10 Yoga Modifications & 15 Minute Yoga Video For Pregnancy

by tinareale on October 8, 2014

I first started yoga when trying to get pregnant with my son. I had to scale back the intensity of my workouts and figured yoga would be the way to go. Oh, how naïve I was on the depth of yoga. But that’s a different topic for a different day. I started yoga when trying to get pregnant, and ended up realizing how much I enjoyed the yoga classes at my gym. When I did get pregnant…I kept going. It felt really nice for my body, even with my growing belly.

However, the yoga classes at my gym never really offered modifications. And so I would sit on my mat at the back of the room for a solid 15 minutes of the class every single time. As a personal trainer, I knew how to modify other workouts, but was completely unsure about yoga. Honestly, I didn’t even know if modifications for pregnancy existed for yoga. Once again, oh how naïve I was.

Coming from that experience, I would hate for anyone who is pregnant to feel like she can’t participate and enjoy the benefits of yoga too. Yoga can literally work for every body and everyone with the right approaches. Below I share 10 modifications to make yoga safe and enjoyable for mom and baby. After all, what better time to support your body with the benefits of yoga than when working to grow another life?

Yoga For Pregnancy

Feet Hip Distance. Whether standing in Tadasana (“Mountain Pose”) or sitting back into Utkatasana (“Chair Pose”) or folding forward in Paschimottanasana (“Seated Forward Fold”) or anywhere in between…keep the fit hip distance or even slightly wider to make space for the belly AND create space for the lower back to extend.

Use Blocks To Bring The Floor To You. Once again, with the focus on making space for the growing belly and to not strain the lower spine. Think about it…when you’re working deeply in a pose to touch your hands to the mat, the belly doesn’t have as much room. Use blocks in poses like Triangle, Standing Forward Fold, Pyramid Pose (although later on in pregnancy Triangle may be preferred over Pyramid for even more space), Low Lunges, and other similar poses. Bring the floor to you. Because, why not? Now if only you could use the block to bring ice cream to you, too….

Prenatal 4

Lay Off The Abs. Putting too much pressure on the abdominal wall can cause the muscles to stretch and pull too much – leading to diastasis recti (a separation of the abdominal wall). Refrain from core work in classes, instead take a seated position and work to engage Mula Bandha to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Do this by creating a lift in the pelvic floor as the space between the navel and the pubic bone pulls slightly in, up, and back.

Follow General Low Back Modifications. If you’re in a class and you hear a teacher cue something to modify for low back injuries or pain…it’s likely a good option for pregnancy. Most of those modifications – such as bending the knees in forward folds or placing forearm to thigh in Parsva Konasana (see below) – are to keep extension through the spine and to relieve pressure. Both of which are good things to accommodate for and do during pregnancy, as well.

Prenatal 1

Lie On Your Left Side. During poses like savasana, where you are on your back for a longer period of time, choose instead to lie on your left side with knees bent. You can use blankets to support underneath the belly or between the knees. With that said, brief periods on the back (like lying with legs up the wall or lying down for a gentle supine twist) can be okay. The caution against laying on the back is because the pressure of the belly can lessen blood flow to the brain. Be aware if you personally feel light-headed and always keep time on the back to a few minutes or less, even if feeling okay.

Mindful Backbends. Backbends where you lie down on the belly are out of the question after the first trimester. You don’t wan’t to squish that sweet baby! Other backbends, like Bridge Pose, are also not recommended because of disconnected blood flow between the belly and brain due to the compression around the neck. Some safe options? Fish pose (see below). Camel pose supporting the sacrum. Upward Facing Dog until the belly makes it uncomfortable. Cow pose – a great option instead of Up Dog during flow classes. Wheel is also safe. Whatever you choose, make sure you are familiar or instructed on proper alignment to protect the spine and always rest on the left side between sets of the postures.

Prenatal 3

Open Twists. I know those deep, closed twists like a twisted chair feel really nice to wring out the internal organs and work through the spine…but they aren’t the best when pregnant. Instead do open options – like Triangle instead of Revolved Triangle. Or Warrior 2 instead of a Twisted Crescent Lunge. Or twisting away from the bent leg in seated twists (like Ardha Matsyendrasana) instead of into the bent leg.

Drop It Like It’s Hot. That would be the knees. Drop them down to the floor. This will support the lower back and the abdominal wall. The low back takes enough pressure as it is while pregnant…don’t make it take on more. Drop the knees down in poses like Chatarunga, Planks, Low Lunges. etc.

Prenatal 2

Relaxin = Move With Caution. During pregnancy our bodies release a hormone called relaxin. Basically, the hormone stretches out the ligaments so we can get those babies out. That means we feel more flexible than we truly are. Our ligaments are freer moving…but our muscles may not be so pliable. To avoid muscle strains or ligament strains (which take a long time to heal!) always, always move mindfully. In pregnancy, you’re not working to reach any major breakthroughs in your practice. You’re simply aiming to maintain a level of health and wellness for your body during pregnancy. So move with caution. Don’t push your limits and stretch less than you think you could in any given pose.

When In Doubt…Malasana. Okay, you don’t want to overdo malasana and overstretch your hips and groin, like we talked about above, but it is a great pose to do regularly during pregnancy. Malasana is a deep squat with the hips sitting low between the heels. For reference, this pose is included in the video. This pose can help prepare your hips and pelvic region for labor. Who wouldn’t want that? Am I right?

Now for that video….

All the tips in this post and the video are general suggestions. Check with your personal doctor to make sure yoga is safe for your pregnancy. And if anything feels uncomfortable, please refrain. Namaste!

Have you ever done yoga when pregnant?

{ 6 comments }

1 JEN October 8, 2014 at 1:56 pm

FABULOUS recommendations — all of them!

2 tinareale October 9, 2014 at 6:06 am

Thank you so much, Jen!

3 Christin S October 8, 2014 at 2:19 pm

So glad you’re back, Tina! (where were you with this post at the back half of last year when I was pregnant and attending yoga classes at the gym? lol) Actually I found quite a few of these options to be helpful when I was pregnant…I found that I just kinda scaled back as I got bigger and bigger and if it felt uncomfortable, I avoided it…towards the end I was on my knees a lot and on my left side relaxing. I also found hands and knees to be a great alternative to down dog, and used that for sun salutations in between hefting my right or left leg forward under my huge belly. Good times… :)

4 tinareale October 9, 2014 at 6:08 am

Aw, Christin! It’s SO good to see you here! How are YOU?! And your baby?! I would love to see a picture somehow. :)

PS – the memory of hefting legs around the big baby belly…oh how funny. I remember that feeling too. Haha!

5 Erin October 9, 2014 at 7:23 pm

The video was great! I’m 23 weeks (and new to yoga) and am glad to have a new video to do, thank you! It felt great :)

6 tinareale October 10, 2014 at 6:08 am

Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It’s got a great balance to keep up some strength but also open and relax into the hips…and mind. :)

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