6 Yoga Poses To Avoid During Pregnancy – with Modifications
Curious which yoga poses are safe during pregnancy? Here are six yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy and some easy prenatal yoga modifications.
It’s pretty obvious — yoga is my favorite type of exercise. It’s a total mind-body workout that leaves me feeling clear-headed, open-minded, and good all over.
It’s also really great for pregnancy. Studies show that moms-to-be who participate in prenatal yoga have a lower incidence of prenatal disorders, low birth weight babies, and lower pain and stress.
So I was really excited to continue my practice throughout my pregnancy. I didn’t want to move straight into traditional prenatal yoga classes, and I assumed that since yoga is so low-impact and modifiable for different levels of fitness, I wouldn’t need to change too much to keep up with my regular classes.
However, as soon as my first trimester ended and I really began to grow, I was confronted with many situations where I felt like a fish pose out of water.
When the class was doing ab exercises or anything belly-down, I would look around awkwardly then sit back into child’s pose. When everyone would twist into a revolved side angle or a twisted chair pose, I would freeze dumfounded in the pose I was just in. In the beginning, when I wasn’t too far along yet and barely showing, I felt even more out of place when classmates would stare strangely at me wondering why I was so out of sync.
Some teachers were great and gave me modifications. But some just ignored me and the repeated advice to “trust my body” didn’t help when my body was experiencing things I’d never felt before.
It took a while, but eventually, I learned what I could and couldn’t do and easy modifications so I could continue practicing along with the class.
For this week’s prenatal exercise series, I’ve teamed up with my friend, the lovely yoga instructor Shayla Quinn, to share with you guys six of the main yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy and what you can do instead.
Yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy
1. Revolved Side Angle Pose
Pretty much as soon as you see a bump, or beyond the first trimester, you want to stop doing exercises that require you to twist along the midline. Baby is trying to grow in there and you don’t want to cramp his space.
Modification: Supported Side Angle
Instead of doing revolved side angle, you can simply perform a regular side angle pose, opening up to one side. Use your bottom arm to support you instead of bringing the palm all the way to the ground. This will also help you open up the chest more.
Yes, you may get some weird looks from the neighboring mat when you’re facing them instead of the direction the rest of the class is going, just pat your belly and give them a wink!
2. Full Wheel
Full wheel actually isn’t completely off limits during pregnancy…if you’re used to doing it. If you are very comfortable in the pose and it is part of your regular practice, you can continue doing it until it no longer feels comfortable. For me, I did full wheel up until about 25 weeks before starting to modify.
However, every pregnancy is different. And again, this is not the time to push yourself to try new poses.
Modification: Bridge Pose
If full wheel is not in your practice or you simply don’t feel comfortable doing it, sticking with bridge pose is your best option.
Another possible option, which will give you a similar heart-opening effect, is Upward Plank. Just make sure you’re feeling strong enough to support the weight in your mid-section.
And remember, every day is different — what feels good one day may not the next!
3. Bow Pose
After your first trimester, it’s best to avoid lying face down. That makes any poses on your stomach a no-no. When your class is doing bow pose or other belly-down series, it’s natural to not know what to do — but you have options!
Modification: Camel Pose
Camel pose is a great alternative that allows you to get in a heart-opening stretch and work the back. To modify this, you can also place your hands on your lower back/butt for support.
4. Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog
Chaturanga to upward-facing dog is usually fine to do until late in your pregnancy, when the weight of the stomach may prevent you from keeping your pelvis raised. You may also find that the size of your stomach prevents you from completing a vinyasa sequence.
Modification: Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog on Blocks
To keep your belly from hitting the ground, perform the sequence on blocks. You can also come down on your knees if the weight is too heavy to support.
At some point, the stretching of upward-facing dog may be too much for your stomach and at that point, you’ll want to skip it and transition straight into downward dog from standing poses.
5. Forward Fold
It’s pretty obvious why you’d want to avoid a full forward fold during pregnancy, but this pose can easily be modifed.
Modification: Wide Leg Forward Fold
Simply spread your legs wide before coming down into your fold to give the belly room to relax.
6. Twisted Chair
Again, twisting at the midline should be avoided from about the first trimester on. However, you can still get in the benefits of this version of chair pose.
Modification: Wide Leg Chair with a Heart-Opener
To modify twisted chair pose, simply widen your stance and use the bottom arm for support across your knees. Raise the top arm to a comfortable position to open the chest a bit.
Another option is to simply remain in a regular chair pose while the class twists.
Common Prenatal Yoga Questions
Before you go, there are a few topics I want to address regarding common prenatal yoga concerns.
- Headstands. Inversions are perfectly safe during pregnancy if they were part of your practice before pregnancy. Some instructors will advise you to avoid them during the first trimester, however, this is simply a precaution during this uncertain time. There’s no research to suggest that they are unsafe when performed properly anytime during pregnancy.
- Core work. Aside from crunching and twisting, many core exercises are safe during pregnancy. You want to avoid compressing your baby’s space, but exercises like plank and other isometric moves are totally fine.
- Lying on your back. I have a detailed post on this issue coming soon, but in the meantime, lying on your back is generally recommended against past about 20 weeks. I continued to lie on my back, however, well into my third trimester and research shows this is likely OK for most people. Talk to your doctor about it and do what is best for you.
I hope you enjoyed this post and that it cleared up any concerns you’ve had about prenatal yoga and provided you with useful tools to keep up your practice during pregnancy.
If you have any questions, please leave them below and I will do my best to answer them!
Exercise is important during pregnancy, but proper nutrition is paramount! Check out my Predominantly Plant-Based Pregnancy Guide for everything you need to know about a healthy diet during pregnancy including foods to fuel growth, what to avoid + 50 delicious recipes!
Looking for more prenatal exercise and nutrition info? Check out these posts:
- Prenatal Pilates: Do’s and Don’ts
- A Pregnancy-Friendly 10-Minute Booty Toning Bodyweight Workout
- 5 Normally Healthy Foods + Activities to Avoid During Pregnancy
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Weigh in: Did you/are you practicing prenatal yoga throughout your pregnancy? Have you heard of any other yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy?
*Although I am a certified personal trainer, I am not a yoga instructor nor a doctor. Please consult your physician before trying any of these exercises and to make sure that it is safe for you to exercise during pregnancy.