Posted by: Trudy Prevost | September 3, 2013

Adaptations for Pregnancy Yoga



There are 100’s of yoga poses that can be safely and comfortably practiced in pregnancy but every woman’s body is different. You’ll find experts don’t always agree as to what is appropriate or best for pregnancy. Be Body Honest: Trust and listen to your body, only do what feels right for you.


Breath Exercises

Cautions: Experts feel differently but most caution pregnant women not to hold the breath for extended periods of time and not to breathe rapidly in and out for long periods of time.

Benefits: Deep breathing gives us more fuel, helps us to manage pain, calms and relaxes our minds and bodies. These exercises will help you strengthen your diaphragm, a muscle used for breathing during first stage and involved in pushing during second stage.

Adaptations: If a breath exercise doesn’t feel right for you, pass and practice 3 part yoga breath.


Relaxation Techniques

Cautions: Lying on the back for long periods of time is not recommended

Benefits: Relaxation techniques help prevent unnecessary pain caused by tensing muscles and the fear tension pain cycle. Learning to relax on cue is a crucial part of handling the demands (equivalent to swimming nine miles) of labor and delivery.

Adaptations: On the back: roll onto your side regularly; prop the right hip up with a small folded towel; place support under the knees.  Practice Relaxation Pose lying predominately on your left side as early in your pregnancy as you like. On the side: place pillows or blankets under the belly (when showing), top bent leg or between the knees even under arm and head so all parts of the body are supported.


Abdominal Strengtheners

Cautions: Strong abdominal strengtheners should be avoided. Your abs should be allowed to soften a bit to allow for the stretching that is to come. Some feel nausea when doing these poses.

Benefits: Strong yet flexible abdominal muscles can help prevent back challenges, improve ante natal recovery.

Adaptations: Take the gentle or beginners variation and never hesitate to rest.   


Standing Poses

Cautions: Most standing poses are fine but standing twists such as Revolved Triangle Pose and Revolved Side Angle Pose, should be avoided because of the pressure they put on the abdominal cavity.

Benefits: Posture awareness.

Adaptations: Take the unrevolved variation.


Balance Poses       

Cautions: Most balance poses such as Tree Pose and Eagle Pose are okay, provided they are done cautiously or near the wall in case the student loses her balance.

Benefits: Strengthening the leg muscles and the pelvic floor is important preparation for later phases of pregnancy, and it encourages good circulation in the legs to prevent cramping as blood pressure starts to drop.

Adaptations: Take the gentle or beginner’s variation.   


Spinal Twists

Cautions: Deep twists from the belly can compress the internal organs, including the uterus. Strong twists also risk tearing ligaments or placental abruption.

Benefits: Massages spine releasing tightness and tension. Keeps the spine lubricated; more flexible.

Adaptations: Generally just twist more gently. In lying down twists a pillow or rolled up mat can be placed under the knees. In seated twists it can be more comfortable to twist in the opposite direction.  In any twist not turning the head can help to ease off the twist as well.


Knees to Chest

Cautions: None

Benefits: When practiced daily this pose can go a long way towards preventing lower back ache.

Adaptations: Any movement which involves pulling the knees or legs into the chest can be made comfortable for growing bellies by taking the knees wider apart; you will still get the same release.




Cautions: Some experts feel it is not advisable to move into any deep squatting positions during the first 3 months because squats are too expelling. On the other hand I and many mothers I know have practiced squats throughout pregnancy and no one had any problems. Other experts feel that deep squats should not be practiced after 36 weeks if the baby is breech or you have hemorrhoids. Once again be aware of your body and talk to your teacher if you feel any discomfort.

Benefits: These poses strengthen the legs; wide legged squats are particularly beneficial. Squatting moves will improve the flexibility and strength of your legs and hips, preparing them for good 2nd stage pushing positions.

Adaptations: Widen stance; go less deep into squat; use hands on thighs to help hold weight; the hips should not drop below the knees.



Cautions: Avoid going further into poses than you are accustomed. Be especially aware of your knees; groin; and abdominal area.

Benefits: Stretching the body regularly can help to keep tightness and tension at bay.

Adaptations: Don’t push into poses rather relax or even, ease off, on the stretch.



Cautions: Jumps can pose a slight risk of dislodging the fertilized egg from the uterus.

Benefits: not recommended

Adaptations: Step one foot then the other in vinyasa or sun salutation flows.


Cautions: Strong inversions pose the risk of falling as the body balance is different as the pregnancy advances. Plows can constrict the abdominal area and will feel more and more uncomfortable as the pregnancy progresses.

Benefits: Reversal of blood flow.

Adaptations: Take strong inversions to the wall or avoid them if you don’t feel comfortable doing them. You can substitute Legs Up the Wall or Wall Hip Lift.


Cautions: In general, avoid deep backbends like Wheel Pose. If you performed this pose easily before the pregnancy, you may continue to do it in the first trimester if it feels good to you.

Benefits: Helps to counteract all the forward bends of everyday life.

Adaptations: Practice supported back bends.


Hands and Knees:

Cautions: None.

Benefits: Opinions vary on the effects of this pose; all effects seem to be positive. All fours positions like cat or puppy poses can help get the baby into the optimal position for birth (head down, back to your belly.) It is thought that when you are on all fours, the back of your baby’s head swings to the front of your abdomen. Inna Mae Gaskin utilizes the hands and knees position for shoulder dystocia. Cat or puppy tilt can help to slow down labour.

Adaptations: In Cat Lift look straight ahead instead of up for a less deep stretch in the belly.




Seated or Standing Forward Bends

Cautions: Going into the movement too fast or strongly with a flat back can over stretch the lower back. Rounding the back and going too far can overstretch the central back.

Benefits: Stretches the lower back and hamstrings when practiced with the spine straight and the movement is from the hinge of the hips but stretches center back when spine is rounded. Brings blood flow to pelvic area.

Adaptations: Separate the legs to accommodate the belly. Place hands on thighs to hold some of weight.


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