Breathing For Two
Extraordinary hunger and overbearing fatigue are two of the most common experiences during pregnancy. In order to overcome these we usually turn our attention to food and often eat for two. But in our single-minded pursuit of food we tend to overlook another very powerful source of energy: the breath.
In Sanskrit, the language of yoga, breath is called prana, which means the life force. Out of the two sources of energy needed to sustain our lives, prana is the primary one while food is the secondary one. We can live without food and water for days, but without prana, surviving beyond a few minutes is not viable. We need it every second and yoga offers plenty of ways to improve its efficacy.
Breath has an immediate impact on the nervous system. As never-ending deadlines and ever-growing to-do lists govern our lives, our nervous systems are put into an overdrive mode. Coping with this lifestyle for an extended period of time leaves us exhausted. Supporting another life form in this environment makes it imperative that we take time to calm down, regroup, and breathe.
Breath work or pranayama, as it’s called in yoga, offers an array of exercises in order to recognize and utilize the rich potential of prana. The exercise offered below is quite basic, safe, and effective. Although you can do it any time, try to avoid doing it right after a full meal. The central idea is to get in touch with the potential of your breath so that you can tap into its power.
Lie flat on your back. Bend the knees and place your feet hip width apart. Support your lower back with a cushion if needed. You may also want to place a bolster/cylindrical-pillow under the knees. If this sounds too complicated, lie down and rest your calves on the seat of a sofa.
This posture relaxes the lower back, which takes a lot of load during pregnancy. Now place one palm on the rib cage and the other one on the belly so that you can observe the passage of each breath. Start with a long exhalation until you feel your lungs almost empty. Then begin to inhale and feel the sensation of the inflow in the thoracic region above the ribcage followed by the area around the ribcage, and finally the expansion in the abdominal region. Keep the pace even so that you can keep it going for two seconds through each region. At the end of the inhalation (six counts total), pause for a second and exhale in the reverse order.
Over time, you will become sensitive to the quality of your breath and it will become smoother, and deeper. You may want to increase the count and find your own rhythm. Visualize the tissues and cells inside your body bathing in oxygen as you inhale and feel the residual tension leaving your body as you exhale.
Stay as long as you wish; you deserve every moment of it.