One of the best forms of exercise you can do during pregnancy is yoga. Today we’re going to discuss exactly what the experts say about it. And we will give you a step by step guide on how to get started.
Is it safe to do yoga in your first trimester? According to experts and research, it is safe for most women to do yoga in their first trimester. But it’s important that you check with the doctor before starting a new program or class. Pay attention to your body too, and don’t overdo it.
There are many different types of yoga, and some of them are more strenuous than others. During your first trimester, the best choices are prenatal yoga, Hatha yoga, or restorative yoga. You should avoid hot yoga and Bikram yoga because the heat will raise your body temperature too much.
Yoga and Pregnancy
Whether you are a newbie or a well-versed yogi, you should only practice gentle yoga when you’re pregnant.This is especially true for the first trimester because this is the time when the fetus is still implanting. And the first trimester is when the risk of miscarriage is the highest.
Yoga can be an excellent form of exercise and stress reduction for women, including during pregnancy, if safety modifications are made. If you’re brand new to this practice, then you should consult your doctor first to make sure that it’s safe for you.
If you take a non-prenatal yoga class, you should let the instructor know that you are pregnant before class.
Prenatal yoga is generally very gentle. But it’s important to know that certain poses should be modified or avoided during the first trimester. We’ll go into further detail about that in a minute.
Are Yoga Poses Safe?
In a study published by the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, doctors found that many yoga poses are safe to do in your first trimester. You can even do yoga in the late stages of pregnancy.
In the study, researchers followed pregnant women who had previous experience with yoga as well as women who were brand new to it. During the yoga sessions, they monitored each woman’s temperature, blood pressure, oxygen levels, heart rate, uterine contractions, and the fetal heart rate.
They found that all the mother’s and baby’s vital signs were normal both during the session and afterward.
Another study done by the University of Manchester and Newcastle University in the U.K. also found that yoga was safe during pregnancy. And they found that yoga poses significantly reduced stress and depression in pregnant women.
The researchers said,
“A single session of yoga was found to reduce self-reported anxiety by one third and stress hormone levels by 14%. Encouragingly, similar findings were made at both the first and final session of the 8-week intervention.”
Focus on Stability and Strength
During prenatal yoga, you should try to focus on strength and stability instead of flexibility and endurance. That means using modifications, props, or a wall to ensure that all the poses are well-supported.
During pregnancy, your body creates a rush of hormones that loosen your ligaments and muscles. That could mean that even during your first trimester, the risk for injury is increased, especially if you try to push yourself too far with flexibility.
Relaxin is another hormone that relaxes and softens the connective tissue. This hormone peaks during the first trimester. And it could lead to over-stretching your muscles and joints.
The good news about relaxin is that while the uterus expands, it allows your pelvic joints to become more flexible. This makes more room for the baby. The downside to relaxin is that it can cause lower back pain and lead to the sacroiliac joints becoming unstable. This is why it’s important not to overstretch in your asana during the first trimester.
The Benefits of Doing Yoga in Your First Trimester
The research shows that yoga is safe in early pregnancy. Yoga offers many benefits for both the mother and the baby. Here are just a few of them:
1. Improved Balance
One of the awesome things about yoga is that it promotes better balance both physically and emotionally.When you do yoga in your first trimester, you should focus on both the asana (physical poses) and the pranayama (breathing).
It’s common to feel out of balance when you’re pregnant, both physically and mentally. This is because you have an imbalance of hormones, especially progesterone and estrogen. You also need to balance the added weight of your baby.
Yoga will help you to balance all of that out. You can reach a calming state where your stress response is turned off, and your parasympathetic nervous system responsible for digestion and rest is turned on.
2. Better Sleep
Getting enough deep sleep can be a problem during pregnancy. Yoga will help with that.
3. Increased Strength, Flexibility, and Endurance
Prenatal yoga promotes physical strength and stamina. This is particularly helpful in the later stages of pregnancy and birth. It will strengthen your back, legs, hips, and shoulders, all of which you will need.
4. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Yoga offers the pranayama (deep breathing), which lets your body sink into a digest and rest state. During yoga, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. That means that your body can digest, rest, and repair itself.
Pregnant women are often stressed. This is when your sympathetic fight or flight nervous system takes over. When this happens, your body has a much harder time digesting and absorbing nutrients. On top of that, the extra progesterone can slow down your digestion too.
