Yoga During Pregnancy: An Expert’s Guide

Created by Kosta Miachin

Last Updated: March 14, 2018

CATEGORIES: Healthy Moms

This guest post is written by Kosta Miachin, creator of VIKASA yoga method. Kosta is an expert yoga instructor who understands the changes that a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy. Being a male, Kosta has not been through the challenges of pregnancy but as you read on you will clearly feel the empathy he portrays. His expert guidance will help you to understand more about how you can plan to make yoga a part of your pregnancy journey. He covers yoga during pregnancy for normal delivery and then takes you step-by-step through each trimester. From yoga during early pregnancy right through to the third trimester, here is his expert opinion to guide you through. Elly xx

(This post includes affiliate links for which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase)

Yoga during pregnancy: An introduction

Like most transformative life journeys, pregnancy is hardly an easy path. From lower back pain to fatigue, sometimes the painful symptoms of creating human life get in the way of truly experiencing and celebrating your pregnancy journey. With all of those hot flashes, celebrating your pregnant body may not sound that appealing. However, that’s exactly what yoga during pregnancy aims to do. At the same time, it provides simple tools to cope with the unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy.

Incorporating yoga during pregnancy may sound like a challenge, but many women report that as their baby grows, their yoga practice deepens. That spiritual growth may be all well and good, but if anxiety about the delivery, migraines, and nausea have you by their grips, you’re probably looking for tangible solutions to your pregnancy problems. Don’t worry, yoga during pregnancy delivers that too, with plenty of science to back it up.

yoga during pregnancy-cat pose

Yoga During Pregnancy: What You Should Know

If you’re in the throes of pregnancy side effects, the idea of exercise probably sounds pretty awful. But you don’t need to necessarily think of yoga as exercise. Yoga is an integrative practice that combines mindfulness, breathwork, meditation, and yes, the physical asanas (postures). Instead of thinking of yoga during pregnancy as an exercise like going to the gym, think of it as a toolkit. This toolkit will help you cope with pregnancy side effects while preparing your body for a safe delivery.

During pregnancy, your body is working harder than it’s ever worked before, so there’s no reason to push it. Yoga postures adapted for the pregnant woman focus on delivering the benefits of the asanas, without straining the body.

One of the many changes your body faces during pregnancy is an increase in certain hormones. As these hormones change your body, your yoga practice will have to adjust as well. That’s the great thing about the asanas. They’re flexible enough to be adapted to almost anyone’s needs, even for yoga during pregnancy. For normal delivery, your body will release the hormone relaxin. This allows the ligaments, muscles, and tendons to relax enough to allow for the strain of delivery.

Because relaxin is flowing through your body, you’re more susceptible to injury. Yoga blocks, bolsters, and blankets can be creatively integrated into your practice. This not only makes it safer but also add more of a relaxation element. When insomnia and hot flashes set in, you’re going to need it! Yoga during pregnancy can be practiced alone, at home with the help of videos, or at specialized prenatal yoga classes.

Yoga During Pregnancy: For Normal Delivery

If you’re planning yoga during pregnancy for a “normal delivery,” your goal should be to create space in your hips. You can also develop coping mechanisms to survive the stress and pain of delivering a child. Many people don’t realize that going through pregnancy and labor takes as much of a psychological toll as it does a physical one. With the unique blend of meditation and physical postures, yoga simultaneously delivers physical and mental benefits for pregnant women.

Overcoming Anxiety & Depression

One of the biggest reasons people turn to yoga is because the physical work combined with breathing exercises has been proven time and time again to work wonders for anxiety. Too many moms are besieged by anxiety as they near the delivery date. Bringing life into this world is a huge step and hospitals aren’t exactly the most relaxing places in the world, so it makes sense. Combining the relaxation benefits of a regular yoga practice with the anxiety-riddled pregnancy journey seems like a no-brainer.

Women with depression often decide to go off of their medication when they become pregnant. This can be a pretty scary experience for some women. Luckily, study after study shows compelling evidence that you can use yoga during pregnancy as part of a treatment for depression. It can also be useful for helping to prevent postpartum depression.

Before we continue, grab your FREE yoga postures pdf below. These are gentle, restorative poses designed for all stages of a healthy pregnancy.

Relaxation & Control

One of the key factors in delivery is how much a woman can relax her pelvic muscles and allow the natural process to occur. Tension can lead to resistance, which in turn leads to pain and longer delivery. The breathwork, bodily control, and mindfulness learned in yoga can be irreplaceable tools when trying to relax the body during delivery.

