Pranayama breathing for pregnancy?

Hi all,

Just curious as to what people would suggest as a pranayama for a pregnant woman? I have been pondering it and can only really come up with a timed breathe so as to lengthen it and calm the nerves etc…e.g. (4 inhale 2 pause 6 exhale) But i have limited experience in this area and figured SOMEONE in the wonderful world of yoga forums would have some suggestion!

Please! NO PAUSES IN THE BREATH! espesially on exhale! ALL yoga sources warn not to retain the breath in pregnancy!


may i ask why?

There do seem to be some principles if you can call that that are more like suggestions gained through experience.

Relative duration and actual duration can be lengthened over time as this has been an observed tendency over time with yoga, and progressively.Learning is best done incrementally and applied.So one could start off with 1-1, make the observations, then proceed accordingly.Like bio-feedback training.Also using common sense.Lentgtheniing exhalation can be introduced gradually.And retention is not something, if i was a teacher, i would (invariably) introduce in the first instance straight out the gate because as a stimulator it could be too powerful …But that is just me.There plenty of ways to potentize pranayama.I personally fel pranayam is powerful and effective enough without adding internal kumbhaka(retention after inhalation) what is usually prescribed first,.If pauses ooccur naturally that is different.You could draw a comparison with learning pranayam to playing a musical instrument.It demands concentration, finding & establihshinig a rthytm,devloping receptiviity and awareness to the sounds of the air and more significantly the prana once a subtle awareness has been cultivated.Some are less aware,receptive or of varying states of health so other variables can be factored in, and so on. Like anything in life when you’re learning there are the experience which reveal signs as to what is apporpriate for any given individial at any given time and place.How it fits into any given over-all practice.What separates breathing from breathing with awareness and focus.Remeber that you’'re coaxing the nervoussystem open gradually gentlly. So you treat the breath like a baby.; it teaches you and you can guide and teach it. it will let you know when you’re on it’s wavelength. There are various tips and tricks that can potentize pranayama that is wsest to learn incrementally and progressively. That is not to fear the breath,certainly not.But when you rock a baby you rock it gently first and then you pick up the cues.

I personally don’t employ kumbhaka that often(unless as i am consciously going up a gear deliberately) as my pranayam is powerful enough (so why make it more so when it dooes’nt have to be)However it is not appropriate to say that is not appropariate for you.Only a practioner or a practitioner getting guidance or imbibng teachings in conjunction with the company and guidance a teacher can be a reasonable judge of that.

There are common-sense principles that can be respected & employed but there are’nt really any universal prescriptions other than the suggesstion to begin with basics.I know many can feel scared by pranayama,and they should’nt be if they feel they would benefit from it., but youwould’nt be best to drive a formular-one racing car with some tuition or knowledge about the controls and how they might affect the vehicle’s behaviour.The main thing is experience is gained through learning and application which accrues over time.A useful practice for one individual may not be best for another.And pregnancy is one variable amongst many.If you can maintain reasonable focus and awareness for extended periods of time while observing subtle cues,the effects of the movmenet of prana throughout the so-called “subtle” body, which you can recognise as tell-tale signs then that’s part of the learning.

There are many tips & tricks in pranayama. A good mind-set, prepration because it is like a half-wy meditative state before deep meditation. If one is sill agitated after asana then you can always do your asana affter or spend longer in savasana.How does the diapghragm appear to respond and so on.The breath is best quiet-ish in most pranayama.It would be difficult to offer any unviersal prescriptions to every individual other than 1:1 leading to 1:2 in increments. What may be observed also and while this is being done is that the actuall duration lengthens as well.Maake anote of these observations,whether with a count or without, whether the breath sounds a certain way or does’nt,how you feel physically,mentally,greater clarity,the third-eye,the crown perhaps, the body etc and proceed accordingly.When you’ve finished a couple o basic cycles sit and observe any discernible results. Discriminate when the breath might appears to be struggling or is flowing naturally and easily,unobstructed,without resistance and so on…

Gentle pranayama may be continued without kumbhaka (breath retention) throughout pregnancy. Gentle pranayama includes Radiant breath, 2-Part breath, Ujjayi and Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing - without Kumbhaka).


