Yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy

One of the most common questions I get asked is “How do I modify a regular yoga class when I am pregnant”

Of course, this answer will vary for each mama and depend on what you were doing before pregnancy. If you never did a headstand before, now may not be the time to learn it.

How you modify your practice will also depend on the style of yoga class. Yoga can be a great for building strength (a vinyasa or sculpt class), cardio (power yoga class), learning how to meditate or relax (restorative or yin yoga) or even studying yogic philosophy. 

Instead of giving you that cliche answer of “just listen to your body” or “keep doing what you’ve been doing” I will share what you what you want to be mindful of and how you can adapt different yoga poses. 

Maximal Exertion:

The standard recommendation is to stay around 70-75% of your VO2 max. A way to gage this is “Don’t workout so hard that you can’t carry out a conversation”.

Heated Classes:

You are more vulnerable to heat exposure. This is especially true during your first trimester. The concern is for birth defects, preterm labor, low birth weight and more susceptibility to dehydration. You also have more ligament laxity which makes your body more flexible. Practicing in a heated room can make you more susceptible to overstretching. However, I also know many moms that have continued their heated yoga practices throughout and felt great.


Your changing hormones help your ligaments to loosen in preparation for birth. This means it can be easier to overstretch your body, making you more prone to injury. While classes like Yin Yoga can be great for helping you to relax, be careful about long passive holds. For example, holding a pigeon pose for 5 minutes might cause you to pull a muscle or ligament. A great way to help prevent this it to use lots of yoga props like blocks, blankets and bolsters to support your body and only go to 50% of your max stretch. 

Laying on your Back: 

When you lay on your back for an extended period of time, the weight of your baby may press on your inferior vena cava which is the major vein that returns blood from the lower body to the heart. The typical recommendation is to stop lying on your back for long periods of time after 24 weeks. Short periods of time (say a 5 minute savasana) are generally fine. If you get dizzy, nauseous or are not comfortable on your back, you can roll to your side or elevate your upper body with a “bolster ramp”. My absolute favorite bolster is this one from Hugger Mugger.

Bearing Down: 

Avoid pushing out or “bearing down” on your pelvic floor. As your baby grows, your pelvic floor is working harder to keep your organs and baby supported. Prolapse can occur during pregnancy and therefore it is important that when you start to feel yourself pushing down on your pelvic floor to adjust your movements. 

Abdominal Bulging 

Abdominal bulging happens when you put too much pressure out on the tissues between your abdominal muscles called your “linea alba”. This could worsen your Diastasis Recti (DR) (abdominal separation)  While 100% of women will have DR by the time they deliver (that tissue has to stretch to make room for your baby and organs) you want to minimize how much it is stretching. A common place this can occur is during a plank. As you grow, you may want to modify planks like during your Sun Salutation.


Instead of taking closed twists like revolved crescent lunge or a chair twist, you want to make twists “open”. Here is an example of an “open” crescent lunge.

Poses on your Belly

If everyone in a class is on their belly for poses like locust or bow, you could do bird-dog from your hands and knees or roll on to your side for a quad stretch. 


Backbends in class include poses like Wheel, Upward Facing Dog and Camel Pose. Similar to abdominal bulging, these poses could overstretch your already stretched out abdominals. On the other hand, they are great for opening up your mid/upper back and your hip flexors (which are really important to mobilize during pregnancy). Check out this post for ways to modify these poses while still reaping many of the same benefits.

Abdominal Work 

It is really important to keep your deep abdominal muscles strong during pregnancy. They support your core and pelvic floor and help to stabilize your body as your ligaments loosen. However, you want to avoid standard crunches or similar exercises that focus on working your rectus abdominals (“6-pack muscles). Instead, HERE are some examples of deep abdominal work. 

I know for me, the mental challenge of modifying my practice was the hardest part. The yogic principle of “Santosha” reminds us to find contentment during the different seasons of our life. Keep in mind the bigger picture of optimal healing postpartum and feeling amazing in the long-term.

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