Safe Yoga During Pregnancy: For First, Second & Third Trimester

Published on 28 May 2018 . 1 min read

yoga during pregnancy yoga during pregnancy

So you missed your period and you confirmed and re-confirmed your pregnancy. Congratulations to you! Put on your seat belt, beautiful, it’s going to be an amazing 9-month journey for you both! Cherish the feelings, the morning sickness, the mood swings, the cravings and of course the first time the baby kicks!

It takes a while to let the ‘I’m really pregnant’ feeling sink in and accept this fact, after which you probably realise that now there is a tiny human life growing inside of you and that it is now dependant on you for everything. Food, water, nutrition, everything! It’s is going to transform your life(style). Now you will have to make important lifestyle changes in your food habits, sleep, exercise routine, and of course avoid alcohol, smoking and the ‘precious’ junk food! It is very important for you to be physically fit and healthy to be able to pull through the 9 months, give birth and give all that you have for that tiny human after birth as well.

Is it safe to do yoga during pregnancy?

There have been many studies in ancient India and by modern science to make it sure if yoga poses are safe for a pregnant woman. In these studies, several yoga asanas failed on the safety scale but some were found to be super useful. In some modern studies, it has been also found that being healthy and happy during pregnancy has positive effects on the baby as well and yoga helps a lot to make your healthy and happy. That is probably the reason why our mothers and grandmothers advise us to think positive, eat healthily and keep calm during pregnancy.

Let us explore how yoga would help in keeping you fit before, during and after pregnancy. Prenatal yoga has gained popularity in the past decade, courtesy of the celebrities who swear by Yogasana practice, during as well as after pregnancy as their ‘secret to a fit body and mind’. Well, considering the benefits of Yoga on the mind and body, during pregnancy, it must be practised to prepare the mother for childbirth in a (w)holistic way. During and after pregnancy, the body goes through many changes, both physical as well as hormonal, and to make the most of this for you and your baby, yoga comes as a gift.

Whether you have been a yoga practitioner before pregnancy or are a beginner now, practising yoga has great benefits for the mother and the baby.

Benefits of Yoga During Pregnancy

  • Yoga provides complete and holistic health benefits for new mommies-to-be. Yogasanas and pranayama help you keep your focus, remain calm, relax and reduces tension, both mental and physical.
  • Asana practice helps keep the body flexible and supple.
  • Hip opener asanas are advised to open the hips and relieve tension at the cervix, aiding in childbirth.
  • It prepares you to face the challenges of labour and childbirth.
  • Strengthens the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Yoga helps reduce the common pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, swollen ankles, leg cramps, constipation etc.
  • It helps in stabilizing the blood pressure, anxiety and helps you connect with your baby and reconnect with yourself, as during pregnancy you sometimes feel like your body is not under your control because of the transformations that happen every month.
  • It helps the body recover faster after childbirth.
  • Helps you deal with the demands of the baby post-delivery, with ease.
  • Improves sleep quality.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Strengthens muscles and joints of the body and increases flexibility.

It is, however, important to note that special precautions need to be taken for pregnant mothers before they begin their yoga practice.

Precautions for Yoga During Pregnancy

  • If you are a beginner, it is advised to learn prenatal yoga under the guidance of a trained professional either by joining a class that teaches yoga for pregnant women or personal yoga trainers, be sure to mention it to them that you are expecting.
  • Avoid asanas that restrict the blood flow to the uterus and those which compress your abdomen after the first trimester.
  • Avoid deep back or front bends.
  • The biggest risk with pregnant women is falling. So, avoid asanas which need you to balance on one leg. But, you can practice with support if you are an experienced practitioner.
  • Avoid asanas or stretches that put too much distress on the abdominal muscles, risking strain or muscle pulls or cramps.
  • Avoid Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga which involves practising asanas in a heated room as overheating can be harmful to the baby.
  • Practice asanas keeping in mind the breathing patterns, joint movements, keeping the back neutral in forwarding bends, make use of necessary tools that help you in your practice, like a cushion, pillow, yoga strap, towel etc.
  • When practising twisting poses, keep in mind to not practice deep twists from the waist and to twist from the shoulders and upper back.
  • Most importantly, listen to your body. Do not overwork yourself.
  • Avoid all strenuous activities or those that make you breathless.

