Prenatal yoga modifications

Hi friends! How’s the morning going? Hope you’re enjoying the day so far!

I’m really excited about today’s post because it’s something that took me a while to learn, and is also a popular reader’s request. When I ran my blog survey, so many of you expressed interest in more prenatal and postnatal workout tips –I’m working hard on Post Baby Bod, which will be out this fall- and I can’t wait to share as much info as I can through research and my own experience. 

As you guys know, I recently completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training course. (Our graduation party was postponed until next weekend.) During our training, we focused quite a bit on special populations, including pregnancy. As you can imagine, I was the live demo for many of the poses. 😉 I was so excited to be able to use this information in my own practice, especially I was unsure of how to modify during my next pregnancy. It hindered me from practicing yoga as much as I would have liked. 

Here’s what I’ve learned about prenatal yoga and modifications for many of the common poses (+ a video, breaking it all down).

Prenatal yoga

Before we get this party started, please remember that you should always talk with your doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes, ESPECIALLY if you’re pregnant. Your healthcare provider will be able to determine appropriate fitness modes and intensities for you. If you ever feel pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, extreme fatigue, or heart palpitations while exercising, stop immediately.

The goal of prenatal fitness should be MAINTAINING, not ADDING. 

If you didn’t do it before pregnancy, now isn’t the best time to start. Focus on maintaining your current fitness level and routine with appropriate modifications, and know that you can always add or try new things after the baby arrives. During your first trimester, you should be able to practice yoga the same way you did pre-pregnancy. After your first trimester as the baby grows, there are some easy adjustments you can make to enjoy and modify your practice as your body is changing. 

Some helpful tips for prenatal yoga:

1) Make room for the baby. With your growing belly, many of the poses may feel uncomfortable and cause pressure on your stomach, like forward fold or even chair pose as the belly gets bigger. Step your feet apart to widen your stance, so that when you squat or fold forward, there is room for the belly. 

2) Avoid closed twists, or crossing the midline of the body. Instead, twist the opposite direction (an “open twist”). For example, for revolved crescent lunge, your will be facing your neighbor and it will look like you’re going the wrong way. Just own it. 🙂 Also, avoid deep backbends and modify instead. 

3) Avoid supine or prone positions after the first trimester, which is consistent with current ACOG guidelines. For any pose on your stomach, I like to think about what muscle groups they’re working. If they’re doing a heart opener, a modified camel is a great option. If they’re working on back strength (through locust or something similar), spinal balance on hands and knees works well. For exercises on your back, many of these can be performed on your side. Otherwise, place a bolster under your torso, so you’re not flat on your back, which is lovely for savasana or supta baddha konasana.

Avoid over-stretching the muscles. We have relaxin coursing throughout our body, to prepare our joints and ligaments for birth, and this makes us super flexible as it is. Just because you could get into a deeper version of a pose doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. Over-stretching the muscles can be painful and take a while to heal. Focus on stability and not flexibility. Instead of trying to find your “max” in each pose, find a point where you feel comfortable and stable.

Set up next to a wall if you need help with balance, and try to avoid poses where you would be at a risk of falling or trauma to the belly. 

Here’s a little video where I go through everything (and also make a giant goober out of myself at one point. Don’t worry, I only teach what I know haha.):


Some of the things I didn’t mention:

Inversions: skip these while you’re pregnant. I did inversions until I found out I was pregnant, and since then, I’ve worked on dolphin pose to build the muscle strength for my inversions later on. You will see pregnant women doing inversions in classes, but this is not recommended. For shoulder stand, bridge is a nice option.

Stay away from the heat. Once again, you will see pregnant women in hot yoga classes, but it is generally not recommended because it will raise your core body temperature. Instead, seek out classes with a moderate room temperature. 

Poses that are pregnant yogini’s BFFs:

Wide-legged forward fold

Downward-facing dog

Child’s pose

Wide squat


Camel, or modified camel

Tree pose (close to a wall if you need balance support)

Most of all, listen to your intuition. Do what feels good, and make sure not to push yourself.  Use your yoga practice as an ideal time to connect with your breath, body, and growing baby. <3

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!!

Fellow mamas: what was your favorite type of workout during pregnancy?