This same mindfulness helps you to get in touch with your body, identify your needs, and trust your intuitive voice when it arises. Thanks to mindfulness practices, gaining the confidence to give voice to your needs before, after, and during labor can be greatly assisted by practicing yoga during pregnancy. For normal delivery, the baby’s head must be positioned at the bottom of the uterus. Yoga poses that deeply open the hips not only help to balance the emotions but can coax your body to create the space for this to happen naturally. This is another added bonus of yoga during pregnancy.

As your body changes, so will your yoga practice. What your body needs in the first trimester, will not necessarily be what your body can tolerate in the third trimester. Yoginis, keep in mind that hot yoga during pregnancy is never recommended. Let’s take a look at your needs and how your yoga practice should change during each trimester of pregnancy.

By the way, if you’re interested in yoga you might want to find out more about the 2018 yoga study. 1000 yoga enthusiasts were interviewed. The infographic below summarizes the findings. Click on the graphic or use this link to find out more about the study.

2018 yoga study

Yoga During Pregnancy: First Trimester

Veteran moms know the first trimester can be tough. The sudden hormonal changes, fatigue, nausea, and hot flashes might have you feeling desperate for relief. Most care needs to be taken while practicing yoga during early pregnancy because the first trimester is when the risk of a miscarriage is at its highest.

To safely practice yoga during early pregnancy, remember the hormone relaxin is already coursing in your veins. That means you need to use props and take extra care not to hyperextend.

A number of poses should also be eliminated from your daily practice. During the first trimester, the fetus will still be implanting itself. That means jumps should be avoided as they could disrupt this process. Additionally, you should stop practicing asanas like Locust Pose and Bow Pose, which put pressure on the uterus. You should likewise abstain from deep backbends, twists, and ab workouts.

Some yoga poses you can enjoy during the first trimester may be:

  • Triangle Pose
  • Supported Tree Pose
  • Warrior I

Yoga in Pregnancy: Second Trimester

After the ambush of hormones in early pregnancy, many women find their energy levels improve enough to practice yoga more regularly during the second trimester. The hormonal upheaval may have abated slightly, but the second trimester brings its own challenges. As your belly grows, it puts more pressure on your lower back, leading to that characteristic pregnancy back pain. Yoga during pregnancy second trimester should focus on bringing a gentle stretch to your lower back while modifying poses with props to accommodate your changing body.

The yoga bolster might just be your best friend right now when practicing yoga in pregnancy. Second-trimester yoginis need to prevent lying prostrate on their backs, which means supine poses are usually off-limits. A bolster, however, can provide the elevation needed to access restorative hip openers like Reclining Bound Angle.

Good options for yoga during pregnancy (second trimester) are:

  • Cow Face Pose
  • Chair Pose
  • Reverse Prayer Hands

Yoga in Pregnancy: Third Trimester

The third trimester is when anxiety over the delivery really tends to cause problems. Prenatal yoga during late pregnancy focuses on preparing the mind and body for labor and delivery. Between weight gain and super loose joints from the increased levels of relaxin, in your third trimester you will need to be especially careful when bringing a stretch to the joints or practicing balancing poses.

Modify balancing postures like Tree Pose or Warrior III, by holding onto a chair or barre to ensure you don’t fall. Remember, a growing belly means your center of gravity is shifting, leading to instability and clumsiness. Backbends, abdominal work, inversions, and poses that require you to lie on your back should be avoided entirely. Savasana, however, can be an important meditative posture for relieving stress and connecting with your baby. To modify savasana for pregnancy, practice this posture on your side with blankets beneath your belly & head and between your knees.

For yoga during pregnancy (third trimester), you should focus on asanas that help to open the hips and relieve lower back pain. Don’t forget to practice that breathwork, or pranayama, which can help you deal with pain, anxiety, and frustration during delivery.

Yoga in pregnancy, third trimester poses should include:

  • Modified Savasana
  • Cat/Cow Pose
  • Seated Wide-Legged Forward Bend Pose

Each woman’s pregnancy journey is different, so these poses are only an outline. Like always with yoga, listen to your body and remain mindful of all sensations. It will take some experimentation to find the yoga practice that’s perfect for you and your growing baby, but it will definitely be worth it!

If you’re keen to explore ways to alleviate some of the aches, pains, and other issues associated with pregnancy, find out how osteopathy can help you. Make sure you’ve also got the lowdown on how to ensure your exercise program during pregnancy is safe and effective.

Are you practicing yoga throughout your pregnancy? If so we’d love to hear how you’re getting on with it. If you’d like to share your experiences with us or if you have any questions about yoga during pregnancy, please use the comment box below.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these recommended service provider links, like an insurance broker, or a travel agent, I may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you. [For my full disclosure, please see my DISCLAIMERpage].

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