Fun issues like nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, and the need to hit the ladies' room — three different times during a workout! — makes it difficult to keep up with a regular exercise routine when pregnant. If you're expecting, taking up yoga (or continuing to go) is wonderful because not only does it alleviate some of these annoying discomforts, your body will stay strong and flexible. No prenatal yoga class offered in your area? Take a regular class, but be sure to avoid the following during your practice.
- Deep forward bends: Folding forward can compress blood vessels and nerves that connect to your uterus. Keep things flowing by separating your legs like in this Wide-Legged Forward Bend to make space at the top of the thighs.
- Deep twists: This can also decrease circulation, so always twist in an open position as in this pose, not deeply across the knee.
- Lying on your back: Once you hit the second trimester, avoid lying on your back for extended periods of time (as in Savasana). The increased weight of your uterus interferes with the flow of blood and nutrients to your developing baby. It can also aggravate lower back pain, heartburn, and elevate blood pressure. Use blocks and bolsters to prop your torso up instead of lying flat, and whenever possible find ways to stretch the same muscles while you're standing, sitting, on your hands and knees, or when lying on your side.
- Poses that work your abs: As your belly expands, it's difficult to support the weight with your rectus abdominus (the muscles you see when someone has a six-pack), so you use your obliques (ab muscles on the side of your belly). Overly-strong obliques can pull your abdominal muscles apart, causing a condition known as diastasis. Avoid risk by skipping poses that target your core, especially your obliques — worry about getting your abs back in shape after the baby arrives.
- Extreme backbends: If you've been practicing yoga for years and are now expecting, doing advanced backbends such as Full Wheel might feel great. If you're a yoga newbie, or your back isn't very flexible, overstretching in this area could also put you at risk for diastasis, so stick to easier backbends such as this variation of Camel that you can even do with one arm lifted.
- Inversions: Just as horseback riding and skiing are out, yoga poses that put you at risk for falling and injuring you or your baby are also not a good idea. The weight of your belly throws your balance off, and that coupled with the core strength needed to hold yourself upside down can make inversions dangerous. Also, once your baby gets into the head-down position toward the end of your third trimester, you'll want to avoid doing anything — like inversions — that might cause them to turn back around.
- Hot yoga: You get sweaty while sitting in an air-conditioned car, so you think you'd feel good doing yoga in a heated room? Avoid the risk of dehydration and save the Bikram until after your pregnancy — always keep a reusable water bottle on hand for refreshing sips throughout your practice.
- Doing too much: Pregnancy is not the time to push yourself to new yoga heights or to even do what you were capable of before getting pregnant. The goal of yoga during pregnancy is to maintain flexibility, alleviate aches like lower back pain, reduce stress and anxiety, and to give you bonding time with your baby. Growing a baby is hard work, so take it easy during these 40 weeks — embrace what your body can do rather than mourning what it can't. Don't hesitate to take breaks during class to rest in a Wide Child's Pose, or to even skip class altogether to take a nap.