4 Breathing Exercises Every Pregnant Woman Should Do
What happens when you breathe? Your lungs fill up with oxygen, which is what we need to remain alive and healthy, and we expel carbon dioxide. In a normal scenario, we breathe shallow and fast, and don’t really give our bodies the complete oxygen benefit it needs.For a pregnant woman, as the baby grows, the amount of oxygen needed to be comfortable goes up significantly. Deep breathing, in this case, not only ups the oxygen levels, it also reduces stress, and calms the mom-to-be. Additionally, breathing techniques will help the expectant mother better manage her labour.
Don't take deep, quick, forceful breaths when you're pregnant. Techniques such as bellow’s breath (bhastrika), and cleansing breath (kapalabhati) are not recommended in pregnancy. Also, do not hold your breath, as it results in the oxygen levels dropping, which is not safe for the baby or for you. Here are a few breathing techniques, learning which will help give you the confidence to handle labour, and your delivery.
4 essential breathing exercises during your pregnancy:
- Abdominal breathing – You could do this breathing exercise either lying down, or cross-legged. As your pregnancy progresses, you will probably find it difficult to lie supine, and it’s not entirely safe for the baby either. Keeping your hand on your stomach, breathe in. You will feel your abdomen being pushed out. Your chest will remain still. When you breathe out, your tummy will get deflated, going towards your spine. In the later stages of your pregnancy, this may not be as apparent, given the size of your tummy.
Benefit: This kind of deep breathing helps pump more oxygen into your body, and also strengthens the abdominal muscles needed during labour.
2. Anulom vilom (alternate nostril breathing) – Close your eyes, and slowly breathe through the nose. Let your left hand rest on your left knee with the palm facing up, and your index finger and thumb tips touching in gyaan mudra. Use your right thumb to slightly press your right nostril closed, and inhale through the left nostril. To exhale, gently press the left nostril closed with your index finger, to allow the breath to release through the right. Next, inhale through the right nostril, and then exhale through the left. Whichever nostril you exhale out of, you must inhale from that nostril for the next cycle. Continue breathing through the alternate nostrils in this way.
Benefit: This breathing, or ‘pranayam’, helps balance the brain, creates a sense of wellbeing, helps relieve stress, and brings about mental and emotional balance.
3. Ujjayi breathing (ocean breath) – Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair, keeping your spine straight. Place your hand in front of your mouth (but don’t touch it), and inhale through your nose. Exhale keeping your mouth open, and expel the air with a ‘haaaaahhh’ sound. It’s like you are fogging a mirror. This sound, created by the slight restriction in the back of your throat, is the ocean sound that you will make during the pranayam. Now, inhale again through your nose, and when you exhale, close your mouth and expel through your nose, trying to create the same sound by the slight constriction in the back of your throat. This is usually difficult at first, and may take some practice.
Benefit: This breathing exercise, also known as ocean breath or victory breath, is a great way to relieve stress and energise your body – the 2 things you need when you are pregnant.
4. Bhramari Pranayam (bee breathing) – Sit on the floor, and close your eyes. Place your index fingers on the cartilage in your ears. Your little fingers should be on your nose, slightly pressing your nostrils, and the remaining 2 fingers are placed covering your eyes. Now take a deep breath, and start exhaling; keep your lips together, and making a buzzing bee sound like ‘mmmm’. Block out all the external sounds around you.
Benefit: This is an extremely powerful breathing technique to relieve stress, reduce blood pressure, and calm an agitated mind – all the things you need, to get through your labour.
Yoga is good for you, whether you are pregnant or not. However, please consult your doctor before you practice these yoga techniques. A healthy body houses a healthy baby. So inhale deeply, and start these breathing exercises today!