In the yoga tradition, Pranayama refers to breath exercises. Learning to control our breath brings us that much closer to controlling the mind. When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, bringing your attention to your breath and consciously slowing it down can ease your thoughts considerably. Expecting a baby and feeling overwhelmed go pretty much hand in hand. Here are three breath techniques to bring a little stillness and coolness to that busy mommy-to-be brain:
Ujjayi means victorious breath. This is the pranayama that we practice with all of the poses, but it is just as powerful practiced on its own while seated comfortably or reclined. To practice this pranayama, breathe through your nose keeping your mouth gently closed. Slightly constrict the back of your throat so that your breath takes on an audible, ocean like quality. Allow your mind to rest on the sound of the breath.
Ancient yogis believed that most people breathe predominantly through one nostril. Alternate Nostril Breath or Nadi Shodhana opens both nasal passages resulting in an even flow of breath and an equilibrium of the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
A clear, peaceful feeling comes when both sides of the brain are in harmony. Place the pointer finger and middle finger of your right hand on the point between your eyebrows (the third eye). Plug the left nostril with your ring finger and inhale through the right; plug the right nostril with the thumb and exhale through the left. Continue like this for a few minutes, and then spend a few more minutes breathing freely through the nose noticing the effects of this pranayama.
Sometimes it’s not just our minds that need to chill, but our bodies as well. When I was pregnant with my son, I was hot, hot, hot! When feeling overheated, Sitali Breath can cool you down.
Inhale through a curled tongue and exhale through your nose. Some people cannot curl their tongues. If this is you, touch your top teeth to your bottom teeth, and inhale through the teeth.
Pranayamas to avoid during pregnancy: anything involving breath retention or holding the breath and kapalabhati.
Your growing belly doesn’t leave a lot of space for your lungs, especially in the third trimester. When you feel like you can’t take a deep breath, focus on breathing into the sides of your torso, your rib cage, and back.
Breathe well and Be well Mamas!