Yoga has shown to provide many benefits to expectant mothers. A consistent practice while pregnant has been shown to improve birth weight, decrease preterm labour, and decrease pregnancy-induced hypertension. It can also decrease anxiety, increase flexibility, and prepare the body for labour. Practicing yoga is also a good way to help the pregnant mother feel more comfortable and connect with her ever-changing body, as well as her baby.
Once the practitioner overseeing prenatal care has given the ‘okay’ to continue with a yoga practice, there may be some confusion as to which poses and practices are appropriate and which should be modified. Prenatal yoga classes are a good place to start. At Feel Good Yoga and Pilates, our prenatal instructors are trained to help guide pregnant women through a safe practice, with the additional benefit of providing a space to connect with other women having similar experiences. However, for some women prenatal classes may not be an option, and it can be helpful to have an awareness of poses that could potentially harm mom or baby.
Ten Poses to Avoid During Pregnancy
- Dhanura Asana (Bow Pose) – Lying on the stomach puts unnecessary pressure on the baby, and it will be very uncomfortable to lie on the expanding stomach. Bridge pose may be a good alternative.
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) – Similar to Bow, Cobra places pressure on the baby and placenta, possibly causing harm and discomfort.
- Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) – Shoulder stands can be dangerous if you are not experienced with inversions. Inversions can be tricky and it’s not uncommon to fall out of poses- which could potentially cause harm or injury. In the later stages of pregnancy, being inverted can cause the baby to push more heavily on the ribs which can create difficulty breathing.
- Sirsha Asana (Head Stand) – This inverted pose should not be practiced for the same reasons outlined above in Sarvangasana.
- Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) – As in earlier poses, lying on the stomach is contraindicated in pregnancy as it places too much pressure on the abdomen.
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) – In addition to placing pressure on the abdomen, this pose can put a significant strain on the lower back. A more comfortable and safe forward fold alternative may be a Seated Wide Angle, as taking the legs wide puts less strain on the back and creates more room for the belly.
- Natarajasana (Dancer Pose) – Poses that require practitioners to balance on one leg can be difficult during pregnancy as balance is shifting with the changing body. Natarajasana is also too deep of a backbend to be done safely while pregnant.
- Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) – Pregnant woman should be careful if attempting this pose because like Natarajasana, balancing on one leg can be very difficult. A safer variation may be to hold on to a chair or bar while performing this pose.
- Halasana (Plow Pose) – Full backbends like Halasana are contraindicated in later stages of pregnancy. This pose can place unnecessary pressure on the abdomen and the additional weight of the belly can stress the spine.
- Traditional Savasana (Corpse Pose) – Lying on the back in pregnancy puts pressure on the inferior vena cava, which is a vein that lies on the right side of the body and carries blood from the lower extremities back to the heart to be re-oxygenated. If this blood flow becomes cut off, new blood cannot be easily delivered to mom’s vital organs or the placenta.
Pregnancy can be a beautiful time in a yogini’s life. While there are some practices and poses to avoid, as long as pregnant women follow the advice of their healthcare provider and -most importantly- listen to their bodies, they will likely be able to sustain a meaningful practice throughout pregnancy.
Author: Alana Midlane
Editor: Sarah Head