Friends sans kiddos: how often do you practice yoga? Are there any poses you’re working on right now??



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  1. Amanda on July 23, 2015 at 7:30 am

    I’m not pregnant, but I do have a question. I know doctors say that you should maintain your current fitness level throughout pregnancy… what if someone was extremely unhealthy, then found out they were pregnant? Should they just continue to not exercise?

    • Fitnessista on July 23, 2015 at 7:32 am

      In that case, they usually recommend starting a walking routine and focusing on nutrition

      • Amanda on July 23, 2015 at 7:32 am

        Thank you Gina! I just always wondered about that 🙂

        • Fitnessista on July 23, 2015 at 7:35 am

          No problem! It’s a great question and very prevalent in today’s world

  2. Carrie (This Fit Chick) on July 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Totally not pregnant and can’t relate to this yet, but it’s nice to know that you can still do exercises when you are pregnant and that yoga can help relieve some of the pain!

  3. Jessie R on July 23, 2015 at 7:45 am

    Your bump is just too cute ;). I love yoga, but need to be more consistent in my practice…. maybe I will try to make that a focused goal for this second half of the year….

    • on July 23, 2015 at 7:56 am

      Thank you for this! I just entered my second trimester and am so confused about ab exercises. Do you have a post or info on what is safe and unsafe?

      • Fitnessista on July 23, 2015 at 10:56 am

        i’m working on a post about it now- it’s a long one!!- but i would definitely avoid crunching movements and isolating the obliques

        • Michele on July 23, 2015 at 12:34 pm

          So excited to see that post! I hit 12 weeks tomorrow and have been trying to figure that out too! Thanks so much!!

  4. Katie @ Live Half Full on July 23, 2015 at 7:58 am

    I would love a quick, prenatal yoga series to do at home in the morning or before bed! I think it would be the perfect thing for pregnancy as it starts to get hard to sleep. 🙂

  5. Erin @ Her Heartland Soul on July 23, 2015 at 8:14 am

    I’m not pregnant and cat-cow is my BFF! It feels so good!

  6. Stacy on July 23, 2015 at 9:19 am

    I’d love to hear more about your opinion on hot yoga. I hear so many differing opinions. I had been practicing heated yoga for over two years prior to getting pregnant. I didn’t go at all during my first trimester after I found out, but have recently gone a few times now that I’m in my second trimester. I stay by the door, take plenty of breaks, drink lots of water and keep my eye on the temp, which never rises about 100. Regardless of my precautions, do you still feel it’s unsafe and I should avoid it?

    • Fitnessista on July 23, 2015 at 10:55 am

      i have a lot of friends who practiced hot yoga during their pregnancies (and even bikram yoga), and had healthy pregnancies and babies. i don’t personally recommend it, but i would talk to your doctor to be sure.

  7. Elle on July 23, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Totally pinning this for *someday*, this is so helpful!

    Pigeon pose is my current favorite because my legs really need the stretch.

  8. Cheri @ Overactive Blogger on July 23, 2015 at 9:49 am

    This is super interesting and super informative! I am the group fitness director at a Y here – we just ran a prenatal yoga workshop which was really successful, so this stuff is SO good for me to know as pregnant women ask me questions about working out!

  9. Sylvia on July 23, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Question: Is downward dog considered an inversion? I have heard it is, because your upper body is technically upside down?

    Also – did you learn anything about menstruating women needing to avoid inversions? I have heard this and always thought it seemed a bit dated. I couldn’t understand why!

    • Fitnessista on July 23, 2015 at 10:54 am

      from what i’ve been told, inversions are when your feet are above your head. we did learn that menstruating woman should avoid inversions, which i also thought seemed dated. at the same time, it makes sense. if your body is trying to get rid of something, and you’re using gravity to put it back inside your body, it goes against the natural process. i usually skip inversions during that time of the month

  10. Rian on July 23, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Hi Gina!
    Something I’ve always wondered about regarding maintaining vs. adding new things to a fitness routine:
    I’m currently 14 weeks pregnant, and did yoga regularly prior to pregnancy (usually a heated vinyasa class 1-3 times per week). I stopped going about a month before I got pregnant, since we had to do IVF and I was uncomfortable from all the hormones. I took it pretty easy my first trimester and didn’t do any yoga at all, due to nausea, and nerves about the pregnancy itself. Since I’ve taken such a long break would adding yoga back in, now that I’m in my second trimester, be like starting all over again?
    I’m planning on talking to my doctor about it, but curious about what you’d say as a yoga teacher?

