Pregnancy Yoga Practices
Below Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani shares her pregnancy yoga practices … in an excerpt from her article, “The Yoga of Motherhood.”
… Born in the USA, I traveled to India in 1967 to take up the study of Yoga. Luckily, I found my guru and I took to the practice of yoga as easily as a bird on wing takes to the sky.
The concepts of yoga, which I encountered through my guru (later to become my husband), were those thoughts and feelings for which I had hungered for my whole life. In those days, I saw yoga as tapas, difficult austerities – long periods of silence, meditative practices, solitude, extreme hatha yoga asanas, pranayama and fasting. This I felt would culminate in that blissful state of samadhi, which I assumed I could achieve within a year or two of intense sadhana!
[Editor’s Note: Ha ha ha ha … ]
After three years of marriage, I found myself pregnant. My pregnancy was very easy, thanks to my yoga abhyasa (dedicated practice). I had been practicing yoga asanas, pranayama and the usual yoga tapas, fasting, mauna, etc. for four years prior to the pregnancy, so my body was strong, flexible and healthy. Indeed, it was not till the end of the sixth month that anyone other than my husband even realized my state.
I kept a good figure and never did become too big, even at the time of delivery. I was able to carry out all my normal, heavy workload, including riding on my bicycle to Pondicherry town, nearly five kilometers away, once and sometimes twice a day up to the end of the eighth month.
My Pregnancy Yoga Practices
I participated in all the ashram’s daily 6 a.m. hatha yoga asana classes right up to the very day of delivery, and was able to do all of the asanas, kriyas and mudras up to the end of the fifth month. After that time, my body began to change its shape, so that some of the face-prone positions, such as dhanur asana (bow pose) and shalabha asana (locus pose), where extreme pressure is placed upon the abdomen, were not possible.
After that, I performed whatever asanas, kriyas and mudras that my body shape would allow. I was able to do hala asana (plough pose) up to the beginning of the eighth month, and the sarvanga asana (shoulder stand), nava asana (the boat pose) and its variations, nikunja asana (flower bower pose), and vyagraha asana (tiger pose), with relative ease. I found those positions done from a four-footed position (chatus pada) were especially beneficial.
I worked hard on strengthening and loosening up my pelvic area and lower back and strengthening my stomach muscles. I performed aswini mudra (tightening and releasing the anus) and also mula bandha (the root lock) regularly.
I did many standing postures in my pregnancy yoga exercises. I worked hard on sitting postures and sat often in the utkat asana, the squat, at any time of day or night, whenever possible. Baddha kona asana (bound angle pose) and variations were very useful in loosening the pelvis.
I concentrated on performing as many pranayamas as possible, especially using the various types of bhastrikas to cleanse the body of toxins; savitri pranayama, the rhythmic breath, to calm and harmonize systems; loma viloma, aloma viloma, nadi shuddhi, to clean and purify the nervous systems; I felt sukha purvaka (four-fold breathing) gave my mind great depth and clarity.
The various vibhaga pranayamas, sectional breaths, and mahat yoga pranayama, the complete breath, stimulated pranic flow into body organs. I also used often the kukuriya pranayama, the dog pant, sticking the tongue out and panting like a dog, breathing in and out through the mouth, to deliberately strengthen the solar plexus …
About the Author:
Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani is the resident Acharya of Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, India. She is also the Director of the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research (ICYER), the Director of Yoganjali Natyalayam, and Editor of Yoga Life, a publication of Ananda Ashram. For more information, visit: