Welcome back to our series on pregnancy with Ayurveda! This is the second part, so if you haven't already, read Part 1! (In the first post we go into detail about prescribing your clients a proper diet for conceiving, during pregnancy as well as postpartum.)
Part 2: Assist client in creating a daily schedule with activities to calm all three Doshas, especially Vata Dosha.
Once you have your mother-to-be working on her modified pathya, it’s time to help her set up a simple daily routine complete with extra things she can do to calm the Doshas. The daily practices of meditation, abhyanga, Yoga asanas, walking in nature, spiritual reflection and journaling are the most important for your client to include each day. Swimming is another ideal workout to go along with asanas and nature walks.
In Ayurveda, daily meditation is key to a healthy pregnancy and a happy mother and baby. Meditation helps to balance the Doshas, reduces stress and aids the mother in getting satisfying rest. But meditation has just as much benefits for the baby as for the mother because during pregnancy “entrainment” happens. The definition of entrainment is that natural cycles come into coordination with each other. This pregnancy entrainment makes the mother and baby’s biological rhythms match, so when the mother meditates the baby takes on her peaceful, alert attitude. Pregnancy is considered an opportune time for spiritual growth, inner reflection and reading inspiring literature (as well as meditation). It is a time to let go of resentments and develop a more positive outlook on the past, present and future.
During the 1st trimester Yoga asanas can typically be practiced without modifications, but it is best to not do deep twists, prolonged core work or spine strengthening poses with the belly down. During the 2nd and 3rd trimester no pressure should be put on the abdomen and inversions shouldn’t be done either. Poses like Bhujangasana and Dhanurasana should not be practiced. During pregnancy, have your clients focus on doing poses that open the hips and pelvic region and promote flexibility and spinal strength. Baddha Konasana and Upavista Konasana are good examples of hip openers. The most important thing is for the mother-to-be to listen to her body. She will need plenty of rest and shouldn’t push herself, though one to two Yoga classes a week could really benefit her. Every woman and pregnancy is unique, so remind her to discuss changes in her routine and exercise, including Yoga, with her doctor.
Each month is important but in the 1st trimester focus needs to be put on developing a healthy uterine bed. You do this by prescribing foods that nourish Rasa and Rakta. Rasa refers to the plasma portion of the blood, interstitial fluids, the lymph, breast milk and menstrual fluid. Rakta refers to the red blood cells as well as tendons and bile. Foods that nourish Rakta and Rasa include coconut water, fresh fruit and milk. (These should not be eaten at the same time of course, just included in the overall diet of the mother.)
A warm sitz bath can also be done every day or every couple days for the last six weeks of a pregnancy to promote an easier birth. Add a handful of linden flowers to the bath to help soften the perineum.
Abhyanga should be done by the mama-to-be once a day. Abhyanga has numerous and powerful health benefits. This practice helps to maintain energy all day, calms the mind, rejuvenates the nervous system, relieves depression, anxiety and irritation and overall balances Vata Dosha. (When Vata Dosha is calm, the woman will feel calm, energized and happy!) Pure, organic, unrefined sesame oil can be used to pacify Vata Dosha or different herbal oils can be chosen depending on the season and her constitution. Balashwagandhadi and Mahanarayana are two other Vata-calming oils. After the fourth month, massaging the nipples with the oil is recommended.
Aromatherapy can also be a powerful uplifting tool though it should be used discriminatingly and with caution. Some of the aromatherapy oils safe for pregnancy are mandarin, tangerine, grapefruit, roman, chamomile, geranium, rose maroc, rose bulgar, ylangylang, lavender and jasmine. But do not use basil, cinnamon, clove, peppermint and thyme.
Music can also have either a positive or negative effect on the mother. You have probably noticed this for yourself! Listening to a sad song makes you sad, happy songs make you happy, etc. Each emotion that the mother has is transferred directly to the baby. Knowing that, listening to relaxing music becomes much more important. The veena and flute with mantras is said to increase the health of both the mama and the baby. Like it was mentioned before, it is ideal if the mother listens only to things that inspire good feelings and are sattvic.
Ayurveda also claims that unhappy parents can negatively affect the child’s health. Once the 4th month begins it becomes particularly important that the mother and father have a peaceful relationship because this is when the heart first starts developing as the “seat of consciousness.” Before the 4th month, the baby is connected through astral projection, but after the 4th month the mental and physical body fully connect. As an Ayurvedic practitioner, you may be called upon to offer guidance in all aspects of the mother’s life, including her emotional one around relationships. There are many studies in both ancient and modern research that show that negative emotions experienced by the mother may cause low birth weight, difficulty sleeping and colic in the baby. Low birth weight has been linked to a higher susceptibility to disease later in the child’s life.
Typically during the fifth month of pregnancy the mother’s bellybutton begins to protrude out. There are said to be 72,000 nerve endings that come together just underneath the navel, called Nadi’s. This makes the mother-to-be MUCH more sensitive to outside energies coming from other people and places, thus making the baby more sensitive as well. Remind your client of this so she can be extra careful about who she spends time with and where she goes.
In the 8th month of pregnancy, complete rest becomes of the utmost importance! This special time is when ojas (a subtle fluid filled with nutrients) is passed between the mother and baby. Mama should spend as much time as possible in nature to ground herself, as well as meditate and chant mantras. Remind your client to avoid working a lot, worrying, getting angry, being hungry for too long, having too much sex and eating leftovers or processed food in this turning point of her pregnancy. Remind her that what she goes through, the baby goes through. When mom feels pain in a certain place, the baby feels it. When mom has an aggravated Dosha, the baby will have the same aggravated Dosha.
Good sleep for your mother-to-be is key! Mama should go to sleep during the Kapha time of day, so before 10 pm, because it is easier to fall and stay asleep. She should wake up before the Kapha time of morning, so before 6 am. This way she will have more energy and focus. Naps should only be taken during the hot summer months. Resting, however, is vitally important. Mama should rest often and before she gets to a point of fatigue or exhaustion. The first two months and the last two months are when the most rest is typically needed.
Research studies have concluded that an easy birth is highly dependent on a relaxed mind. For the body to be fully relaxed, the mind must be able to be controlled. (This is why meditation, grounding in nature and journaling are so important.) Surrendering to the process of labor is the key to a quick birth. Another key element for the mother-to-be is developing a maternal sense. This is most easily and deeply done when she feels loved and cared for. She needs support from friends and family as well as her partner. It’s especially nice when family and friends cook for her and bring her gifts.
All in all there are a lot of different practices that your pregnant client can do. It is important to not overwhelm or scare her, especially if she doesn’t do many of the things mentioned above initially. If you have a client that already has an established Yoga and spiritual practice then that’s great. But if not, the practices should be implemented slowly but steadily, step-by-step, for someone who is new to them. It’s up to you and the individual how fast that process goes!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our pregnancy series coming soon, detailing the safe herbal remedies for a mother-to-be.
All views and information shared here is only for the sharing of Ayurvedic knowledge. Please do not try or prescribe or take any of the remedies and suggestions here without talking to your regular, qualified doctor. Kottakkal Ayurveda and no other person associated with Kottakkal is responsible for unwanted side-effects or contraindications in your health. Thank you!
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Ahh, Kapha. A Dosha that we all have, made up of earth and water. It gives us many of our best human qualities, such as our grounding, stability and warm emotions. When in excess however, it can have negative consequences on our overall health.
To reduce or pacify kapha, Ayurveda has given us dietary, lifestyle and herbal treatment strategies. To reduce Kapha, emphasize stimulation, exercise, lightening, warming and drying in your diet and lifestyle.