Contraindicated Poses in Prenatal Yoga

Namaste Mama,

I wanted to write about how prenatal yoga can be so beneficial for new moms and also existing moms who are on their 2nd, 3rd or 4th (however many) pregnancy. As much as we would like to think our bodies are conditioned for each birth, every birth can be a different experience and what might have been easy the second time might have been difficult the first time or third time. There are so many factors that can contribute to the difficulties of birth but we can touch on that at a different time. However, we can make it easier for ourselves by really tuning in to our bodies. We need to be so connected to our bodies that we know better than any else how far and how much we can endure or how little effort it takes to push, pull, reach, stretch, etc. What better way to know your body more than practicing yoga? Yoga links the mind, body and soul. I'd like to think this is the reason why so many people practice: is to discover this holy trinity of yoga. 

During your pregnancy, your doctor might encourage you take up some form of exercise or physical activity. Surprisingly (I only say this because I only learned it from yoga teacher training - YTT) your doctor will recommend yoga. This sounds like a good thing, right? However what your doctor may or may not know is there are so many different types of yoga. The most common style that is taught and known to everyone as 'regular yoga' is Vinyasa. So one might go to a Vinyasa style class thinking all the poses are safe but the instructor may or may not be trained on how to instruct a pregnant woman (I also learned in YTT that most instructors actually freak out when a pregnant woman joins their class).  However, 'regular' yoga classes like Vinyasa or even 'hot yoga' (which is a big no-no) have sequences that include poses which are actually contraindicated and are not safe for you and your baby.

Depending on what trimester you're at during your pregnancy, there are certain poses you can and cannot do but to make this easier, let's go through the contraindicated poses as a whole so you refrain from practicing it at all during your entire pregnancy:

  • Strong twists and closed such as Bharavajasana (you can do this sitting on a chair to be more safe), cross-legged twists such as those with binds because they compress the abdominal muscles.
  • Strong backbends such as unsupported bridge and wheel.
  • Standing poses for a long period of time because you might get light-headed, feel nausea and could faint or fall over.
  • Prone poses such as locust, bow, upward-facing dog or high cobra because they strain the lower back and compress the belly.
  • Strong inversions such as head or handstands, half and full shoulder stands, downward facing dog (when doing it for a long period of time). Some professionals would say any pose where the head is lower than the heart should not be practiced. 
  • Balancing poses when you're holding one leg for more than thirty seconds such as Natarajasana, Warrior III, Airplane pose, extended hand-to-big-toe pose because excessive pressure is put on the veins of the standing leg.
  • Lying directly on your back or on the right side of your body causes vena cava compression. Lying on your left side is recommended. 

Prenatal yoga was designed specifically for pregnant women to safely practice poses that are beneficial and healthy for mom and baby. By attending a prenatal class instead of a regular yoga class you're preventing doing any harm to yourself and your unborn child. If you have history of miscarriage or any complications, it is always best to ask the advice and clearance of your health care professional before engaging in any exercise or strenuous activity. 

Before we go, here are the golden rules when practicing yoga: do not compress or place excessive force or weight on your belly. Try not to overstretch because your hormones causes the ligaments and joints to loosen. If something does not feel right and you do not feel well to practice, stop right away and seek advisement from your doctor. 

After reading this, I hope you find it easier to practice at home and rely on your own intuition and judgement to decide if prenatal yoga is right for you and your baby. 

Sending good vibes + lots of love, 

Joan from L+M+A

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