The pregnant woman is a very precious creature and both you and your body should be treated with proper respect and care. Your body is going through a massive amount of change (and growth!) and as such there are a few handy things to remember when practising yoga both in class and at home…
In this blog article I would like to discuss three fairly common yoga poses that you should avoid when pregnant.
As always, please follow your doctor's instructions above everything, they know what is best for you!
1. Plank (Kumbhakasana) or any core poses such as boat pose (Navasana) or Chaturanga (pictured below)
With having a baby you suddenly have a little extra weight around your stomach area, which only gets heavier as your pregnancy progresses. The abdonimus rectus muscles (the 6 pack) muscles are stretched and lengthened as your belly grows and when a muscle is stretched it is weakened. When doing core poses that involve your abdominal muscles, they cannot hold the weight that you are asking it to so the obliques, your side muscles, come and step in and do the job. However, that's a problem. Overly strong oblique muscles lead to something called diastasis recti, which pulls your stomach muscles apart. Diastasis Recti can develop when pregnant and it is what causes you to look pregnant even after giving birth, as it is what allows your belly to poke out. Healing this after pregnancy is what I aim to do in my post-natal classes. So, if you do go to regular yoga classes or practice yoga at home, avoid any poses that put undue stress on the abdominal muscles such as plank and boat pose.
Alternative: Try a modified side plank instead such as the one pictured below (i.e. using the knee for support).
2. Inversions such as Headstands (Sirsasana)
In your first trimester, and if you are a more experienced yoga practitioner who is used to inversions, and only if you feel comfortable to, then feel free to practice headstand. Perhaps do so for shorter periods of time, or against a wall for support.
However, after the first trimester you shouldn't at all, especially nearing the end of the third as your baby goes into head down position ready to leave and this could cause them to flip around, making your life more difficult. The other reason is that they are much more dangerous - the risk of falling, and potentially injuring you and your baby is higher. Balancing is always tricky when pregnant as your centre of gravity shifts, so to then turn upside down and balance is another level of challenge that you certainly don't need. There are so many wonderful nurturing yoga poses to do when pregnant that we don't really need to push the body by turning it upside down.
Headstand also uses your core muscles to keep you stable, and we know from the previous point that these muscles are now weaker, so we don't want to stress these core muscles.
Alternative: Try a simple hands and knees position, maybe adding in a cat stretch or circling the hips.
3. Deep Twists e.g. Half Lord of the Fishes (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Deep twists such as Half Lord of the Fishes pose involve rotating around the core of your torso. Think of it like ringing out a sponge. Now with a baby growing in your torso, we don't want to be ringing out that baby! Deep twists can cut off circulation or blood flow around the uterus which you never want to do in pregnancy. You could also pull a muscle and this could affect your health and well-being throughout.
Alternative: Try some gentle seated twists, which can be good to release the spine and back muscles. Child's pose can also help with an achy lower back.
TIP: With all of these alternative poses, look to your pregnancy yoga teacher for guidance and assistance.
Is that All?
There are of course other modifications and things you need to be aware of when practicing yoga when pregnant such as no lying on your front and be cautious of deep back bends but these three poses listed above are three commonly taught postures that it is best to avoid.
For a more detailed guide on the Do's and Don't when practicing yoga when pregnant please click here
So What Can I Practice When Pregnant?
There are so many fabulous yoga poses to practice when pregnant. Postures that can help to build strength, release aches and pains and of course relax and nurture your mind and body.
To help you out, I have put together a handy pregnancy yoga mini-course (actually recorded when I was pregnant myself). This seven day online course guides you through some of the key poses that are great for pregnant women. All you need is 5 or 10 minutes per day and I will show you a new posture or movement that you can practice at home without the need for any special equipment. The videos are easy to follow, teach you self care, and can be done from fourteen weeks onwards!
Full details of the course can be found here: https://coursecraft.net/courses/z9Sz5/splash
Have a great time!