1 Like

I would be hesitant about teaching something i did’nt personally practice or had’nt practiced anything close or similar.But that is just me. Everyone is ddifferent. And self-exploration is essential; 'it’s where learning begins and much speculation loses it’s grip.Encouraging playful experimentation i think is good & healthy. The breath is your biggest friend in yoga- it is what defines it.Itdoes’nt help matters when folk are put off by horror stories. That is not to say yoga can do no harm. But it’s like many things in life.If you don’t dip your feet in somewhere, preferably the shallow end armed with the knowledge then you might never start. So really knowledge is priceless as is the willingness to do the practices if we are so inclined.Nothing to fear & everything to gain. Like when you went to your senior school as a kid most folk were likely apprehensive a little then they went and it was alright.They did’nt stick your head in the toilets as some kind of initiation welcome rite of pasage as one had heard.Sorry that’s the stories i heard as a kid My main point here, although i’ve a funny way of putting it, is never to fear your breath and yoga practices. They are there for your gain and playful experimentation is to be [I]wholly[/I] encouraged.

Persoannly, i feel with pranayama or any other yoga ,being relaxed and one-ppointed ideally or focused is going to help. You might never find the ideal conditions but it’s a good idea to start somewhere.Also there are other tools to support your pranayama.‘Balance’ is a key word in much of yoga…

Thanks all for your input so far… I agree strongly with you core789 that every person is different in pranayama just as they are in Asana just as they are in Life, I often have a knee jerk reaction to the rigidity some teachers develop in their instruction and have always encouraged a gentle experimentation and observation type approach…

Inner Athlete, or anyone, can you explain why you suggest Kumbhaka should be left out during pregnancy?

I would recommend this website if you are so inclined if you were interested in learning some p ranayam within the Iyengar system or tradition.It’s offers some condensation of the pranayama outlined in a book called ’ [B][I]Light on Pranayama[/I][/B]’ by BKS. Iyengar.It’s a must have if you’re enthusiastic about deepening in pranayama.

I think it largely boils down to ‘experience’,in that word alone and some basic knowledge which can be learned relatively quickly. So what you teach should come from persoanl experience.Bear in mind that pranayam can and of course typically does take years to master unless you lived at the feet of guru and few of us have that luxury of course, or were especially ‘spiritually’ available for it(or ready for it perhaps although i don’t actually or necessarily believe that ; availability is like akin to readiness if you want to use that term) .Alot of yoga is a willingness to explore & use the techniques,apply them gradually.

I think the tips,tricks and hints within that website are excellent. It takes an incremental progressive approach.You might consider viloma,anuloma,nadi shodhana,bhamari, perhaps ujjayi etc buildinig on foundations, and working up through the stages suggested. Experiement, see what works,what others can likely handle.

Kumbhaka is a big stimulator.Use your own judgement based on your experience is good idea. In my book , as if i had one,ratios & retentions are introduce gradually incrementally. That is not to say not over one setting(though nothig outrageous) but typically over many,both a safe and sound approach.

But you are right everyone is different. That is why if you attempted to offer say instruction beyond just suggesstion in a classrooon group setting i think it best if it is a controlled one.This may necessitate doing simple breathing beforehand,jal neti ( i know there’s not typically time or resources in that kind of environment) or even some asana ddepnding on how they may respond. But everyone is different and that is why teaching in a group setting cmay brings challeneges when teaching pranayama, not just the fact there are different individials. Preganancy is one variable and to me a significan one. But so are others. Offering instruction and advice to someone showing great interest in learning pranayam is obviously different. If you were really up for it, i would half/half the class time asana/pranayama assuming you teach asana and then throw in a few tricks.

