Alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Sodhana, is a yogic breathing practice from thousands of years ago.
Known to help to balance both sides of the brain, calm the nervous system, and leave you feeling revitalized, it seems like the perfect way to practice pranayama during pregnancy, right?
Not always. Here’s why: During pregnancy, it is very common for mucus membranes to swell due to increased blood flow, leaving mamas-to-be with a constant feeling of congestion.
Many mamas complain of difficulty breathing in and out of the nose during pregnancy, and closing one nostril only makes the difficulty of breathing worse! Combine this with the increased emotional intensity and anxiety that many pregnant woman report, and all of a sudden a calming breathing exercise can turn sour.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t need balancing and breath work!
With the availability of medical testing in pregnancy, many women are anxious and on the edge of their seat for test results. They are often fatigued, due to the hormones rushing through their systems to help grow their babies, and the increased physical toll that is being taken on their bodies.
They simply don’t feel like themselves, and they are in need of a balancing and calming breathing practice. So here is how we can modify this age old pranayama to suit a pregnant women’s changing body, while continuing to provide a sense of calm.
Modified Alternate Nostril Breathing for Pregnancy
Sit in a comfortable position, either in an easy crossed legged position, or bringing soles of the feet to touch.
You can use a blanket or block to raise the hips higher than the knees. Lift through the crown of your head, and root through your seat.
Bring both hands to the knees, with palms facing upwards and open to the sky.
As you inhale, begin to gently close the left hand, leaving the right hand open.
As you exhale, begin to close the right hand, and open the left.
Continue this sequence between left and right sides for about five minutes.
Be mindful not to hold the breath, but simply to let the breath flow, bringing nourishing oxygenated breath to both you and your baby.
With this modification, we still receive the benefits of intentional breathing and balance, without adding any unnecessary stress to the mama-to-be!