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 the 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.

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  1. says.who says:

    thats rubbish!!
    pranayam is proven to have a positive effect on the body and mind during pregnancy.only bhastrika,anulom vilom,ujjai and bhramri are practiced.these are mild pranayams annd have no ill effect on the mother and baby.infact these even help pregnant women aviod depression,high blood pressure,aches n pains.only kapalbhati needs to be avoided during pregnancy,rest of the pranayams need soundless breathing,for more information buy swami ramdevs dvd on pranayam n yoga during pregnancy

    • 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).

      • 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.

  2. 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.

    • 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.

  3. Ganesh says:

    Hello Dr. Hebbar, I found and article when I searched on internet about the same, as my wife just became pregnant.

    Do you have any comments on this?

    Some Pranayam like inhaling air and releasing but don’t hold it. Will this type of Pranayam help in pregnancy?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      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.

    • Ganesh, for the sake of your wife, please seek information from a QUALIFIED practitioner with prenatal experience!!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!!

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      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.

      • It is difficult to understand why people think of Pranayama as such a ‘simple’ thing that it can be done so casually without much consideration at all for the state of physiology/body, mind and spirit of the person attempting it.

        Even simple things in diet like salt have to be avoided by people with high blood pressure and by those who suffer from restlessness/anxiety. Is it so hard then, to imagine that Direct, Conscious Control of ‘Breath’ (i.e. the Life Force or Prana, stopping which results in instant death of the physical body) can come with exceedingly high levels of risk, if not done right, or if done by ineligible people under some very strict criteria? For those who are unaware, there happens to be exactly such a criteria that is very strict, but is not known to most people. Dr Hebbar is the only person I know who has been good enough to outline this “criteria” in his other article on Pranayama on this website:

        In Pranayama, you are converting a mostly ‘involuntary’ process of breathing into a ‘voluntary’ (consciously controlled) one. Can it be so easy to do that? Prana/breath controls our Life and Death, it controls all our voluntary and involuntary processes when we have ‘life’. So Pranayama (breath control) is almost like attempting to take over the reigns of our life from God/Nature’s hands into our own. Surely, it cannot be trivial to even begin to do that.

        Breathing involves 3 parts – inhaling, holding and exhaling (and that’s only what we understand at a very superficial physical level). