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Prenatal Modifications for Yoga Practice

Most individuals are able to continue a regular yoga practice through their eighth month of pregnancy with modifications. If your body is telling you something is not right, listen. 

Below you will find general gentle rules of thumb for practicing while pregnant, as well as some specific suggestions based on your trimester and/or on the most important things to avoid/or modify during pregnancy. 

Please note: It is important to discuss your mindful movement and exercise program with your doctor. 

Twists

In general, avoid strong closed twists while pregnant. A closed twist is when the legs are narrow and you are compressing in the belly - usually resulting in creating increased mobility in the low spine. And open twist is when the legs are in a wide base in alignment with the hips, and the low spine can remain long, no compression in the belly - usually resulting in increased mobility in the upper spine only.

First Trimester -

In the first trimester avoid twists below the cervical spine/neck. 

Or, to be on the safe side, avoid twists all together in this stage of pregnancy.

Second and Third Trimester - 

In the second and third trimester, seek gentle open twists with no compression on the belly.  

It is good to avoid deep twists in the low spine, and any twists that compress the belly. But gentle open twists that mobilize the upper part of the spine are safe and beneficial during the second and third trimester.

If you come across twists in a practice:

Instead of a twist, you can use this time to align the spine tall and take 1-3 long, slow, deep breaths, then pick up after the twist.

You may also use the twist time to repeat a positive affirmation to yourself and babe, “I am flexible. I am safe. I love you.”

Core

In general, it’s best to avoid "belly up" core exercises. Instead, focus on core postures that tone the back and side lines of the body. There are some safe and core strengtheners that can be done during pregnancy, based on your comfort level and where you are on your yoga journey.

If you come across belly up core exercises in a practice:

For belly up core, you can modify with the following postures:

  • Table top position
  • Table Top with spinal balance/Bird Dog pose- opposite arm and leg extended for a few breaths. 
  • Modified side plank
  • Wall plank
  • Wall push up
  • Kegels (contracting and releasing the pelvic floor)
  • For more restful modifications you may do cat/cow or child’s pose with a block or pillow under the head.

Instead of a core work, you can also use this time to align the spine tall and take 1-3 long, slow, deep breaths, then pick up after the core routine.

You may also use the core exercise time to repeat a positive affirmation to yourself and babe, “I am strong. I am safe. I am loved.”

Hips

In general, pelvic work and hip openers are great in prenatal yoga, but it is advised that you go much easier in the third trimester, when the body is producing more hormones (relaxin) which is opening you naturally. Overdoing it can lead to pelvic imbalance/pain so as a general rule of thumb - when doing hip openers - practice hugging the outer hip (abductors) in order to stabilize.

It is also good to practice kegels or elevators in all to engage the core and support your hips in the yoga posture.

Practice cat/cow pelvic tilts to help soften and stretch the pelvic joints. This will also help alleviate strain in the muscles of the low back. (This is also a great way to encourage baby into a good birthing position!)

If you come across deep hip exercises in your third trimester:

Practice diaphragmatic breathing.

Practice your kegels. Imagine your pelvic floor is an elevator, relax on the inhale, feel the elevator lifting on the exhale.

You can also use this time to align the spine tall and take 1-3 long, slow, deep breaths, then pick up after the core routine.

You may also use the core exercise time to repeat a positive affirmation to yourself and babe, “I am secure. I am open. I am love.”

Take Space & Create Stability

As you grow, take up more space in standing poses, starting with Mountain Pose. Step the feet a bit wider to ensure you have a stable base. 

Lunges are safe and best with a focus on pelvic floor lift. It is also great to focus on that outer hip hugging in during lunges. As you grow, take a wider stance for more stability in the posture.

Relax & Find What Feels Good

Take Savasana or any reclined postures on your side. A pillow for the head/neck as well as blankets or a pillow between the legs is nice, offering support for the legs, hips, belly, and spine.

Every expecting individual is different. Honor what your body is telling you and celebrate the process of finding what feels good for you.

55 comments on “Prenatal Modifications for Yoga Practice”

  1. Thank you for these “Mods” I have bookmarked this page and I’m ready to go on Jan 1st!

  2. Hi! Do you have modifications for ppl with limited mobility or some mobility issues? My partner can’t get on her knees but she’d love to participate. Any advice mucho appreciated! Loving you since Sept 1, 2020 and have sung ywa praises to all - who knew my underwear could fit so much better!

