Now that I’m in my second trimester (YAY!), as much as I would like to keep up with some of the poses that everyone else is doing in regular yoga class, I just can’t. My belly gets in the way of some of the poses and some of the poses just don’t feel good anymore!
So, I turned to Melissa Green, a Certified Yoga Instructor for some tips on how to modify when you’re pregnant and step into a non-prenatal yoga class. She came up with 10 pregnancy yoga modifications to be well with baby.
Before pregnancy, I loved going to yoga and barre classes, so it’s been an easy transition for my body to get back into those classes. During my first trimester, it was hard for me to even get off of the couch, so I didn’t go to too many classes. I did, however, do some videos on youtube or yogaglo.com in the comfort of my own living room and they were life savers.
Now that I’m in my second trimester (and the nausea has subsided and I’ve gotten most of my energy back), I’ve been regularly going to yoga and barre classes again (about 5-6 times per week). But, there aren’t too many prenatal classes at convenient times, so I find myself going to the regular yoga classes and needing to modify during class. My fave class is either a slow flow yoga or vinyasa yoga.
Melissa says, “yoga is a great workout during pregnancy, and contrary to what some may believe, you absolutely can continue your practice while pregnant. That being said, not all poses are great for you and the baby (nor do they feel great!), so below are 10 modifications that will allow you to practice throughout your pregnancy in a safe, yet effective way.”
(As always, consult your doctor or midwife before starting any new exercise routine, especially during pregnancy. I want you to be well and feel healthy and safe.)
10 Safe Pregnancy Modifications
1. Belly Down Poses: These should be avoided, as they compress and put added pressure on the belly, which can be very uncomfortable and restrictive.
Modifications: Come to a tabletop position on hands and knees. Stay here or move through a few rounds of cat and cow.
Another option is to extend your opposite arm and leg for 1-2 breaths and then switch sides.
2. Uttanasana/ Standing Forward Fold: Coming into a fold, such as Uttanasana, compresses the belly and puts added pressure on the low back, making it very uncomfortable.
Modification: Bring your feet wide- either hip distance or as wide as your mat. Place a block under each hand to create space and then find length through your spine. Soften your knees for added support.
3. Restrictive Twists: During your pregnancy you want to think about making space for your growing belly. Restrictive or “closed” twists, such as twisted Crescent Lunge or Twisted Chair pose can compress the belly and therefore should be modified. Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy determines the modification, but always do what feels best for your body.
Modifications: During the first trimester, you can still twist, however, instead of twisting from the waist, lengthen through the spine and twist from the chest. Another option, especially as your baby grows and you continue into your pregnancy, is to practice “open” twists, by twisting in the opposite direction of others. Again, these twists should be done from the chest and not the belly.
4. Utkatasana/ Chair Pose: This pose can still be practiced (unless you find it uncomfortable), but incorporate the modification for added support.
Modification: Bring feet hip distance apart, so that you create a stronger and more supportive foundation.
5. Advanced Backbends (like Urdhva Dhanurasana/ Full Wheel): Certain backbends are safe during your pregnancy and can help add strength to your body, but avoid major backbends, such as Full Wheel pose, which can overstretch the belly.
Modifications: Come into a supported bridge with a block under your sacrum.
Or, enjoy a modified camel pose by keeping your hands on your low back or placing them on blocks on either side of your legs. (Arielle’s hands in the below camel pose should be closer to her feet. Whoops!)
6. Plank and Chaturanga: Since the weight of the baby is pulling the belly down, these can strain the low back and may cause diastasis recti (a separation of the abdominal muscles), therefore a modification is recommended.
Modification: Lower knees to the ground and continue into a chaturanga pushup. Make sure that you are still allowing room for your belly as you lower.
7. Core Work: Any core work done on the back (such as crunches or bicycle) should be avoided, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work the tummy.
Modifications: Come to all fours and practice slightly pulling the belly back towards the spine to engage the core.
If this is too much, enjoy Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle), by coming onto your back, bringing the soles of your feet together to touch and letting your knees open wide. You can also place blocks or blankets under your knees for added support.
Bring one hand to your heart and one hand to your baby belly (or both hands on your belly) and enjoy a few calming breaths with your baby.
7. Warrior Poses and Standing Poses: These standing poses are great to practice when pregnant, because they help to strengthen the legs and pelvic floor. However, there are a few modifications that can bring additional support and comfort to the pose.
– Warrior 1 and Crescent Lunge: widen your stance, so that you create a stronger foundation
– Triangle: Take your top arm and wrap it around your belly to support the weight of your baby
– Side Angle: Use the hand that is resting on your thigh to hold and support your belly (See below photo)
Savasana/ Back Exercises: Laying on your back – especially towards the end of your practice – may cause some discomfort, so a modification is suggested at this point.
Modification: Lay on your side in a fetal position (Arielle likes to lay on her left side). To make this even more enjoyable, use a prop (blocks, blanket, bolster or pillow) and bring your top leg to rest on the prop. Ahhhhh. So peaceful!
Most importantly: remember to breathe, listen to your body and do what feels best for you and your baby. Blocks can be wonderful props to help support your practice, and never hesitate to skip a pose and come to reclined bound angle or child’s pose or fetal position (just like the baby growing inside of you!)
Thanks for all of these amazing modifications, Melissa! If you’re in the Philly area, be sure to check out Melissa’s awesome yoga classes here.
Melissa Green is a Certified Yoga Instructor and Nutrition and Wellness Coach, with a focus on clean eating and simple food and lifestyle upgrades that help create true health, happiness and beauty from the inside out. Melissa also runs a blog, Pure Green Wellness, where she shares juicy tips and information on all things healthy. She currently resides and teaches in Philadelphia, PA. Click here for her teaching schedule and to meet her on the mat!
P.S I’ll be talking about my path to pregnancy in a few weeks! Sign up here to join the call.
Be flexible. Be good to baby. Be good to you.