An active lifestyle during pregnancy can help keep the body and mind healthy, but a regular exercise routine can go even further. The benefits can extend to you and your fetus, helping by alleviating back pain, promoting healthy weight gain, easing constipation, and potentially reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean birth.
But while exercise can be an excellent way to remain healthy during pregnancy, choosing the wrong type can be dangerous and open the door to various health concerns. Certain types of exercise, including hot yoga, are generally not recommended as safe during pregnancy.
Understanding the risks associated with the practice is essential to ensure you make an appropriate decision for you and your unborn baby.
Hot Yoga and Pregnancy
In most cases, hot yoga and pregnancy don’t mix well. While hot yoga can offer an invigorating reset to its participants, it’s often regarded as a far too intense option for pregnant women. In the eyes of many experts, the risks far outweigh the benefits.
While hot yoga can be practiced during pregnancy in certain situations, it’s crucial to understand the risks involved with continuing your practice.
An Inability to Self Regulate
If you’re new to hot yoga and are recently pregnant, most yoga experts and prenatal care providers advise saving the learning curve until your baby is born. This is because hot yoga is intense and requires a thorough understanding of your limits to practice it safely.
You could harm yourself or your baby if you don’t know how to safely modify your poses, recognize your limits, or regulate your body temperature.
Dangerously High Core Temperatures
Excessive core temperatures are a primary concern in the debate about hot yoga and pregnancy. An abnormally high body temperature, or hyperthermia, can be incredibly dangerous for your unborn child.
Studies show that a maternal core temperature exceeding 102 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to various central nervous system developmental disorders in the fetus, particularly in the first trimester. Similar effects may occur when the maternal core temperature fluctuates more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the maternal core temperature remains above 102 degrees for more than ten minutes, the results can be catastrophic, potentially leading to neural tube defects and miscarriage.
In the later stages of pregnancy, hyperthermia still spells trouble, as it can decrease uterine blood flow, causing fetal distress.
The sweltering temperatures and high humidity in a hot yoga studio raise the risk of hyperthermia, so many physicians strongly advise against practicing hot yoga during pregnancy, especially if the temperature is set above 100 degrees.
Increased Risk of Injury
Pregnant women bear the extra weight of their baby, with the number on the scale naturally climbing as the unborn baby grows. With the extra weight, your muscles and tendons loosen as they support your baby’s weight. While this is normal, it raises the risk of injuries during exercise, especially hot yoga.
In a hot yoga class, the toasty temperature enhances flexibility, making the elongated muscles even more limber and more prone to injury.
On top of this, the heat shortens the distance between a full tank and pure exhaustion, so you may tire out faster than usual. The fatigue increases the risk of overstretching, which can result in muscle damage and torn cartilage.
It’s crucial to practice safely or avoid hot yoga during pregnancy altogether, which is usually best if you’re new to the practice.
Low Blood Pressure and High Heat
During the first trimester of pregnancy, a person’s blood pressure is often lower than average. This happens because of elevated progesterone levels, which relax the blood vessel walls and cause a decrease in blood pressure due to less constriction.
Unfortunately, this can create a dangerous situation when blended with excessive heat exposure from hot yoga. The combination can result in dizziness and fainting, so it’s crucial to be aware of this risk when practicing or avoid it altogether.
How Hot Is Too Hot For Pregnancy Yoga?
Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, takes place in the sweltering heat. The studio is usually set to a whopping 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity may be set anywhere between 40 and 60%.
Scorching temperatures and humidity can create a dangerous combination for anyone, especially pregnant women. Humidity can make it feel much hotter, as the moisture in the air inhibits your body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
Our bodies sweat to keep us cool, as sweat evaporation entails a cooling process. However, when the humidity level is through the roof, the sweat on your skin will take much longer to evaporate, making it feel much hotter and inhibiting your body’s ability to cool down.
Ideally, you should stick to temperatures no higher than 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit when practicing yoga. Any hotter, and you raise the risks associated with practicing yoga.
Can You Still Practice Hot Yoga During Pregnancy?
While hot yoga is generally on the “nope” list for exercise during pregnancy, some women may still be able to practice safely. Your doctor may give you the green light if you:
- Were practicing hot yoga before becoming pregnant.
- Have a low-risk pregnancy and no health concerns.
- Understand how to safely modify your practice to accommodate your pregnancy.
Some hot yoga classes set the temperature to around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is within the recommended limit. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead to practice hot yoga within the recommended temperature limit, you may continue to practice.
However, even if you’re an experienced yogi or have a low-risk pregnancy, it’s crucial to understand your limits, listen to your body, and practice safely. If your body gives you cues, like pain or overheating, stop immediately and excuse yourself from the room to rest in a cooler, quiet location.
In addition, follow these tips for a safe hot yoga practice:
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration is a major concern for anyone practicing hot yoga, as it’s a sweaty practice. Keep dehydration at bay by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after class. For an extra electrolyte boost, drink a sports drink or add an electrolyte mix to your water after class to replenish lost stores.
- Bring snacks: Hot yoga is challenging and requires ample energy to complete. Ensure your body has plenty of energy in the tank to complete the class by gearing up with a small, light snack about 30 minutes to an hour before class. Avoid eating too soon before or after class, as this can induce nausea.
- Take breaks: Remember to pace yourself and take breaks. If your body demands rest, don’t dismiss its cues. Instead, take a break, resting as long as you need to. If you feel you need to stop entirely, politely excuse yourself and exit the room.
- Don’t be afraid to modify: If you don’t feel you can do a particular move or feel pain or discomfort in a posture, don’t be afraid to modify. Talk to your instructor about modifications you can do throughout the session.
- Keep temperatures to a minimum: Avoid practicing in hot studios with scorching temperatures and sweat-inducing flows. Instead, stick to a cooler space with a slower-paced flow to keep your core temperature within a safe range.
What Yoga Is Unsafe During Pregnancy?
When pregnant, it’s best to stick with gentle, soothing forms of yoga that won’t overtax your body, as pushing too hard can be dangerous.
Certain types of yoga, like hot yoga, power vinyasa yoga, and ashtanga yoga, might not be suitable for practice during pregnancy. These classes tend to challenge the body and lead to an invigorating, sweat-soaked session, but the intensity might not be safe for pregnant women.
As always, we recommend discussing your options with your doctor, as it may not be safe for you to practice. If your doctor gives you the green light to practice yoga, clarify which types you can do, as they might be thinking of a specific type.
Safe Yoga Alternatives to Practice During Pregnancy
The miracle of life growing within your womb doesn’t automatically mean you must stop practicing yoga altogether. There are gentler forms of yoga that gently challenge the muscles without overdoing it, allowing you to continue your practice throughout your pregnancy.
Prenatal yoga, which is designed specifically for pregnant women, is an excellent option. Hatha yoga and restorative yoga can also be solid options for pregnant women. Discussing your options with your doctor and yoga instructor before branching out into more intense types of yoga is always a good idea, as these can be dangerous.
Of course, you should always heed your doctor’s advice, so if they recommend you lay low and avoid yoga altogether, follow those instructions to keep you and your little one safe.