10 Tips for Practicing Yoga During Pregnancy

Ahhhh, pregnancy: a time of immense excitement, joy, anticipation, and…. let’s be real, physical changes that can often feel uncomfortable and limiting. My two pregnancies were full of challenges, but one of my main sources of relief was my beloved yoga practice. Time spent on my mat offered me a chance to find physical relief from the aches and pains, mental relief from the anxiety of becoming a new mom, and it allowed me to connect to the miracle that was happening in my body.

Students often ask me if they can continue taking regular yoga classes while they are expecting. My answer is a resounding yes! You don’t have to limit yourself to just prenatal yoga classes. You can continue to attend all of your favorite yoga classes by simply following these 10 tips and modifications for your practice.

1. Props are your new best friends.

As your baby (and belly) grows, your center of gravity changes and so will your balance. I always encourage my pregnant students to never go to the “edge” of any pose. Use blocks, blankets, and straps liberally to keep all of the postures gentle, easy, and comfortable.

2. Drink water.

In many yoga traditions, it is encouraged to refrain from drinking water during your practice in order to “stoke the inner fire”. However, when you are expecting, always sip water to stay hydrated throughout the class.

3. Avoid deep twisting.

Your belly needs space during this time, so avoid compressing your middle. Try to refrain from “closed” twists that close off your midsection or chest area. Gentle “open” twists are absolutely fine – those twists that rotate your heart open and away from the midline.

4. Take a wider stance.

As your balance shifts and your middle expands, you will be happier in poses with a much wider stance. Step your feet wider for poses like chair, Tadasana, and standing forward folds. Always keep in mind that you are making space for the baby while you’re in the pose!

5. Be mindful while you stretch.

When you are pregnant, your body produces hormones that help relax and loosen the joints and ligaments. Because of this, it is easier to pull a muscle or overdo it in a stretch. Always err on the side of caution, and refrain from going to your max in any stretching pose. Add a nice soft bend of the knees for any forward fold stretch.

6. Avoid lying on your belly.

After your first trimester, your belly will be growing and it won’t feel comfortable to compress your belly. When the rest of the class is doing poses that require lying on the belly, you can remain on all fours taking cats/cows. Or even better, enjoy some time in a wide legged child’s poses.

7. Exercise caution with inversions.

Most yoga instructors will encourage you to refrain from inverting while pregnant, but there are some exceptions to the rule: if you are extremely comfortable in your inversion practice pre-pregnancy, you may continue to do them. However, practice them by the wall for safety and only hold them for 30 seconds or less. I enjoyed inversions throughout my pregnancies but in very gentle, limited doses.

8. Take your savasana on your side or on a reclined bolster.

Lying flat on your back can increase the risk of compressing the vena cava inferior, a vein that brings blood flow to the baby. Consider setting up your savasana on a reclined bolster (its absolutely lovely!), or simple lay on your left side curled up in fetal position.

9. Minimize abdominal work.

Now is the time to fully embrace the blooming of your belly, and giving your little one the space that they need. Swap out full planks with planks on your knees, keep your feet on the ground in navasana, and do some stabilizing and breath work while everyone else is doing sit ups.

10. Trust and listen to your body.

Every pregnancy and every woman is different. Ultimately, listen deeply to your body as you move through your practice and it will tell you when something isn’t for you. Trust your instincts, and always exercise caution. Use this time to celebrate the miraculous process your body is undertaking, and honor that with your choices on your yoga mat.

Erica Whalen
Co-Owner and Creative Director, mang’Oh

When Erica discovered mang’Oh, she was running around New York City teaching at various studios, gyms, and living rooms. At the time, mang’Oh had a tiny community and was in need of some love and inspiration. In 2007, she, along with her business savvy sister and dearest friend Cynthia, purchased and reinvented the studio. Today, mang’Oh has become the place they always dreamed it could be: a sweet yoga sanctuary full of heart and soul.

Erica is in love with the practice of yoga. She profoundly believes in its healing effects for the individual body and spirit, as well as the collective whole. She delights in teaching beautiful and expressive asana classes in the hatha vinyasa style. Every day, she is inspired by and grateful for all of the students and teachers that call mang’Oh their yoga home.

Erica has a BFA in Ballet and Modern Dance from Texas Christian University, and she received her yoga certification through Laughing Lotus Yoga School. She lives in Austin with her husband, Evan, and their two little ones, Charlie and Lila.