    • Fitnessista on July 23, 2015 at 10:52 am

      i would talk to your doc about it, but i think as long as you go to a moderate flow class and modify as you need to, it should be ok

  11. Britt@MyOwnBalance on July 23, 2015 at 10:53 am

    I loved yoga, barre and pilates while I was preggers. My Yoga Works has some really great online prenatal yoga classes, which is especially helpful if your studio doesn’t have any prenatal classes.

  12. Ashley on July 23, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks so much! This post is so informative!

  13. Alex on July 23, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    That’s a great post!
    I had my second baby 2 months ago and practiced bikram yoga throughout both my pregnancies. It made me feel really good, helped with back pain and sciatica and also really helped with 1st trimestre nausea.
    I have to say though, that I had been practicing bikram yoga 4 to 5 times a week for 1 year and a half before getting pregnant, so not only my body was used to the series and the heat but I think I also knew this practice well enough to know if something didn’t feel right. In fact, I did walk out of the studio a couple of times when I was pregnant.
    I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do bikram yoga while pregnant if they didn’t already have a strong practice prior to getting pregnant but for those who have a love affair with this yoga, like I do, there is a pregnancy series and it’s awesome!

  14. Rose on July 24, 2015 at 5:50 am

    Great post Gina. Thank you!

  15. Liz on July 24, 2015 at 6:05 am

    I loved this discussion! I am working on my own list of yoga pregnancy modifications that I personally have had to make to post on my site. I am not prenatal certified, but I still want to share what has and hasn’t worked for me personally. Surprisingly, I can no longer do my once favorite resting pose, child’s pose (even wide legged doesn’t feel right for me.) You just never know! Everyone’s body is different. The more info and perspectives that are out there the better! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Josie on July 25, 2015 at 4:55 am

    Great tips, Gina! I’m a Bikram yoga instructor and 32 weeks pregnant with my first baby. I find from my persoal experience so far that all your tips are very relevant. Listening to my body takes a whole new level of meaning during my pregnancy, and that has helped me learn so much about myself on so many levels. The baby is a gift, and so is my body. Taking good care of both becomes my priority throughout this period and that may mean different things every day.

    I started to use modified yoga postures as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I skipped Bikram completely during 1st trimester and did some moderate yoga. During 2nd trimester my body craved and loved the heat in Bikram. Now I’m not doing much yoga at all and just do a lot of walking. That seems to feel the best for me now so that’s what I’ll keep doing! It’s all good. 🙂

  17. Sabrina @ Nutritiously Sweet on July 26, 2015 at 3:11 am

    Great Post 🙂 I was teaching spin 2-3 times a week up until 30 weeks of pregnancy, doing prenatal yoga, but I did stop heavy lifting/ body building and just did light weights or kettlebells twice a week 🙂

  18. Alison on July 30, 2015 at 5:14 am

    I love yoga and I even love your vid more. That was cute and super substantial. 🙂 I’m sharing this to my preggy friends, it’ll surely be helpful to them. 🙂 Btw, I’m excited for the Post Baby Bod post too! I’m positively looking forward to it! 🙂

    • Fitnessista on July 30, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      so so happy you enjoyed it! thank you for spreading the word, too <3

  19. Stella on July 31, 2015 at 10:23 am

    My long time yoga instructor is opening a new studio and I am going to her class this weekend. I’ve done some pregnancy yoga videos but haven’t gone to a class since I’ve been pregnant. This video really helped me prepare for the class…at 28 weeks I’m going to have to make room for the baby! She is a certified pre/post natal instructor so I also feel confident she’ll coach me through the class. Thanks Gina!

    • Fitnessista on July 31, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      that is so awesome. i’m happy you found it helpful! enjoy yoga and congrats on your pregnancy!

  20. Cassie on August 4, 2015 at 8:28 am

    I love my yoga, and I’m walking a LOT.

    • Fitnessista on August 4, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      i’m excited to get back into it now that it doesn’t hurt anymore 🙂

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