As prenatal yoga practice moves out of the studio and onto online platforms, your prenatal symptoms and conditions may not be getting addressed as bespokely as they would be in a face-to-face class.
Not all classes will give modifications per trimester or symptom, so it’s up to you now, to modify as needed. This can be slightly intimidating, as sometimes you just aren’t sure what to do or know if anything needs to change. I’ve put together a list of common conditions and symptoms that often come up in class, with basic modifications to help you.
As always check with your health care provider and don’t let any of the below information override what they say. These are merely suggestions from my training and personal experience.
If you feel faint or dizzy stop your practice immediately and lie down.
Remember that relaxin increases your flexibility but it is not the time to explore how far to push your limits, this can lead to injury and future problems. Be wise with your body. This is not the time to learn how to do the splits.
An inversion practice is ok for some but it is not the time to start one, if you have not tried going upside down before. Exceptions are the Forward Leaning Inversion from Spinning Babies and shoulder stand (when supervised ).
Sit up on blankets or a bolster in seated poses to allow the hips to be higher than the knees.
When coming up from a reclining position, roll to the left side and use your arms to press yourself up. Do not jackknife up!
After 36 weeks take a side lying position in Savasana.
ACID REFLUX AND HEART BURN: This one is pretty easy to self diagnose and very common in pregnancy due to the increase in progesterone, which is relaxing the smooth muscle tissue. Some have said papaya enzymes, which you can buy in capsule form, are very helpful. I staved this off by eating almonds and dried papaya.
MODIFICATIONS: Keep your head above your heart – move Downdog or any standing forward folds to the wall or stay on all fours.
BREECH PRESENTATION: Babies can move positions up until the last moment, however, if your baby’s head is presenting up ( bum or feet down) after 36/37 weeks you will want to limit pelvic opening, to avoid baby descending further into the pelvic inlet. I also suggest acupuncture as the first port of call for this, at home you can visit the Spinning Babies website and practice their routine daily.
MODIFICATIONS: Shorten and widen standing poses, avoid deep squats and Baddha konasana – anything that opens the pelvis. Try a shorter diamond shape, Tarasana, or crossed legs.
CALF CRAMPS: Often occurring at night, these cramps can be caused by dehydration or mineral imbalance. Many people report an increase in magnesium and calcium being very helpful. You can either take a supplement or get this from foods such as dark leafy greens and nuts.
MODIFICATIONS: Avoid pointing your toes. Before practice begins release the calf muscles with a variety of stretches – I have a full post with various poses on my Instagram page.
CARPEL TUNNEL: Usually a result of swelling and increased blood volume. I suffered from this in both pregnancies and can’t recommend acupuncture enough. Sleeping with a brace and wearing one during the day (M BRACE RCA Carpal Tunnel Wrist Pain Relief) has also been very helpful.
MODIFICATIONS: Avoid too much pressure on the wrists, use your forearms or fists on blocks instead when you are on all fours or downward dog or bring your poses to the wall. Placing a wedge or rolling your mat under your wrists may give a bit of relief.
HEADACHES: Usually related to hormones, dehydration or low blood sugar. Acupuncture can be very helpful, at home get your partner to massage your neck and shoulders, release your jaw, and drink plenty of water.
MODIFICATIONS: Stick to a restorative practice
HEMORRHOIDS: Very common in pregnancy due to the increase in relaxin and progesterone.
MODIFICATIONS: Use two blankets, one under each sit bone, instead of one, leaving a little space in between, or create a donut shape to sit in. Avoid squats or any pose that puts additional pressure on the pelvic floor.
INTERCOSTAL PAIN (RIB PAIN): Everything is pushing up and out so some discomfort here is common. A Chiropractor or physical therapist can help release your diaphragm and show you how to do this yourself. Book in a virtual appointment. You can also try hot or cold compresses. If you have scoliosis de-rotation can be very helpful.
MODIFICATIONS: Keep the spine in a neutral position in practice and lengthen when possible. Avoid hunching forward and rounding the back.
PELVIC GIRDLE PAIN ( SYMPHASIS PUBIS DIASTASIS): This comes as pain in the pubic bone, when the two sides begin to separate. I highly recommend reading Relieving Pelvic Pain – By Cecil Rost, and downloading her app Rost Move Mamas. There are varying takes on how to approach this conditions but generally seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist can help.
MODIFICATIONS: If the pain is acute in class, avoid separating the legs and pulling the pubic bone apart in poses such as Baddha konasana, squats, and wide leg forward fold. At home these poses may be helpful as part of a structure program with your pelvic floor PT. Take a wider diamond shape, Tarasana, instead of Baddha konasana and support the knees with blocks. Make standing poses wider and shorter.
PLACENTA PREVIA: This is when the placenta is fully or partially covering the cervix.
MODIFICATIONS: Avoid poses that put pressure on the pelvic floor, abdominal exercises, unsupported squats. Make standing poses shorter and wider.
SI ( SACROILIAC) DISCOMFRORT/PAIN: If you are experiencing ‘low back’ pain only on one side, commonly this will be SI joint discomfort caused by one side the sacrum falling forward or back. A chiropractor or pelvic floor physical therapist can usually help with this, at home hip strengtheners and an SI belt ( SEROLA® Sacroiliac Belt, Medium ) can help ease symptoms.
MODIFICATIONS: In standing poses shorten and widen the poses, we are aiming to keep the back of the sacrum neutral. Place a block between the thighs in down dog to stabilise the pelvis. Widen butterfly pose into more of a Tarasana, diamond shape with heels further away from the pelvis. Do not do pigeon pose, or any pose that pulls the sacrum out of a neutral position, such as a deep anjaneyasana.
SCIATICA: This is from compression of the nerve in the lumbar spine, however, in pregnancy this is usually caused by a tight piriformis muscle that is compressing the sciatic nerve (Piriformis Syndrome). A massage therapist and pelvic floor PT can release this, at home you can use a tennis ball to relieve this area, and by practicing hip openers such a fire log or pigeon pose, wide leg forward find with hips (toes) rotating inward.
MODIFICATIONS: Bend the knees when practicing forward folds to relieve the buttox.
TAIL BONE PAIN: Often what feels like low back pain and hip pain is actually tail bone pain. Relaxin and stretching of the pelvic floor can cause the tailbone to lose its natural curve and straighten down.
MODIFICATIONS: Sit on a blanket, or see alternative for hemorrhoids for seated poses. Avoid poses that widen the pelvic floor, such as Baddha konasana, or that put pressure on the tail bone.
VARICOSE VEINS: Enlarged, swollen veins often appearing blue and located in the legs. Compression stocking can help, as can swimming, and nettle tea. You can also experience Vulvar Varicosis, which is varicose veins in the vulva. You can get a support garmet for this as well. Elevating your legs can help in both cases.
MODIFICATIONS: For the legs, do not partake in calf stretches that compress the legs. For both cases, change positions often and do not hold standing poses for too long.