teaches you to tune in with your intuition and how to listen to your body. It helps you to safely strengthen and stretch your changing body. It gives you tools to prepare for birth. And it helps you to relieve stress when so much of your life is changing. 


There is a little bit of controversy around when you should start pregnancy yoga though.  Not all yoga teachers and studios agree, so check with your studio for their specific response.


When should you start pregnancy yoga?

Some teachers believe you shouldn’t start pregnancy yoga until after the first trimester when the risk of miscarriage has decreased. Others say it depends on the individual woman (and her experience with yoga). While others still hold to the rule that you shouldn’t start anything new during pregnancy.


Personally, I think we shouldn’t apply a blanket-statement to something as individual as pregnancy and yoga. We also need to redefine what we mean by yoga (too often we’re forgetting that meditation and breath work IS yoga).


If you’ve been doing yoga prior to pregnancy I think you can safely continue your practise from the moment you conceive. You are already in tune with your body and likely have already considered the changes you will need to make in your yoga practise when trying to conceive and for pregnancy. I personally have practised and taught yoga asana throughout all of my pregnancies and through all trimesters. 


If you have never practised yoga prior to pregnancy I would recommend you start with a trained prenatal yoga teacher.  They will know how to guide you safely through the three trimesters.


Generally your yoga practise will be a lot gentler during the first trimester, and  may avoid the physical practise altogether (depending on how you feel and whether you have any complications). And for good reason too! Many women are feeling nauseous and exhausted during the first trimester. Yoga will help support the massive changes that your body is already going through, without adding any extra stress.


What are the risks of pregnancy yoga?

You shouldn’t be afraid to move during pregnancy.  In many cases moving is the best thing you can do for your own health and for your growing baby. It is very unlikely that anything you do during a yoga class will harm your baby. They are safely protected in your womb and only a fall onto the belly is likely to impact them. (Which is one of the reason’s why your pregnancy yoga teacher will tell you to avoid inversions and balance poses once you’re pregnant).


However, you can injure yourself quite easily during pregnancy, especially as the body releases relaxin (a hormone designed to soften the ligaments and tendons to support pelvic opening for birth).  It is important that you don’t stretch the body too far during pregnancy, which is why I think it’s worth booking in for a specific pregnancy yoga class with a trained prenatal teacher. 


What you need to know to start pregnancy yoga in the 1st trimester

Unless you’ve already been practicing yoga regularly, you shouldn’t be start up a physical practice during the first trimester.  Instead, get started with meditation and breath work until you feel your energy returning in the 2nd trimester.

Even if you’ve previously had a strong yoga practice prior to pregnancy, you may find yourself naturally not wanting to get on your mat during this early stage of pregnancy.  This is the time to take it really easy on your body, afterall it is already doing the HUGE job of creating a human, it doesn’t need any extra challenge or stress.



What you need to know to start pregnancy yoga in the 2nd trimester

In the 2nd trimester you are most likely over the morning sickness and feeling more energised in your body. Enjoy the chance to do a stronger practice but be mindful of listening to your body. Poses should be modified for your growing belly and stay away from any poses with any abdominal crunching as this can cause more damage in the long run. (Learn more about preventing abdominal separation in this video on diastis recti).The 2nd trimester is also a time to start preparing for birth.  Relaxation poses also offer the perfect opportunity to connect with your baby.



What you need to know to start pregnancy yoga in the 3rd trimester

There is no reason that you can’t practise right up until you give birth (I did!) but you need to be mindful that your growing belly will make some poses feel impossible. Your balance will also be non-existent, so you should use props heavily to support your body.  


Avoid lying flat on your back during the 3rd trimester as the weight of your belly can restrict blood flow in main vein that runs down the back side of your body. During the 3rd trimester is a good time to focus your yoga practise on relaxation and preparation for birth.


If you’re brand new to pregnancy yoga and want to know more about getting started safely, download my free guide here.

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