When you’re pregnant, you also have a weakened immune system, and you’re not getting as much deep sleep as you need. This lack of rest makes it harder to repair your spirit, mind, and body.
Your body is working double time right now as it is making a new human. So it is very important to turn on the digest and rest nervous system to ensure that both you and the baby are as healthy as possible. Yoga will help you do this.
5. Decreases Nausea, Headaches, and Shortness of Breath
All of these are common problems during pregnancy. Yoga will reduce the severity of them. And often, it will eliminate them altogether.
6. Relief of the Tension in Your Back and Hips
Your hips and back must compensate as your belly grows. As the curvature of your spine increases, your hips tighten. Yoga helps relieve some of that tension. You can ease the intense pressure by deep breathing and strengthening and loosening the places where you have the most tension.
7. Decreased Swelling
The combination of yoga’s deep breathing and physical poses helps to increase your blood circulation. One of the best parts of improving your circulation is that it causes a decrease in inflammation.
8. Increased Connection to Your Body and Baby
One of the incredible things about yoga is that it allows you to slow down and tune into your body. It lets you reach deeply into your muscles by focusing on the poses and the breath. In yoga, you can concentrate on what is going on with you and your baby.
This intense body awareness allows you to connect with your growing baby.
9. The Deep Breathing Is a Good Preparation for Labor
Research shows that slow, calm, deep breathing decreases pain and helps you to focus better. By practicing prenatal yoga, you are teaching yourself the breathing techniques that you will need for the big day.
How Much Exercise Is Safe During Your First Trimester?
According to Stanford Children’s Health physician Justin Thompson, exercise like prenatal yoga is not only safe, but it is also associated with lower incidences of cesarean delivery, excessive weight gain, hypertensive disorders, and gestational diabetes.
Dr. Thompson recommends doing 30 minutes of yoga up to five days a week during your pregnancy.
But he cautions that you should always consult your obstetrician before beginning any new workout program, including yoga.
You should also know that some conditions could make exercise dangerous during pregnancy. Those conditions include:
- Lung disease
- Heart disease
- Incompetent cervix or cerclage
- Persistent bleeding, especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters
- Ruptured membranes
- Premature labor
- Placenta previa after 26 weeks
- Severe anemia
- Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension
Yoga Poses That You Should Avoid in Your First Trimester
- You should not do any standing twists. These types of poses put too much pressure on the abdominal cavity.
- You should not do any type of hot yoga.
- Be careful that you don’t overstretch in any pose. This is because your joints are very loose during this time, and it can be easy to dislocate them.
- You should not do any intense ab work. So avoid poses like the boat pose. These postures place too much pressure on the abdominal cavity and possibly the uterus.
- Don’t do any type of jumping or jarring.
- Do not do any type of backbends. Backbend poses stretch the abdominal cavity too much.
- You also should avoid any inversions. During your first trimester, your blood pressure is lower, and when you go upside down, the blood rushes away from your uterus. However, the downward-facing dog is fine to do for short periods.
- Avoid lying on your belly or back.
- You should lay on your left side during savasana. This is to take the pressure off the vena cava vein, which is responsible for transporting your blood from your uterus to your heart.
- Don’t overdo it.
Safe Yoga Poses to Do in the First Trimester
- You can safely do all the basic standing poses during the first trimester. Some examples of safe standing postures include the crescent lunge, warrior poses, and side angle pose.
- You can also safely do the standing balancing poses. One word of caution is that because your blood pressure is lower, it’s common to feel light-headed or dizzy. For this reason, you should practice your balancing poses near a wall. You can also lean on props for balance. Some excellent examples of standing balancing poses are eagle pose and tree pose.
- During the first trimester, it’s also safe to do open seated twists. These poses tend to feel great during this time of pregnancy. Open seated twists relieve back pressure and pain, and they help with cramping.
- Another thing you can do is seated or standing hip openers. These poses develop the strength and flexibility that you will need for labor.
- You can also do gentle abdominal poses. Some examples of safe abdominal postures include modified side plank, opposite arm and leg extension, cat-cow, and modified planks.
- Gentle back stretches are fine too. Just make sure that you’re not doing any deep backbends.
The Mixed Blessings of the First Trimester
For most women, there are mixed blessings in the first trimester of pregnancy. On the one hand, there is an incredible amount of joy. But on the other hand, there can be significant discomfort. The first trimester is when you are most likely to feel fatigue and nausea.
