With Yoga becoming increasingly popular in today’s world, it’s only safe to wonder about how the most popular form of yoga - ‘Pranayama’ can help you in leading a healthy life, especially if you’re a pregnant woman. Should pranayama be a part of your daily routine during pregnancy? Or is it best avoided?
Pranayama, also known as ‘yogic breathing’, focuses on how you can control your breathing by consciously inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. This is known to improve the oxygen flow to all the parts of your body, keeping you fit and healthy. These breathing exercises are not only safe to be practiced during pregnancy, but they come with a whole lot of benefits you don’t want to miss out on.
Benefits Of Pranayama For Pregnancy
1. Blood circulation - Because of the increased oxygen flow, blood circulation also improves throughout your body and this includes your womb where your little one’s growing.
2. Reduces stress - When you’re concentrating on your breathing, there’s a release of positive hormones in your body that will help you relax by shifting your attention away from negative thoughts.
3. Detoxification - The oxygen-in and carbon dioxide-out cycle will aid the removal of toxins from your body that might be affecting the bodily functions.
4. Labour preparation - You might have heard about different breathing techniques that are taught to pregnant women in lamaze or birthing classes. These exercises help them cope with labour and increase their chances of giving birth naturally. Pranayama does the same for you, it prepares you to face labour and get through it effectively.
All of these benefits can be obtained only when you practice pranayama correctly, here’s how you can milk your pranayama session and get the most out of it:
How To Practice Pranayama During Pregnancy?
Where - Find a quiet, secluded spot in your house. Make sure this area is well ventilated and free of smoke, dust, and pollution. This could be on your balcony, your backyard or right in your living room but make sure the windows and the doors are open to let fresh air in.
When - You should wait at least 3 to 4 hours after having your meal to practice pranayama. If it’s a light snack then a couple hours will be enough. Early mornings as soon as you wake up would be the perfect time to do pranayama because both your body and mind are fresh and ready to start the day. But if this is not possible, anytime you can squeeze in a few breathing exercises would be great too.
How - Once you find the right time, place and get rid of all the distractions (Yes, this means your smartphone too), it all comes down to the how. Sit on a mat in a comfortable position with correct posture so as to not strain yourself. You can even take the support of a wall if needed. Remember Pranayama is not about how long you can hold in your breath but it’s more about how aware you are of your breathing. A few pranayama techniques you can try during pregnancy are:
1. Ujjayi - Inhale deeply through your nose until your lungs are completely filled and slowly exhale while your stomach compresses. This is one of the most basic pranayama exercises that is practiced worldwide.
2. Nadi shodhana - It is a form of pranayama where you breathe through alternate nostrils. This is wonderful for cleansing your body.
3. Anulom vilom - You will need to inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other, then repeat the cycle by alternating between your nostrils.
4. Shitali Pranayama - If you’re one of the many pregnant women who complain of feeling overheated, this technique will come in handy. Roll your tongue using the tip of your mouth and inhale using your tongue. This will cool down your body immediately.
A Few Things To Take Care Of
1. Although pranayama for pregnant women is highly recommended, it’s always good to ask your doctor before you start incorporating it into your daily routine.
2. Do not over stress your body by doing pranayama every day. If you’re having one of those days where you feel sick then don’t force yourself to do it. Listen to your body and act accordingly.
3. Certain pranayama exercises like kapalbhati where you contract your stomach in strong, rapid strokes are best avoided.
4. Couple more pranayama techniques to stay away from during pregnancy are Suryanaadi and Bhastrika which are known to generate heat in your body.
5. It is always better to practice with trained professionals who specialize in prenatal yoga as they will have a better knowledge on various physiological changes like nausea and exhaustion that one would experience during pregnancy. So, they will guide you through the do’s and don'ts while doing pranayama during pregnancy.
6. Do not hold your breath for too long. Experts say that holding your breath could potentially cut off or decrease the amount of oxygen that is available to your baby. So it’s important to nail the technique.
7. With the right diet and regular exercise, your pregnancy will be a happy and a healthy one. But keep in mind not to overdo anything and try to be as stress-free as possible - this is the real key to having a pregnancy that brings nothing but joy in your life.