Can I practice yoga in first trimester of pregnancy?

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    Can I practice yoga in first trimester of pregnancy?

    If you’re pregnant or have been pregnant and looked into doing yoga during pregnancy, you might have noticed that many classes and courses are focused on the second trimester and beyond (you might see the note- suitable from 14 weeks or something similar).

    We know that yoga can help with reducing stress and anxiety and promoting relaxation (in addition to helping us feel well in our bodies) – so why not practice in the first trimester?

    Here are some reasons why that advice is given.

    You will likely be exhausted and don’t want to put extra demands on your body

    There is SO much going on in the body in these early stages, and while nausea and tiredness may give you some indication, the changes are happening without any external signs. There’s a massive surge in hormones at this time and your baby is growing faster than at any other time. The pregnancy is fully established at the end of the first trimester; the placenta which nourishes the foetus is fully developed around week 12. Also by week 12, the baby and all its organs are fully formed. Like I said – SO much work!

    Because of all of this, the first trimester is often ­a time when you are in need of deep rest and nurturing and often only a very gentle yoga practice (or any other movement practice) is recommended. If you’ve never practiced yoga before, adding a new physical demand to the body at this time (even one as gentle as yoga!) may not be what your body needs.

    Early pregnancy risks

    The main reason I see given for advising people to wait until 14 weeks or so is because of the higher risk of miscarriage during the early weeks.

    Pregnancy yoga is a gentle, low impact practice, and it is extremely unlikely that anything you do in a yoga class will contribute to miscarriage. However, human nature looks for explanations or reasons that aren’t necessarily logical. Nobody wants you to go away from class wondering (even if you know logically it’s nothing to do with it) if something in the class was a contributing factor. However, we know that activities like running are safe throughout pregnancy (usually advised if you’ve been running prior to becoming pregnant) and yoga is much lower impact than this.

    After 14 weeks, pregnancy is fully established, the placenta fully developed and often the extreme fatigue is beginning to lift, which makes it a great time to start practicing.

    But I’ve already been practicing yoga for a while – why would I stop now?

    If you’ve already been practicing for a while, then depending on the intensity of that practice, you may want to continue during the first trimester- but at a lower intensity. Power yoga, Ashtanga and Bikram yoga for example may not be ideal at this time (Bikram in particular is not recommended during pregnancy because of the high temperatures – similar to advice on using hot tubs and saunas etc during pregnancy.)

    In this case (and assuming there are no contraindications) – you should discuss with your teacher. If they’re experienced in teaching yoga during pregnancy, they’ll be able to advise you on modifying your practice to continue to practice safely. Or if they teach a pregnancy/prenatal class, they might suggest joining this instead.

    In this case, take it slow, listen to your body, and always take into account the modifications suggested.

    But I want to do something right now!

    First off –listen to your body – what is it telling you it needs right now? Consider giving yourself a ‘pass’ on the “go go go” and need for action and activity that is a huge part of our culture. Could you allow rest to be a priority right now?

    You might want to consider a practice like Yoga Nidra (a deep relaxation practice, combining breath awareness and visualization) , which will give all of the stress relief benefits of yoga combined with giving your body the rest it’s crying out for.

    You could also try meditation or mindfulness at this time- again which have been shown to be really helpful during pregnancy.

    Or if the idea of lying or sitting still for longer period would make you want to tear your hair out – talk to an experienced teacher about joining their regular pregnancy yoga class (again, once you’re happy there are no medical contraindications- i.e. no reason your caregiver would advise against it).

    Remember, whatever practice you do – listen to your body and make the choices that respond to your body’s needs and you baby’s needs. You are the one living in your body and you know it best! That means if something feels good, keep doing it! If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it! A good teacher will remind you of this in class.

    Written by Mairéad Heffron

    Birth Doula and Prenatal Yoga Teacher

    Owner of Space to Breath

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