12 Strenuous Yoga Poses To Avoid When Pregnant

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If you are an ardent yoga practitioner, then you might want to continue it even when you are pregnant. Since every yoga pose has its benefits and risks, it is essential for you to know which poses to try and which to avoid, to prevent harm to yourself and the baby.

In this MomJunction post, we tell you which yoga poses you should avoid during each trimester and why.

Types of Yoga Postures You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

Overstretching the muscles, twisting, and bending could be harmful to you and the fetus. Here are a few types of postures that are considered unsuitable for pregnant women.

  • Abdominal poses that require compression of the abdomen are not ideal. These can constrict the blood flow to the fetus and stretch the ligament too.
  • Closed or deep twists involve compressing the internal organs and affect the supply of oxygen and blood to the fetus. Instead, try open twists, where you twist away from the bent leg rather than towards it. In any case, consult your doctor before attempting it (1).
  • It is better to avoid breathing techniques that need you to hold your breath for a long time. Also, avoid poses such as bellows breath or breath of fire that require rapid or quick belly movements.
  • Backbends require overstretching of the abdominal ligaments and must be completely skipped, especially during the second and third trimesters.
  • Yoga poses that involve transitions of the body, such as moving forward to backward or vice versa (like the sun salutation pose), should be avoided during the first trimester as it could affect the implantation of the embryo.
  • Full inversions include poses such as the shoulder-stand and headstand, in which the head is pointed downward. Such poses may cause nausea or dizziness in pregnant women. There is also a risk of falls and injuries.
  • Belly down or prone poses require lying flat over a surface, on the abdomen. This exerts pressure on the abdomen, which is not recommended during any trimester of pregnancy.

Always consult your doctor before trying any poses. Also, seek the guidance of a trained yoga instructor.

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[ Read: Baba Ramdev Yoga Asanas For Pregnant Women ]

Yoga Poses To Avoid When Pregnant:

All the poses we have listed here should ideally be avoided during pregnancy, and specifically during the trimester mentioned here. Always talk to your doctor and a certified yoga teacher before doing any poses.

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First Trimester

In the first trimester, the embryo implants itself in the uterine lining. The fetal growth also spurts during this period, and therefore, strenuous yoga poses must be avoided. Read on to know what yoga poses you should avoid during this semester.

1. Handstand pose, or the Adho Mukha Vrksasana, requires you to pose upside down.

Reason to avoid: As there is a disturbance in the hormonal balance during pregnancy, this pose may cause dizziness in some women. Moreover, balancing yourself on the head is tricky and comes with the risk of falling. This asana needs precise balancing, and lack of practice could lead to injury to yourself and the fetus.

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2. Boat pose, also known as Paripurna Navasana, is a compression asana that helps strengthen the core muscles.

Reason to avoid: The first trimester marks the implantation of the fetus to the uterine wall and the development of the placenta. This yoga pose involves compression of the abdomen and the blood vessels, which can restrict the blood flow to the uterus.

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3. Half prayer twisting pose, or the Ardha Namaskar Parsvakonasana, is a twisting asana that helps strengthen the thigh and core muscles and increases the spinal mobility.

Reason to avoid: It compresses the blood vessels in the abdomen, restricting adequate blood flow to the uterus. This can adversely affect the growth of the fetus.


Image: iStock

4. Half moon pose, also known as the Ardha Chandrasana, is a great pose to align the spine and strengthen the core.

Reason to avoid: The pose needs great stability. It can also limit the blood flow to the uterus. Moreover, you might fall if the body is not balanced properly.

Image: Shutterstock

[ Read: Safe Exercises During First Trimester ]

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Second trimester:

In this trimester, your baby starts attaining a human look. The baby bump is visible, and you may start experiencing a backache due to the growing uterus. Keeping that in mind, here are some yoga poses you should avoid during the second trimester.

5. Back lying pose/ corpse pose, also called Savasana, relaxes the body and helps fight insomnia and anxiety.

Reason to avoid: It requires you to lie on your back, which is not recommended during the second trimester.

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6. Cobra pose or Bhujangasana helps in strengthening the spine and relieving fatigue and stress.

