Just breathe. When you need an instant dose of calmness and tranquility, some of the most ancient techniques that have stood the test of time are also the most accessible. And they all revolve around connecting with your breath. Not only does breathwork combat the occasional bouts of stress and anxiety, but it also can be helpful during pregnancy to manage shortness of breath, connecting with your pelvic floor and preparing your body for labor contractions. Experts recommend spending at least 10 minutes each day practicing a breathing technique to connect to your body and your baby.1 Moreover, once you master the various counts and rhythms, you'll be able to use breathwork as a tool in your arsenal whenever you need it most.
To weigh in on the benefits of each technique, we consulted with Perelel Panel member and pre and postnatal fitness expert Rachel Nicks Lyons. Find the breathing technique that's best for you below.
Ujjayi, which translates to victorious breath, is a long, strong, deep breath that helps you to focus on the present moment and maintain calm.2 It’s often a go-to in yoga and meditation practices because it balances the cardiorespiratory system, which is particularly beneficial in times of stress and anxiety because it gets you out of your fight or flight mode and connects you with your parasympathetic nervous system. This one’s particularly helpful when you need an instant dose of calmness throughout your day (And don’t we all need more of that?) because you can do it at any time, anywhere.
"During my third trimester, I dealt with a lot of anxiety attacks and calf cramps at night. The ugliness, death and racism in this country were overwhelming me. Ujjayi breathing was a tool I used often to calm my mind and connect with my body and my baby. It helped me ground myself when the stress of the world brought me up into my head, causing me to feel nervous and unsettled.”
- Rachel Nicks Lyons
Nadi Shodhana, also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing, is believed to help balance the body's energy flows according to ancient yogi belief. But simply put: it helps you feel centered. If you’re suffering from nasal congestion due to pregnancy rhinitis, an inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the nose due to the hormones released throughout pregnancy, this practice may feel especially good. The goal is to get air flowing through both nostrils, so your body is restored back to its normal state of balance.
“Pregnancy can create a lot of congestion. I love using alternate nostril breathing in the shower with the help of steam to clear my nasal passages. The other benefit is it allows you to connect to your breath which helps quiet the mind and connect to your body. I also feel balanced energetically when I am done.”
- Rachel Nicks Lyons
Diaphragmatic breathing is an essential tool to learn to help recover from birth postpartum because it helps to connect you to your pelvic floor, the muscles you use throughout pregnancy to carry your baby and to deliver your baby in labor. And even if you end up delivering your baby with a c-section, it’s still important to repair those muscles from holding the extra weight of a baby for three months. It does this by engaging your transverse abdominal muscles, and also brings you the same benefits as the other breathing exercises above by calming your nervous system just as a meditation would.
“I practice and encourage diaphragmatic breathing throughout pregnancy to activate the transverse abdominal muscles so that you can stay supported throughout pregnancy and the muscles stay strong and active for pushing your baby out. Birth is the hardest workout of your life and diaphragmatic breathing will really prepare you for the birth of your miracle.”
- Rachel Nicks Lyons
In general when practicing breathing techniques throughout pregnancy, you’ll want to avoid any breath retention or hyperventilation exercises that could limit your baby's oxygen supply. Instead, focus on bringing breath into the body and honestly, just breathing.
Have you tried a breathing technique that you like? Tell us about it. Join the Perelel community on social or by subscribing to our newsletter below.1 Lynn Felder / Asana Sequence by Shiva Rea. Prenatal yoga poses for each trimester. Yogajournal.com.
2 Eisler M. Learn the Ujjayi breath, an ancient yogic breathing technique. Chopra.com.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.