How can you adapt yoga postures during pregnancy?
Whether you have a home practice or continue to attend your regular yoga classes, once your pregnancy is established, it is important to know not only which postures and practices to avoid, but also how you can modify postures so that they are safe for you and your baby and continue to provide benefits.
- Raise hips in seated postures and keep the knees apart only to the length of the thigh to protect your pubic symphysis from overstretching.
- Choose open twists rather than closed twists to avoid putting pressure on the baby’s space. You get the same benefits – wringing the body, stimulating and massaging the internal organs, releasing the spine – while leaving the belly free.
- Strengthen the back and abdominal muscles with tabletop practices, postures such as chair or triangle, and avoid strong abdominal engagement with postures such as boat pose (Navasana), plank or yogic bicycle. Gentler versions of the usual asanas will work just as effectively as their more challenging expressions.
- Skip anything that involves laying on your stomach. If the aim of the posture is front extension (or back bending), do a gentle version of Camel pose (Ustrasana) by placing your hands on your lower back for support or place a chair behind you to rest your elbows. Focus on opening the chest rather than compressing the lumbar spine – which exacerbates the lumbar curve already undergoing changes due to the belly’s growth.
- Omit arm balances and complex postures. It is simply not necessary in this particular moment of your life. Inversions can make you dizzy, even if you have never experienced dizziness before. The body’s centre of gravity changes as the belly grows, so it is best to err on the careful side. Try instead a wide-legged Downward Facing Dog, where the head is also below the level of the heart but it’s safer.
- Use all available props to adjust and support your practice: bring the floor closer to you with blocks; in laying poses (up to week 28) place blankets underneath your knees to release the lumbar spine on to the ground; lean on to the wall to support you in standing balancing postures like tree (Vrksasana) or dancer pose (Natarajasana) and as a resistance (for pressing against or to stretch). Grab pillows to sit on or hold your head and place it between your legs while laying on your side to keep hips stacked and parallel. Hold on to a heavy armchair or place a chair firmly on to your mat to avoid slipping. Using different elements of the room you are in (windowsills, chairs, chests of drawers, etc.) to move around and lean on can also become resources to support you during and between contractions when the time comes.
- Keep stances narrower in standing poses like Warrior I and II (Virabhadrasana). You’ll get the same benefits of the pose (strengthening and stretching the legs for example) while protecting and keeping your pelvic joints stable.
- If you are not suffering from pelvic girdle pain, widen the distance between your legs for standing or seated forward folds.