  3. Thanks for this detailed description, this is awesome. Would it be possible to make a video on all the poses that are to be avoided and what to do instead? (For all the visual learners like me)
    Thank you for everything!

    1. Hi Julie there is a prenatal playlist on her channel. It may be helpful to check out the modifications there!

  4. This is just what I needed to feel confident for our breathing month journey! Massive thank you!

    1. Thanks for this! Just heading into week 12 of pregnancy so this guidance is really useful. Can’t wait to start!

    2. FYI, she’s got a playlist on her channel with practices that suits pregnancy too! You may want to check it out!

  5. Thank you so much for including this! Cannot wait to start 30 days with you all tomorrow xx

  6. Thank You very much for these tips! I am in the 3rd trimester, regularly practicing prenatal yoga and I will also join 🙂 I will be very careful and will only do what feels good. Namaste.

  7. Amazing!! I thought I’d have to sit this one out for the first time and I’m so glad I don’t!

  8. I was going to email you about this Adriene. Thank you so much. I only discovered your 30 Day Yoga Series during the lockdown and had promised myself that I would do this year's challenge but then the baby happened and I wasn't sure I would even be able to. Thank you so much for including us all!!! Kisses and hugs from Spain!

  9. Thank you for sharing this! I was wondering what modifications I would need to make

  10. Thank you!! I am newly pregnant with my third and you’d think I would remember all of this but I had completely forgotten over the years. I appreciate this so much!

  11. Feeling excited and confident to practice now with these tips and suggestions, almost 26 weeks now! Loved doing it last year when not pregnant and didn’t want to miss out this year!

  12. This will be my 4th year following your 30-day journey and I’m so grateful for the guidance. It’s my first pregnancy and am thrilled to still be able to participate. Thanks for being so inclusive!

  13. Merci merci Adriene! Très contente de me joindre au mouvement général grâce à ces indications!

  14. Thank you so much for this! Just this morning I was thinking about how to modify my practice in trimester two and three. Last time I was pregnant, six years ago, I hadn’t taken yoga to heart yet. This time I’m convinced that practicing prenatal yoga will help me immensely in labour and recovery from labour, both physically and mentally. Please continue to update your prenatal yoga playlist during the year! Love you dearly, Adriene! ❤️ Filippa, Sweden

  15. Thank you, Adriene and team! This is my second time pregnant and this is the best summary of pregnancy modifications I've seen 🙂 I've found doing cow anytime Adriene does cobra works well for me. I've also found, if you're so exhausted you can't fathom doing a long practice, then don't. Yoga for Vertigo and Yoga for Chronic Pain on the YWA channel are nice, gentle practices you could substitute while pregnant. One final note: In my opinion, if you are in the first 3 months postpartum, or at least the first 6 weeks, feel free to opt out and relax (when possible)! Caring for a newborn is HARD and your body is going through A LOT and you will be able to practice eventually, I promise. [This comes from a mama who went "too hard" too soon with my first baby, and I wish I hadn't, it resulted in some minor injuries, etc.] Love to all mamas and expecting mamas and hoping-to-be mamas everywhere. And everyone who supports them. xoxo.

  16. Thank you for this! I really want to do the Breath challenge and this will help me know what to do since I'm starting my third trimester!

  17. Awesome! I have done the "January Challenge" every year for the past few, but was nervous about doing it this year with going into my 2nd trimester. So happy to see these tips to make it safer for myself and babe.

  18. Exactly the advise I was looking for to continue practice in my third trimester, thank you!!

  19. Thank you Adriene! I had been hoping to be pregnant at this time and wondering how I could still do your 30 day journey. I've been keeping up with your practices with modifications, but really appreciate your special advise. Can't wait to be part of the community again this year. Thank you for making it such a welcoming place for everyone. The babies will benefit!

  20. Thank you for posting this. I really want to do the breathe challenge and was feeling a little nervous not knowing how to navigate it in my second trimester. This really helped ease my worries. Thanks again <3

  21. Thank you, Adriene! This will be my 4th year joining the community for the 30 Day journey, and my first pregnancy. The January journey has become my favorite ritual for starting a new year, and I'm so grateful for these tips and modifications.

