How To Modify Your Yoga (or other) Practice for Pregnancy

People often ask me how to modify their yoga practices (or other exercise regimes) for pregnancy. Many assume that they should be able to do everything normally until they’re too big to do it! But there are factors to consider in all trimesters. In the first trimester, you want to protect implantation and modify according to mother’s wooziness. It can be helpful to keep your arms beside you rather than reaching overhead if you get dizzy, and also to move slowly between upright and folded positions. In general, your first trimester is a good time to avoid deep twists and jumping (some women return to jumping forward and back in vinyasa practice in later trimesters). You also want to avoid any breathing exercises that have you hold your breath or churn your abdomen (though again, specific abdominal strengthening can be appropriate particularly in later trimesters). There are plenty of women who do high impact exercise like running while pregnant and the pregnancy is fine, but this is to be judicious.
In later trimesters modifications are designed for the mother’s comfort and being practical (like not laying on your stomach). A few of the other perhaps less obvious ones to avoid are full wheel and other deep backbends – the two sides of the abdominal muscles (abdominal recti) can get pushed apart by the growing uterus the deeper and more often you take your backbends, even if it feels fine while you’re doing it. In general, pregnancy is a perpetual state of backbend! So it is helpful to focus on shoulder and upper back stretches and save the deep backbends for later.
As you stand or walk down the street, focus on rooting your feet without turning out the toes in a pregnant waddle. Think about lengthening your tailbone without clenching your butt muscles so you minimize swayback and keep your low back comfortable. Think of rolling gracefully from heel to toe, just being mindful with each step (call this your meditation practice for the day if this feels daunting – just practicing it a little will set the body’s rhythm and it becomes second nature before you know it). And again to error on the safe side, if you have any conditions you’re not sure are safe to practice with, you might ask your midwife what amount/type of physical exertion is appropriate, and then ask the teacher of the class how taxing the class is (I know I teach a challenging prenatal, others stick more to stretching). Make sure the teacher is pretty familiar with prenatal (everyone knows to tell you to avoid deep twists, but some teachers don’t really know much beyond that, and you’re better off finding someone who does, even if it’s in their general class and not their prenatal).
According to ACOG, In the absence of either medical or obstetric complications, 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week is recommended for pregnant women. So move and breath and feel good.

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