Six Reasons To Avoid Pranayama During Pregnancy

Pranayama during pregnancy is not a good idea from an Ayurvedic point of view, because of the following reasons –

1. Pranayama balances Vata Dosha in the body. During pregnancy, no such special efforts are required to be done for balancing vata. This is because of two reasons – The Vata Dosha of the mother is altered to accustom the growth of uterus and the fetus inside the womb. The Vata inside Fetus will be in an immature but active condition.

2. Pranayama is meant for improving health of body and mind, to improve concentration etc. This is not so needed during pregnancy as all the mother’s concentration will be on her womb. Pranayama can be taken up after 3 – 4 months after delivery by when the Vata is settled down in the mother.

3. While doing Pranayama, while holding the breath, there is a direct pressure on the abdomen, which is not good during pregnancy.

4. A pregnant woman at the later stages, will be at unease during normal breathing due to the bulk of the womb.  It is not a good idea to take up pranayama when breathing is difficult.

5. Pranayama is a sort of exertion over the body & abdomen. So it is not recommended during pregnancy.

6. Erect posture while sitting is difficult to maintain during pregnancy.

14 comments on “Six Reasons To Avoid Pranayama During Pregnancy

  • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

    03/11/2010 - 4:02 pm

    This article and this whole blog is all about my personal opinions, as an Ayurvedic doctor regarding various aspects related to health. As a doctor, I certainly will not encourage my clients to do Pranayama when they are pregnant, reasons for which, I have quoted above. Just for example, imagine a 8 month pregnant woman. She already will be have to put effort to do normal breathing. Does it really make any sense to ask her to do controlled, patterned breathing? Don’t you agree that holding breath (Kumbhaka) will put a pressure on her abdomen? I respect yours and Ramdev Maharaj’s subjective opinion (though I do not approve of it).

    Reply to comment
    • Gaurav

      29/10/2013 - 10:46 am

      In fact, there is no subjectivity here even. Dr Hebbar’s view is quite objective, in my opinion.

      Pranayama has some pre-requisites, as prescribed in the ancient texts. For those who haven’t seen them yet, this article lists them very clearly:

      So, not just pregnant women, but even most of the general population in today’s world is not eligible to do Pranayama regularly, based on the pre-requisites.

      If people want to challenge the authenticity of these pre-requisites, then that’s their choice, but that doesn’t change the truth, I’m afraid.

      Reply to comment
  • Shanti

    02/01/2011 - 9:10 am

    Dr. Hebbar,
    Please stop writing your false opinion about Yoga and Pranayama particularly in prenatal period. I agree holding the breath is not recommended during pregnancy ,otherwise all the breathing exercise and relaxation technique is GREAT for pregnancy.

    I definitely ignore your blog and take it as an ignorance.

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      02/01/2011 - 2:30 pm

      Ms Shanti,
      The equation is pretty simple. Any breathing exercise puts pressure on abdomen and stimulates organs. Pranayama during pregnancy stimulates uterus, which is not recommended, and puts pressure on abdomen, which again is not recommended. Apart from this, if there is any other benefits of Pranayama during pregnancy, which I am ignorant about, I am glad about my ignorance.

      Reply to comment
  • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

    03/02/2012 - 10:44 pm

    Some pregnant woman feel dizziness when they start concentrating on breathing, worsening the morning sickness woes. If a lady does not have any such issues, then Pranayama without retainment phase (kumbhaka) should be ok. However, it is best to do Pranayama only under expert guidance.
    But I do not see any specific compelling reason why pranayama is so very necessary during pregnancy.
    I do not have any problem with meditation during pregnancy.

    Reply to comment
  • MUE

    11/05/2012 - 12:12 pm

    I agree with this article. I have been practicing SSY pranayam for many years and stopped during pregnancy as I felt unease and giddiness.
    Also during pregnancy the blood pressure is significantly low and the body behaves differently and tries to keep all levels at an optimum which is what pranayam aims for. So i did not see sny sense in doing pranayam.

    Reply to comment
  • sarasimon2012

    20/06/2012 - 6:02 am

    While it is true that some pranayam should be avoided during pregnancy, such as suspending the breath and breath of fire/khapalbati breathing, other forms of pranayam are hugely beneficial during all stages of pregnancy. It is essential that expectant mothers learn to control breathing to aid in relaxation of mind and body and to facilitate the labour process. There are many, many other benefits of pranayam during pregnancy which are too numerous to list here. I have never heard a doctor claim to be glad of his ignorance on a topic and would be happy to educate you! As a mother and a certified yoga instructor I can tell you that you couldn’t be more wrong on this subject. While you are entitled to your opinion, as a doctor you must be careful about the venue in which you share that opinion, especially if you are as ignorant on the subject as you claim to be!!

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      20/06/2012 - 12:39 pm

      Dear Sarasimon2012, Many thanks for taking time to explain your view point.
      With study of Ayurvedic medical science for 5.5 years in graduation, wherein I studied Yoga for 1.5 years, and gynaecology and obstetrics for another 1.5 years, 3 years of post graduate study and 1 year of PG diploma, – a total of 9.5 years of study in natural health sciences, and four years of practice, I probably am less qualified than many. No qualms about that. I am still a learner.

      Let me make my point very clear.
      If a pregnant lady is doing any exercise, wherein she is holding her breath, it is not good for her.

      If a pregnant lady is trying to control her breathing forcefully, or if she is breathing in a pattern, with which she is not already acquainted with, it is not good for her.

      Any type of breathing exercise which puts pressure on abdomen is not good for her.

      If any of my client asks, if she can do pranayama while she is pregnant, my sincere advice is – “wait till you deliver, concentrate on meditation, reading good books, keeping mind positive, which you can do, even without Pranayama”

      If you say, “God bless my clients”, that is also very true. 🙂 Without God’s blessing, none of advices and medicines would work.

      Reply to comment
  • sudarshan kriya

    02/07/2014 - 6:34 pm

    If you want to avoid pranyama then do sudarshan kriya

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      02/07/2014 - 7:58 pm

      Even Sudarshan Kriya also involves phases requiring rigorous breathing. Hence, not necessary during pregnancy.

      Reply to comment
  • Sudarshan kriya

    03/07/2014 - 9:45 am

    in kriya you cannot rigrously you can do normally

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      03/07/2014 - 10:52 am

      If it does not cause strain, do not put pressure on abdomen, do not cause or worsen nausea or dizziness, it should be fine to follow.

      Reply to comment
  • Shannon Crow

    12/08/2015 - 9:08 pm

    I am glad to hear that you have clarified in your comments that the pranayama that you are discouraging involve breath retention and/or force. That said there are many breath practices that are beneficial for pregnancy.

    For example – the transverse abdominus muscles used in a simple abdominal breath, (or 3-part breath) are strengthened and ready for the pushing that they will do in childbirth.

    I am a RPYT (registered prenatal yoga teacher) for 10 years now and I teach a 100-hour prenatal yoga teacher training (MamaNurture with the DevaTree School of Yoga). I have learned from midwives, doulas, doctors, pelvic floor physiotherapists and mothers and all agree on the benefits of breathing in pregnancy and childbirth.

    Breath practices can make all of the difference. I am a mother of three and for my first pregnancy I didn’t do any pranayama. My next two pregnancies and births were much easier because of my yoga practice that included pranayama.

    I would really appreciate it if you updated your article to clarify the breath practices that are contraindicated. If you need any links or information for this I would be happy to help with that.

    Reply to comment
  • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

    19/03/2017 - 5:07 pm

    No, it will not have any adverse effects of the child. Nothing to worry.

    Reply to comment

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