  22. Thank you for this information! Looking forward to kicking off another year with you and Benji, this time with Baby on board!

  23. Thank you so much! I was thinking I had to wait untill march, after I have had my twins, but now I feel confident to join afterall.

  24. Thanks, I wasn't sure I could join but now I will. HOME was the best last year. Looking forward to BREATHE with baby in belly.

  25. Big thanks for this! I will be participating in Breath for the last month of my pregnancy (midwives know about it!), and so far these mods have come pretty naturally when I’ve practiced using your videos, thought I definitely needed this clarity about safely caring for my hips. This is the exact reassurance I need to feel safe and strong for this last little push (heh).

  26. A huge thank you for being incredibly mindful about all the pregnant mommas that want to take this journey into the new year with you! It means the world! <3

  27. This was so helpful and kind of you to take the time to prepare it and write it, I can’t wait!

  28. This makes me so excited! I have practice the January 30 days the last 4 years and had resigned myself to waiting until after my baby is born in February! I can’t wait to now try this pregnant then later in the year practice as per video! Yay!!! Thank you! ❤️

  29. Is there any chance you could do a video showing what we shouldn't do and what we should do instead? I find seeing it visually so much easier! Thanks!!

  30. Thank you so much for providing this information for the 30 day challenge. I feel much more comfortable now practicing. 🙂

  31. Yeah!! I’m very early on, only 5 weeks. And I’m feeling super nauseous & fatigued. Yoga helped so much with my first pregnancy and I’m going to try to do what I can. Thank you!!!

  32. Thank you so much for this! For everything! Starting my second trimester so these tips are great to know!

  33. Thanks! Also in my third trimester, due at the end of February so Breath gives me a good monthlong headstart on getting my breathing exactly where it needs to be to prep for delivery.

  34. Thank you so much for this Adriene! I was hesitant to participate this year as I am entering at 22 weeks, but now I am confident I will be able to enjoy the program safely. Thank you! Looking forward to another year together.

  35. Can someone please clarify what she means by “hugging the outer hip”? Thank you in advance!

  36. Thank you Adriene! I am very early at 6 weeks so was wondering what modifications I need to do! Very helpful, can’t wait to get started tomorrow 🙂

  37. Thank you so much for thinking of the mamas and their babies! I was wondering but hopeful that I may be able to still do your 30 day yoga journey as we await baby coming in the next few weeks and you have shown us the way! Much love and gratitude!

  38. Thank you Adriene! ❤️ I've done all of your 30 day challenges and it makes me so happy that I don't have to miss this year's! I'm 21 weeks along. Just finished Day 1! Found I didn't feel comfortable on my stomach for cobra. Do you have any suggestions for modifications for tummy down exercises?

    Thank you so much!
    Namaste

  39. i wish there would be pictures, such as: this is right while pregnant - this is to avoid.
    i do not understand everything, cause i am new to yoga and dont know the name of poses.

  40. The work of Adriene and her team is remarkable it has given to me a new level to yoga and loving all the 30days challenges! So grateful that she is talking about pregnancy that's a real plus , what would have been nice for me is some little pictures to help me see what she is taking about ,being French even is I follow everything it is easier with images for me to understand and pictures it in my mind cause even if I understand I don't always see exactly which positions she talks about and propose to change. I know its a lot more work. Thank you so much . very grateful for all the work that is done . Happy New Year to you all xxx And thanks for the Choice of the Name .. BREATH... goes well with a lot of things

  41. Thank you for this! Can anyone let me know what exactly "belly up" core means? Does this mean any core exercise where you're lying on your back? So would planks be okay? I just realized I've been doing all of the core exercises.. oops!

    1. yes, that's what it means lying on your back with your belly pointing up. Avoid those! if you train your abdominals too much during pregnancy they will have a difficult time growing back to the middle of your stomach after birth which will leave you with (visible) abs left and right with a bit of a tunnel in between.

  42. I would like to personally thank you for this article, Adriene.

    As someone who is soon to be a father, your understanding of core exercises was a great help to my wife.

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