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How to Adapt Your Yogic Breath for Pregnancy and Postpartum

By now, many of us are aware of the incredible benefits of yogic breathing (or deep breathing). It can help take your nervous system from a stressed fight or flight state and quickly bring it into a more relaxed rest and digest state. It's simple, effective, always available and 100% free.

Pregnancy and postpartum are stages in life where you often need extra support for your nervous system, but unfortunately breathing isn't always as straightforward as it was pre-pregnancy. Luckily there are some adaptations you can make to help you breathe more easily in these times so that you can still receive all the benefits of this breath work to feel your best.

What is Yogic Breath

Yogic teachers will vary in how they teach and explain 'yogic breath'. The cues I use to teach this breath in a general class (not pre or postnatal) are below:

  • Inhale deeply through the nose

  • Focus on bringing the breath deep into the body

  • Feeling the low belly expand, the ribs expand and all the way up to the chest

  • Exhale deeply through the nose to release

  • Feeling the chest come back in, the ribs, releasing all the air from the low belly as it draws back in

  • Repeat

The goal of this breath is to move away from stressful breathing, which is primarily into the upper chest neck and shoulders and bring the breath further into the body for longer, deeper, more calming breaths.

Breathing During Pregnancy

As you get further along into your pregnancy in the second and third trimesters and the belly becomes bigger, it usually becomes harder to breathe especially into the low belly. Your baby is taking up more space in your body and your lungs have less room to expand leaving you feeling short of breath more often.

To continue practice deep breathing safely in pregnancy, follow these tips:

Learning to breath into the side ribs

  • Take the hands to the side of the body above the hips where you can feel your ribcage

  • As you breath in through the nose into the sides of the body, feel the ribs expand and press into the hands

  • As you exhale through the nose, feel the ribs come back in towards the body

  • Keep the breath length at a pace that feels calming and nurturing for you and does not leave you feeling short of breath

Establishing a breath practice during pregnancy can help you feel calmer during this time and also give you a valuable tool to use during labor and birth as well as in motherhood.

Breathing During Postpartum

Once you've given birth to your baby, it often takes time for you to get used to being able to breathe deeply into your belly again. After all, it has usually been a few months since you were last able to do so.

In the fourth trimester you have so much happening inside of you (hello plummeting hormone levels) as well as the long list of responsibilities you're learning as a new mother. It can feel like a lot and a few big deep breaths can really help you feel like it's going to be ok when you need it in the moment.

Here's how you can get back into this practice:

  • Take the hands to the low belly

  • As you inhale through the nose, focus on bringing this breath down into the belly

  • Feel the low belly expand and press into the hands

  • As you exhale through the nose, feel the low belly draw back in

  • Focus on fully releasing all the air

  • Repeat at your own pace

If this doesn't feel as easy as it did post pregnancy, that is completely normal. It will get easier and start to feel more natural with practice.

To watch the video tutorial on this breath work, click here.

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