Are there styles of yoga that aren't recommended for pregnant women?

There are many different styles of yoga — some more strenuous than others. Prenatal yoga and hatha (gentle) yoga are the best choices for pregnant women. If they're not an option, talk to the instructor about your pregnancy before starting any other yoga class.

Be careful to avoid Bikram yoga, commonly called hot yoga, which involves doing vigorous poses in a room heated to 100 to 110 F (38 to 43 C). Bikram yoga may raise your body temperature too much, causing a condition known as hyperthermia. In addition, ashtanga and other types of power yoga may be too strenuous for women who aren't experienced yoga practitioners.

Are there special safety guidelines for prenatal yoga?

To protect your health and your baby's health during prenatal yoga, follow basic safety guidelines. For example:

  • Talk to your health care provider. Before you begin a prenatal yoga program, make sure you have your health care provider's OK. You may not be able to do prenatal yoga if you are at increased risk of preterm labor or have certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or back problems.
  • Set realistic goals. For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity is recommended on most, if not all, days of the week. However, even shorter or less frequent workouts can help you stay in shape and prepare for labor.
  • Pace yourself. If you can't speak normally while you're doing prenatal yoga, you're probably pushing yourself too hard.
  • Stay cool and hydrated. Practice prenatal yoga in a well-ventilated room to avoid overheating. Drink plenty of fluids during prenatal yoga to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Avoid certain postures. When doing poses, bend from your hips — not your back — to maintain normal spine curvature. Avoid lying on your belly or back, doing deep forward or backward bends, or doing twisting poses that put pressure on your abdomen. You can modify twisting poses so that you only move your upper back, shoulders and rib cage. Avoid inverted poses, which involve extending your legs above your heart or head, unless you're an experienced yoga practitioner. As your pregnancy progresses, use props during postures to accommodate changes in your center of gravity. If you wonder whether a pose is safe, ask your instructor for guidance.
  • Don't overdo it. As you do prenatal yoga, pay attention to your body and how you feel. Start slow and avoid positions that are beyond your level of experience or comfort. Stretch only as far as you would have before pregnancy. If you experience any pain or other red flags — such as vaginal bleeding, decreased fetal movement or contractions — during prenatal yoga, stop and contact your health care provider.

How do I choose a prenatal yoga class?

If you're interested in taking a prenatal yoga class, look for a program taught by an instructor who has training in prenatal yoga. Consider observing a class ahead of time to make sure you're comfortable with the activities involved, the instructor's style, the class size and the environment.

Jan. 22, 2013 See more In-depth