Yoga with a Bump
Updated: Jan 8
Is it OK to do yoga when pregnant?
Firstly, congratulations! And secondly, absolutely!
Yoga is a safe and wonderful practice to do during pregnancy. It can help you to navigate the magical journey of pregnancy, and everything that comes with it physically, mentally and emotionally. Providing you with invaluable tools for labour, the early days of motherhood and beyond.
As a mum of two tiny tots (now 2.5 years and 1 year) I can hands down say it is a game changer when it comes to healthy mind, healthy body, healthy baby. The benefits of yoga are as wonderful and varied as your sock drawer, and this is by no means any less relevant when you're pregnant, if not more so.
Is it safe to do yoga throughout my pregnancy?
Yoga is safe throughout all stages of pregnancy. However, it is essential to remember that as your body is constantly changing, what you need and want from your yoga practice will change too. Every mother, every body, and every pregnancy is unique, so there are certainly no hard and fast rules here. There is one main piece of advice: listen to your body, it knows best.
Yoga in the first trimester
If you are new to yoga, it is recommended that you begin your practice after an all-clear following your 12 week scan. Yoga in T1 can help manage morning sickness, tiredness and fluctuating emotions. Treat yourself kindly, don't push yourself, and let go of any expectations. When you feel good, embrace your practice with ease and grace. When you are feeling cranky, tired or sick, be kind and maybe just do a couple of restorative poses. Focus on your breath, grounding yourself, and connecting to your body and your baby.
Yoga in the second trimester
Hurray, the sickness may be behind you, and you are no longer falling asleep at 5pm every day. T2 is a wonderful time to get stuck into your practice and reap the benefits. Keep it short, keep it regular(ish) and keep it kind. Listen to your body. It is exquisitely intelligent and knows exactly what it needs.
Yoga in the third trimester
As your bump begins to blossom, you may be feeling the need to slow things down. Keep your practice going, but allow it to change. Keep listening and use your practice to really tune in to you and your baby. Practice connecting to your breath, relaxation, and simple postures to continue to build strength and keep you grounded. If you feel like 30 minutes of child's pose and nothing else, so be it! It is your prerogative, mama.
What poses are good for pregnancy?
Table top pose (bharmanasana)
Table top and variations here are wonderful for helping to build pelvic floor strength and overall pelvic stability. On all fours, or with your arms resting on a gym ball (if you're going to purchase one thing during pregnancy, let it be this), work with connecting to your pelvic floor, squeezing and releasing it. Long holds and short holds in coordination with your breath. Variations can include alternate leg lifts, and include the arms if it feels good.
Child's pose (balasana)
Child's pose is an all round favourite. Wonderful for the middle of the night when you can't sleep during T1 and T2. Relieves tired and achy backs and shoulders and can also help shift restless leg syndrome. Wide knees in a nice variation once your bump is blossoming to avoid any abdominal compression. This pose is a great restorative pose, either as part of your practice or just as a stand alone, take-a-break, during your day. Stay for 1 minute or 15 minutes. Connect to your breath, your body, your baby.
Tree pose (ekpadasna)
Tree pose is an accessible balance posture that you can vary depending on how you are feeling. On days when you have lots of energy, working with balance poses can be exhilarating and rewarding. Strengthening both the body and mind, allow yourself the opportunity to re-calibrate and re-balance when things get a bit wonky. Arms up or at heart-centre, foot on your ankle or up on your groin. Again, listen to what feels good. And if it's an especially wonky day, practice near a wall.
Corpse pose (savasana)
If we're totally honest, I wonder what proportion of us go to a yoga class just because of savasana? And rightly so, and in pregnancy, this form of conscious relaxation has never been more important. It's essential to make sure you're comfy in this pose. If you're lying on your back (during T1 this is fine, but once your bump begins to grow during T2, move onto your side) it might feel nice to put a cushion, bolster, or rolled up blanket under the back of your knees. Once you've moved to your side (T2+) you can put a blanket/cushion between the knees, under your bump and under your head. Basically, make yourself as comfortable as possible. Focus on your breath and relaxing your entire body, and it may be nice to practice some guided relaxation (grab a hypnobirthing or a yoga nidra recording).
What yoga poses should I avoid during pregnancy?
There are some yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy. In short, the rule is to listen to your body and if it doesn't feel good, right or comfortable, avoid it. Every body and every pregnancy is different so be sure to listen to yourself first (your teacher second), and if a pose felt good one day, but not the next, still listen. Every day is different, every practice is different, and learning to tune in to even the most subtle of cues is so beneficial to your body, your practice, your pregnancy and ultimately labour and beyond.
It is suggested that anything that causes abdominal compression be avoided, for example, twists or lying on your belly (e.g. locust, bow), deep backbends that may cause separation of the abdominal muscles (e.g. wheel, camel), and lying on your back that may cause too much pressure on the large vein in your back that returns blood to your heart and brain.
Hyperextension and Yoga
When we're pregnant, our bodies release the hormone relaxin, which makes us feel a little more stretchy than normal. This is great for our ever-changing bodies and bump, and when we go into labour, but less so when practising yoga. You might suddenly think, gosh, I didn't know I was this flexible as you reach over and are suddenly able to grab your big toe. The rule here, be mindful not to stretch further than you were able to do pre-pregnancy. Watch out for hyperextension (when joints move beyond their normal range of motion), and commonly in pregnancy this can be seen in knees and hips. So, no overstretching. However good it may feel.
Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP or SPD) and Yoga
This is a sneaky one (and I had no idea what is was when it suddenly cropped up during my second pregnancy). Again, related to that stretchy hormone, relaxin, we might begin to feel pain in and around our pelvis and hips. Some yoga poses can really exacerbate it, so the earlier we catch it, the more we can adjust our yoga practice to best help us. Quite simply any pose that requires you to open one or both legs away from the mid-line causing the joints of the pelvis to move unevenly (poses such as easy-cross legged, butterfly, wide legged forward folds or side stretches, warrior 2, low lunge and high lunge). The rule here, try and keep your hips as even and level as possible, and your legs as closed as possible.
Is is safe to practice yoga online while pregnant?
The option to practice yoga online while you are pregnant is a really great opportunity. Not only can you practice from the comfort of your own home and wear your most comfortable clothes, you don't need to travel, have anyone come and look after older children, and you really can go at your own pace. The key is to be responsible and trust yourself, listen to your body, and if something doesn't feel right, move gently out of the pose.
Live Online Yoga classes may be better than pre-recorded videos as you can talk to your teacher before the class, let them know you are feeling, discuss any concerns and ask any questions at the end. A supportive environment can help wonders in your yoga practice, and some even say it can make you more accountable too! Also 'getting out there,' meeting others and making friends or seeing familiar faces is a priceless experience. Going through pregnancy may be lonely (especially in a world of lockdown) and having a regular class to go to, with friendly faces and a real teacher can make your journey even more special.
Ready to create a little bit of space for you? Why not try our Live Online Yoga classes, bringing you accessible yoga for all, from our living room to yours? Sign up now for 15 days of free unlimited classes.
Carrie is a co-founder of The Frog Project, yoga teacher, and full time stay at home mum to two smalls. When she's not playing with the kids or practicing yoga, you'll likely find her in the middle of her veg patch, trowel in hand and covered in mud. She loves the outdoors, and would camp every night given the chance. She and her partner in crime, Martin, set up The Frog Project with the aim of bringing classical yoga to all, and deliver live online classes with a group of dedicated teachers, to students of all experiences, ages, shapes, sizes, jobs, lives, you name it, from all around the world. Join them now and get 15 days of free unlimited classes. It's just yoga.