Part of any complete yoga series includes a focus on breath work and our prenatal yoga series is no different. We decided to launch our series with a breath technique specifically because working with your breath during pregnancy is so important. Nadi Shodhana is a great way to calm your mind, your body and your emotions.
During pregnancy, your baby can hear and feel your breath and they know when your breath is short and fast (usually a sign of stress) and when your breath is long and steady (a sign of being relaxed). Taking calm, deep breaths sends a message to your baby that you’re ok – essentially it lets your baby know that you’re not stressed and this in turn helps your baby feel relaxed. Deep breaths also help relieve stress from your own body which reduces physical tension in two key areas: your stomach and face muscles. Taking time out of your day to work on your breath and on relaxing your body is not just good for your general health but can also help prepare you for birth as you’ll have innate tools at the ready to help you deal with whatever comes your way.
In our society these days, we tend to glorify being stressed and busy, giving us little incentive to work on stress-relief. Pregnancy is a great time to change these priorities and take steps to eliminate unnecessary stress from your life. You and baby will benefit from this priority shift now but also later, as life gets more complicated with a newborn, a toddler, an energetic child and (help us!) a teenager!
How to practice Nadi Shodhana
The best way to practice any breathing exercise is in a quiet space. If you are able to practice your breath work, focusing entirely on your breath, then when you need it during a moment of chaos it will come naturally to you. The more you become accustomed to it, the more you can take your breath work with you anywhere.
Start by sitting comfortably for you – this could mean crossing your legs, sitting in a chair or against a wall. Take a few deep cleansing breaths.
Close your eyes and place your index and middle fingers of your dominant hand on the space between your eyebrows. Start by closing your right nostril with one finger and take your breath in through your left nostril. Change your fingers so that your left nostril is closed and breath out through the right side. Inhale through the right and then change fingers again so that you can breath out through the left. Continue moving back and forth between the nostrils with your breath. As you do, try to focus on your breath and settle your mind. Remind yourself that for just a few moments you can forget about the many different things you probably have going on in life and think only about your breath traveling in and out of your body. When you have come to the end of your time on this breath exercise, finish by breathing out through the left nostril and then take a few full breaths with both sides open before opening your eyes.
The amount of time you spend on this breath exercise is up to you but ideally you would dedicate 5-15 minutes a day to the practice. You might find it easier to focus on your breath if you start practicing after you’ve done some sort of physical activity or are having generally relaxed moment during your day. The more and more you practice, the more you’ll be able to use this breath technique in moments of high stress as you’ll be more familiar with how to calm your mind and be in control of your body.
For some couples, trying to conceive can be a very stressful time. The uncertainty of the entire process and the self-doubt that creeps up affects all of us. Using Nadi Shodhana to relax you can be extremely helpful and focusing on your breath movement for even just a few minutes a day can provide you with much needed mental relief.
With a Newborn
After baby is born, Nadi Shodhana is useful during those moments when life just gets to be a little too much. When baby has been crying for hours or relatives have surpassed the level of acceptable friendly advice during family dinners. You don’t need any special props to slip away and practice Nadi Shodhana and the benefits you’ll get from it are priceless.