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Top Three Pranayama Practices for Pregnancy

by Sarah Blunkosky

· yoga,prenatal yoga,pregnancy,movement,breathwork

(Moved here From YOFO Blog of July 2019)

Top Three Pranayama Practices for Pregnancy by Sarah Blunkosky

Of all the physical limbs of yoga, many teachers throughout the ages have said that pranayama is the most profound. One of many definitions of pranayama translates to “manipulation of the life force.” Breath moves energy into the body according to this principle, so pranayama is the practice of moving energy within the body, utilizing the breath.

Breath practices move energy that nourishes parent and baby. These are essential for enjoying the present moment and preparing for the journey of labor and parenting once baby arrives. Prenatal pranayama practices have a wide array of health benefits similar to nurturing postures and meditation. They can lower blood pressure, lower anxiety, increase circulation, reduce a racing heart rate, and can also help calm the nervous system. These effects can help switch on healing energy systems in the body (think lowering inflammation levels, strengthening immune cells, etc). Scientists are still assessing how powerful pranayama can be!

As a prenatal yoga teacher, I find it essential to teach pranayama techniques in my classes to prepare folks for labor (breathwork helps prepare for all phases of vaginal and caesarean deliveries). Pranayama can also help create space and patience for learning how to feed baby (whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed) and learning baby’s communication cues.

How to Approach Pranayama During Pregnancy

Throughout the day, most of us breathe without awareness. Intentional breathwork in pregnancy can support a growing baby and soothe the person carrying it. The approach should be gentle and nurturing. At any time, if a practice is not serving you intuitively, then that should not be your action in that moment. Always check with your yoga teacher and care providers if you are unsure.

Once you have learned several breathing techniques, you will have tools at your side to utilize anytime, anywhere, as often as needed. Pranayama is free to do and accessible to all.

  • Conscious Exhaling

Many pranayama practices place more emphasis on the inhale than the exhale. Starting with a conscious exhale, however, can help clear and create a focus for the starting inhalation, a profound and universally helpful practice before any intentional breath practice. A long exhalation can also help detoxify thoughts and release tension anywhere, anytime…waiting in line, beginning contractions, transition-intense contractions.

Try it out for yourself. Consciously exhale allowing the exhalation to be longer than the inhalation. See what results you embody in yourself.

  • Deergha Swasom Breath (Three-part breath)

This practice is wonderful for newbies and experienced practitioners alike. One can take this Deergha Swasom breath anywhere, anytime, as needed. This breathwork can also be utilized while a woman births vaginally or settles into peacefulness for a caesarean birth.

  1. Inhale through the nose (if possible) sending intention and prana into the back ribs and under the arms (where about 60% of our lung tissues are).
  2. Envision your breath expanding into each cell of the lungs, front and back, upper and lower. This expansion moves diaphragm, muscles, tissues, nerves, even connects and moves the pelvis (the diaphragm and pelvis are breath buddies).
  3. Notice breath moving energy within your cells, tissues, nerves, arteries, veins, and fascia.
  4. Exhale completely, even allowing the exhale to go longer if you wish (exhaling out the nose or mouth).
  • Bhramari Breath

This technique can help tune out anything one wants to neutralize (mental thoughts, buzzing of hospital noises, hushed whispers of birth workers, etc). It’s a wonderful practice to start in pregnancy and to have at one’s disposal for birthing. Some yogis add hand mudras utilizing specific finger positions and energy points on the head and ears. For newbies, it is lovely to start with the breath and a basic plugging of the ears.

  • First, gently plug your ears with your fingers or earlobes (optional)
  • Then, inhale deeply into the back lungs (ideally through the nostrils but start by breathing through the mouth if that’s where you are at).
  • Finally, as you exhale, make a humming sound. Brahmari is often referred to as “bee’s breath” and the sound make in the throat and mouth resembles a female humming bee.

You can repeat this process till it feels right to stop. Beginners may enjoy about 4-6 repetitions.

When you stop, inhale and exhale naturally. Then enter meditation or a place where you can witness your breath entering and leaving your body. Draw awareness to the effects on your thoughts, your state, and the energy around you. Do this for short repetitions when needed or desired.

A regular practice of pranayama/breathwork can be incredibly beneficial to prepare for motherhood and long after pregnancy.

About the Author

Sarah Blunkosky nurtures clients as an integrative education consultant, certified peer-breastfeeding counselor, and registered Accessible yoga instructor (E-RYT 200, 500 YT, 95 CYT, 85 PYT) specializing in family, children’s, special-needs, and prenatal/postpartum movement/embodiment. She serves clients in Northern Virginia and travels for service appointments, conferences, and workshops with local studios and her company, Learning Heroine LLC.

Teaching Philosophy: All abilities, identities, and needs are welcome in each of my classes, no wheelchair or condition is turned away! Advancement in yoga should be devoid of hierarchy/construct/body type/ or any other -ism. Yoga is how one can better connect to their authentic self truth. Postures, breath, and meditation practices are meant to honor our anatomical reality and serve our peacefulness, the authentic self. For each student, I seek to guide and assist them in their path to hearing their truth as it grows louder and louder. I'm honored to serve others and humbled in the seat of the teacher, always in service.

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