I don’t see anything intrinsically faulty in your suggesstions.I do think though you should be the best judge of an answer to your question. If in doubt(generally) leave it out.

The confidence comes from experience. And hey if it does’nt seem to be working out mid-way.,the rhgythm is’nt there, the focus or quality of the breath in many folk,you just stop and do something else. Nothing lost.Pranayam is reaally subtle and a grasp of some of it’s subtleties & secrets,because it is really rich and full of techniques not just kumbhaka, familairising oneself with it’s scope does come & develop thankfully through practice.

A good friend once said or offered me good advice which is that much (of yoga) depends on a willingness to use the techniques(armed with some knowledge of course) and practice.


I think the yoga Iyengar taught & was influenced by, studied,practiced might be traceable back to the Krishnmacharya tradition and lineage.Kirshnamacharhya often being regarded as the father of modern yoga, although i am no expert.I’d be curious where Iyengar learnt and ammassed the pranayam tteachings say he detaiils in his book [I]Light on Pranayama[/I].I’ve gotten the impression though that the yoga literary corpus in it’s entirety is vast and full of techniques compiled throughout the ages by thousands of yogis of course, and i mean beyond more than standard better known classics like the hatha yoga pradipika, gerhanda samhita,sutras etc.It is possible there were a renaissance or indeed a few of them as well as ‘darker’ ages relating to the accumulation of knowledge and literary culture, aspirations and so on…

Aumshantiaum -Brahmari Breathing / Bee breathing is considered helpful for pregnant women because it focuses on long inhalations and exhalations (always within very comfortable limits) and is incredible at reducing stress levels because of the vibrational experience. There are instructions online about where to place fingers and hands on the face, but for a beginner you can simply have them take a long inhale, and exhale with their mouth closed and teeth touching several times. See how they like that and then have them place their hands over their ears to amplify the experience. They can experiment with the tongue touching the back of the teeth or relaxed away from it, as this changes the vibrational feeling. When they are comfortable with this, a student could move on to try the different hand-to-face variations if they really want to try it. Brahmari breath is safe to do all through the pregnancy as long as they are not practicing in a way that causes any discomfort or leaves them short of breath, so just be sure that they are not going outside of their limits. This is also very good practice to do in groups, because it sounds awesome to be surrounded by all this constant humming.

[QUOTE=AumshantiAum;40240]may i ask why?[/QUOTE]

I think because you and baby need more oxygen then just your by yourself.

Even this is just a theory… I would not risk. just 9 month and you can experiment as much as you want:)

Pranayama breathing exercises during pregnancy can help you relax, stress less, and breathe easier.

Pranayama breathing, which consists of breathing in through the nose, and exhaling through the nostrils, can help a pregnant woman breathe more easily and comfortably, as well as reduce anxiety. It can also help relax the baby in the womb, which will subsequently develop better.
Pranayama breathing is more generally beneficial as well, and this applies to any woman, not just pregnant women. Breathing exercises improve circulation, strengthen the lungs, and detoxify the body.
There are various kinds of breathing, and it is best to consult with a qualified yoga instructor before beginning any exercises.
Here are some steps for starting pranayama breathing:

  1. Sit in a comfortable, upright position.
  2. Close the eyes.
  3. Inhale deeply through your nose, drawing the air deep into your lungs.
  4. Let the air out of your mouth slowly, through the nostrils, exhaling through the nose, as if you are blowing out a candle.
  5. Repeat the process, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the nostrils.
  6. As you become more relaxed, move to the next step.
  7. Inhale through the nose, filling your lungs, then exhale slowly through the nostrils.
  8. Follow this sequence until you feel extremely relaxed, or for several minutes more, if necessary.
  9. Repeat the breathing cycle twice more.
  10. Take a deep, relaxing breath.
  11. Close the eyes.
  12. Relax for several minutes.
  13. Repeat the breathing cycle one or more times