Reason to avoid: The posture needs you to lie on the stomach with the legs stretched back and hands under the shoulder and face upward. This posture puts pressure on the abdomen, which is not good for the fetus.

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7. Full wheel pose or Urdhva dhanurasana is also called the upward facing bow pose. The extreme backbend posture is excellent for strengthening the arms, abdomen, spine, and legs.

Reason to avoid: Extreme backbend postures are harmful during pregnancy. Overstretching of the back during the second trimester can lead to diastasis (1).

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8. Locust pose or Shalabhasana is a prone pose that helps strengthen and improve the flexibility of the back muscles and the spine.

Reason to avoid: It is another stomach-lying posture, which should not be done during the second trimester. Lying on the abdomen can exert pressure on Vena cava (the largest blood vessel), affecting the blood circulation. This posture also hurts the baby.

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9. Fish pose or the Matsyasana is an extreme stretching pose that tones and stretches the muscles of the abdomen and the neck.

Reason to avoid: The growing uterus stretches the ligaments of the abdomen in this semester. This pose can stretch them further and cause joint instability or ligament pull.

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[ Read: Yoga Postures For Normal Delivery ]

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Third trimester:

By this time, your baby has achieved all the developmental milestones and is ready to enter the new world. Practicing some yoga postures during this period can be helpful for your delivery. But a few postures must be avoided. Read on to know what yoga poses to avoid.

10. Hot yoga or Bikram yoga, which was conceptualized by the yoga guru Bikram Choudhury. This yoga includes a sequence of 26 postures to be performed in 90 minutes, in a hot (95–108 °F) and humid (40%) condition. It helps in stretching, detoxifying, improving posture and balance of the body, and relieving stress.

Reason to avoid: During the third trimester, it is common to experience hot flashes (a surge in the body temperature) due to increased metabolism and hormonal fluctuations. Hot yoga can make you dehydrated, affecting your and your baby’s health. Moreover, it involves certain stretching poses that are not suitable for heavily pregnant women.

Here are a few illustrations of the Bikram yoga poses.

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  • Triangle pose (Trikonasana)
  • Camel pose (Ustrasana)
  • Tree pose (Tadasana)
  • Balancing Stick (Tuladandasana

11. Chair pose or Utkatasana helps in toning the leg muscles and strengthen the ankle, back, calves, and hip flexors. You may practice it by spreading the feet two feet apart.

Reason to avoid: It involves stretching of the upper body, and is better avoided, as the ligaments and muscles are already stretched enough during the third trimester.

Chair pose

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12. Seated forward fold or the Paschimottanasana helps stretch the lower back and tones the pelvic and abdominal muscles. It is a great posture for relieving stress.

Reason to avoid: It involves stretching the upper body towards the front. This posture can compress the abdomen and lead to the overstretching of the already stretched ligaments and muscles of the abdominal area.

Image: Shutterstock

[ Read: Physical Activities To Avoid In Pregnancy ]

There are a few different theories about practicing yoga during pregnancy. If you have been doing every day before getting pregnant, you continue practicing poses, which do not put pressure on the abdomen. You may try slight variations, such as spreading the legs wider apart or twisting away from the abdomen are also options.

Ashtanga yoga guru K Pattabhi Jois advised against asana practice during the first trimester since it could lead to a miscarriage. After the first trimester he recommended practicing poses, which do not exert pressure on the growing belly. Additionally, he advised not to practice yoga asana for three months after delivery. It is especially important for you to listen to your body during pregnancy and not to overexert or lose strength.

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Did you practice yoga during your pregnancy? Share your experiences with us in the comment section below.

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Caroline Klebl

Caroline Klebl has been teaching yoga since 1997. She teaches yoga teacher training courses in Los Angeles and in beautiful international retreat destinations. She trained in Mysore, India with Ashtanga Yoga guru K. Pattabhi Jois from 1999 to 2008. She received a Ph.D. in Yoga from the Indian University of Alternative Medicine in 2010.  In her teachings of yoga, Klebl... more

shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health and pharma, especially related to... more