You may not look pregnant yet, but a whole lot is going on in your body. You are experiencing profound musculoskeletal and biological changes. Because of this, many women don’t feel like exercising. But yoga can provide some excellent relief for pains and stress. If you are careful, gentle, and modify as needed, you can safely do yoga.
You should be careful not to do any inversions, jumps, or twists in your first trimester.
So if you’re doing Sun Salutations, for example, be sure that you step back instead of jumping back. This is important because you don’t want to jar or threaten the implantation of the placenta and fetus.
In your first trimester, you should also do postures like the camel pose (Ustrasana) and the bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) instead of the upward-facing bow pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana).
Your prenatal yoga instructor can give you other modifications for other poses.
How to Do Sun Salutations in Your First Trimester
Whether you’re new to yoga or a well-versed yogi, Sun Salutations are one of the best yoga flow exercises that you can do. I’m going to take you through the whole sequence one step at a time.
Make sure that you listen to your body. If anything feels uncomfortable, you can follow the modifications.
1. Raised Arms Pose
Begin by standing in mountain pose (Tadasana). And raise your arms into raised hands pose (Urdhva Hastasana). Your feet should be the width of your mat.
Take a deep inhale and then bring your hands through your heart center and up toward the ceiling. Depending on what’s more comfortable for you, you can either press your palms together, or you can leave your hands about shoulder-width apart. As you breathe slowly, let your shoulders press down away from your ears.
2. Camper’s Pose
Inhale slowly and then exhale as you bend your knees. You should keep your feet parallel and wide. You want to lower your thighs to parallel with the floor, or as low as feels comfortable. Then let your elbows come down to meet your thighs as you press your palms into your heart center (Anjali mudra).
Camper’s pose is a modification of the full forward bend in Sun Salutations. Camper’s pose allows more space for your belly. It’s also a hip opener. This posture should feel great.
3. Step into Left Foot Forward Lunge
Take a deep inhale as you bring your palms down to the floor inside of your feet. Exhale as you gently move your right foot back. You will end up in a lunge with your left foot forward. For this prenatal version of the pose, your left foot will be outside of your hand.
This position is more of a hip opener than a regular lunge, and it makes more room for your belly. If it is uncomfortable to keep your palms flat on the floor, you can lift up a bit and just let your fingertips touch.
4. Prenatal Plank
Gently step your left foot back next to your right foot as you exhale into a plank position. If you’re new to yoga or you feel uncomfortable in a full plank, you can drop down to your knees for a modified plank.
In a regular Sun Salutation, you would lower to chaturanga on the exhale. We’re skipping that in this prenatal modified version.
5. Prenatal Chaturanga Dandasana Modification
Lower your knees to the floor and bend your elbows, letting them go straight back as you lower your torso. You won’t do a full chaturanga into cobra here because you don’t want to lie on your belly. We’re also going to skip upward facing dog because it’s too intense for the lower back when you’re pregnant.
Inhale and then straighten your arms back into a modified plank position.
If you find this step too much, you can skip it and go straight from the plank into a downward-facing dog.
6. Downward Facing Dog
From the plank position exhale and push back into downward dog. You will do the prenatal down dog the same way you normally would. But you can open your feet a bit wider if that’s more comfortable.
Let your heels press down into the floor and relax your head and neck.
Downward dog is safe in your first trimester. However, once you get into your third trimester, you should skip this pose. You can do an all-fours tabletop pose instead as a modification.
7. Step into Right Foot Forward Lunge
From downward-facing dog, inhale and step forward into a right lunge, keeping your hands on the floor. When you bring your right foot forward, make sure that you place your foot outside of your right hand.
If you have trouble getting into the lunge in one step, that’s okay. You can take several little steps to get into the posture.
8. Camper’s Pose
From the right lunge, exhale and then step your left foot forward on the outside of your left hand. And then bring your elbows back to your thighs to go back to camper’s pose.
9. Urdhva Hastasana
From the camper’s pose, take a deep inhale and straighten your legs. Allow your hands to go through the heart center and up toward the ceiling. This is where you return to where the Sun Salutation began.
You will now repeat the whole sequence. But this time, step your left foot back first. This is to assure balance in the body, mind, and spirit.
This video will give you another prenatal modification of the Sun Salutation.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that yoga is safe for most women during the first trimester. If you are an experienced yogi, you can continue with your yoga practice, using modifications as needed. If you are new to yoga, you must check with your doctor before you begin.