Practice While Pregnant: 5 Prenatal Yoga Modifications of Common Poses (Photo Tutorial)

Erin Motz
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Congratulations – you’re pregnant! Over the coming months, you’ll experience immense changes in your body and life. But what about your yoga practice? Can you still practice yoga while pregnant? YES!

Might you need to make some modifications throughout the way? Also yes.

Just like any pose in yoga, there is a myriad of options available to make each pose your own depending on where you’re at in your practice.

This includes during pregnancy, and while modifications are necessary throughout all trimesters for different reasons, with approval from your doctor, there is no reason not to continue practicing yoga.

Yoga is a great way to cultivate calm. Want more ways? Try these 12 Calming Mantras For Mommas-to-Be and New Mommas Too

Read on for five common yoga poses with five prenatal yoga modifications to accommodate your growing belly and ensure safety for both mama and baby.
 
 

Prenatal Yoga Modifications for 5 Common Yoga Poses:

You can still practice yoga during pregnancy when you use the following prenatal modifications. Just be sure to take it slow, and check in with your doctor before getting started.
 

1. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Upward dog modified

Prenatal Yoga Modification: Cow Pose

Upward Facing Dog is a great yoga pose to lift and open the chest, while finding a moderate backbend. But during pregnancy, it is not advised to put so much pressure on your belly, and becomes nearly impossible as you enter the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.

You can try Cow Pose instead, which offers the same benefits, without the pressure.

Let’s Try It:

  • Begin in Table Top position with your wrists below the shoulders and knees below the hips
  • On an exhale, drop your belly as the chest pushes forward through the shoulders, while also lifting your chin towards the sky
  • Stay for 3-5 breaths

 

 
 

2. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

Floor Bow Modified

Prenatal Yoga Modification: One-Legged Bow Pose

Bow Pose is a deeper chest opener and backbend than Upward Facing Dog, but is available during your prenatal practice if you’re already familiar with this pose.

However, we want to avoid putting deep pressure on the belly again, so the best way to achieve this pose is through a modified Bow Pose, practiced on all fours.

Let’s Try It:

  • Begin in Table Top position with similar alignment to Cow Pose
  • Ensure you have a stable base by shifting the weight from palms to knees, and left to right, spreading fingertips wide to create more stability
  • On an inhale, bend your left knee, as if you’re stamping the bottom of the left foot into the ceiling
  • With your opposite hand (to provide more stability), grab the toes, foot, heel or ankle (depending on what is accessible) and kick the heel away from your seat
  • Stay here 3-5 breaths, exploring space as you breathe, and then revisit on the opposite side to open both sides of the body

 

3. Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Handstand Modified

Prenatal Yoga Modification: Downward Facing Dog

Ah, the elusive handstand. The unicorn of yoga asana, if you will. Shiny, pretty, seemingly unachievable. But if this pose is in your toolbox, you’re going to miss it while pregnant. But inversions are tricky territory during pregnancy, as it’s not advised to have the pelvis and feet above the heart.

So what inversion is safe, while providing the same benefits? Downward Facing Dog is! The only tweak to how you may commonly practice this pose is to have a wider stance with your feet to accommodate that belly and provide added comfort.

Let’s Try It:

  • Find Downward Dog and spread your fingertips wide, creating more stability in your pose. Consider a wider foot stance than you’d normally take
  • Lengthen through the spine by drawing the crown of your head towards the floor
  • Remain in this pose for 3-5 breaths and then return to rest in a wide-knee Childs Pose

 

Looking for a refresher on Down Dog? Watch This Downward Facing Dog Tutorial Video
 

4. Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)

Pigeon Modified

Prenatal Yoga Modification: Modified Pigeon Pose

As you progress in your pregnancy, your body is going to be craving hip openers even more than it typically does. While Pigeon Pose can provide a deep hip opening, we run into the problem of our ever-growing bellies.

Find relief in this yoga pose by modifying with a yoga block to create more space, and allow yourself to stay in a more prone position instead of folding forward over your bent leg.

Let’s Try It:

  • From Downward Facing Dog or Table Top, bring your right knee forward towards your right wrist
  • Slide your left leg back with your heel pointing up towards the ceiling
  • Use the hands to extend the arms, propping the torso upright, providing space for baby
  • Allow yourself to explore minor adjustments to find more space in this pose as you remain for 3-5 long, deep breaths. If any pain or pinching occurs, back out of this pose until it subsides

 

 
 

5. Half Lord of the Fishes Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

Seated Twist Modified

Prenatal Yoga Modification: Modified Seated Twist

As your belly gets larger, closed twists are a contraindication as you don’t want your belly to cross the midline.

However, you can still modify twists to include an open twist, relieving pressure on the belly while still experiencing the same benefits of twists.

Let’s Try It:

  • Begin seated with both legs extended
  • Bend the right knee, and if your body allows, cross the right foot over the left extended leg placing the foot outside the left thigh. If not, draw your right heel in towards the seat without crossing over the extended leg
  • Instead of twisting across the midline towards the bent knee, twist your torso in the opposite direction (left in this case), twisting away from the bent knee and towards the open side for a gentler twist
  • Lengthen through the spine, drawing the crown towards the ceiling
  • Remain in this pose for 3-5 breaths and then slowly return to a neutral position before repeating on side two

 
 

Practice Safe Yoga While Pregnant With These Prenatal Yoga Pose Modifications

Yoga is an excellent practice during pregnancy to maintain your strength, flexibility and overall health, while also appropriately preparing your body for giving birth.

Above all, listen to the recommendations of your doctor and make sure you are cleared for yoga during pregnancy.

But as long as you’re not significantly increasing your exercise levels or doing yoga poses that aren’t recommended while pregnant, you should be good to practice throughout your pregnancy. Namaste, mommas!

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Erin Motz

Erin is the co-founder of Bad Yogi. She is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and has been teaching yoga for nearly 15 years. You won’t hear much Sanskrit in her online classes, and believes that yoga is for everyone - from the kale loving vegan to the meat eating wine lover.

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