Safe Yoga Asanas During Pregnancy

Here is a list of asanas which are in general safe to practice during pregnancy:

  • Baddhakonasana (Butterfly stretch)
  • Marjariasana ( Cat-Cow Pose)
  • Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
  • Uttanasana (Seated Forward Bend, with modifications, as comfortable)
  • Konasana (Side Angle Pose)
  • Paschimottanasana (Standing Forward Bend, with modification, using a chair, as comfortable)
  • Trikonasana (Triangle pose, with a chair to avoid deep bend)
  • Veerabhadrasana (Warrior Pose)
  • Parighasana (Gate Pose)
  • Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall Pose)
  • Yoga Nidra (Yogic Sleep)
  • Bhramari Pranayama
  • Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

Yoga Poses to Avoid During Pregnancy

  • All inversion poses
  • Sarvangasana (Headstand)
  • Sirsasana (Shoulder stand)
  • Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
  • Backbends
  • Balancing Poses
  • Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
  • Chakrasana (Wheel Pose)
  • Deep twists
  • Laying on the back asanas.

The nine months or 40 weeks of pregnancy are divided into three trimesters, of 3 months or 12-13 weeks each. The foetus develops every week and your body undergoes changes in turn. Therefore, it is advised to practice yoga according to how your body feels at the time, of course after consulting with your gynaecologist. Otherwise, yoga may not provide the benefits you are expecting.

Yoga Tips for First Trimester

  • Although changes may not be seen externally, the first trimester is the time when most drastic changes happen in the fertilised egg like all major organ systems begin to develop, eyes, nose, mouth and ears develop, fingers and toes develop, the heartbeat is heard and foetal movement is first felt in this trimester.
  • Morning sickness begins anywhere from 12 – 16 weeks.
  • If you have maintained a yoga practice for a while, it is probably safe to continue unless advised otherwise by your gynaecologist.
  • Abdominal and muscles around the digestive tract relax making digestion inefficient and constipation is a common complaint. Yogasanas which help with digestion like Vajrasana, Bhujangasana, Parighasana may be practised.
  • Not many restrictions for yoga practice early in your pregnancy, since the postural changes are minimal because the size of the belly is not an issue yet, but it is better to skip strenuous exercise.
  • It is advisable to avoid lying flat on the back to counter nausea and vomiting, as experienced during morning sickness.
  • Deep breathing and hip opener asanas can be practised.
  • It is important to get in the habit of tuning into the needs of your body during this trimester which would help you as the pregnancy progresses.
  • Consider focusing on standing postures during the first trimester, which strengthen your back, abdomen, legs, thighs and calves and promote circulation.
  • Practising yoga at this time will alleviate nausea, vomiting, constipation as well as swollen ankles.
  • Note of precaution- The first trimester is the riskiest period for miscarriages, it is, therefore, important to listen to your body and avoid straining too much. Since the body is being prepared for childbirth, the muscles are in relaxed state and at a risk of pull, strain or tear, hence it is best to avoid exerting.

Yoga Tips for Second Trimester

  • For most women, the second trimester is the nicest phase of pregnancy as morning sickness disappears, energy levels are higher, risks of miscarriage disappear and the baby is growing beautifully every day and so is your belly. And of course “the baby kicked” happens during this phase!
  • For yoga practice, you have the new found energy for strength and endurance, but keep in mind to slow down and rest. Do not push yourself too much.
  • It is equally important to not over-do stretching during this phase as the muscles, joints and ligaments are in a relaxed state due to the secretion of a hormone called relaxin to prepare for labour and it is easy to sprain, strain or pull the muscles.
  • Avoid belly down postures as these can be uncomfortable with the belly protruding. Substitute or modify these postures with the help of pillows or other tools.
  • Reduce the time you hold the asanas which reduce the risk of damage to the joints and muscles and also so that you don’t overexert.
  • Avoid forward bends and asanas which compress the abdomen. Modify these by making room for your belly.
  • Although backbends may feel so good, it is advised to avoid deep backbends and do these slowly with care.
  • Balancing postures need to done with precaution as there is a big risk of falling. Use chair or wall for support.

Yoga Tips for Third Trimester

  • The final stretch of the pregnancy is here! The baby is growing at a rapid rate and is a fully formed tiny human with all systems functioning. Sadly for you, you undergo a flood of mixed emotions as the due date comes near, your leg cramps become severe, you may have a backache due to the protruding belly.
  • Yogasana during the third trimester needs to be done with extra caution. Here the focus should be on breathing or meditative practices which can help you during labour.
  • If you are an experienced and regular practitioner of yoga, you may continue with the asana practice.
  • It is advised to avoid all inversion poses.
  • With the asanas, make more room for the belly by making adaptations in asanas, take a wider stance to find balance, do all standing postures with a heel to the wall or chair support.
  • Reduce the time for holding the pose to avoid injury.

Your pregnancy should be a pleasant experience for you and yoga takes you along that path by helping you remain calm, happy and healthy. Yoga helps you by keeping you in touch and aware of your body and the changes it is going through and lets you connect with the life that is forming inside of you. After all, a happy mommy makes a happy baby!

Dr. Arundhati Walwadkar

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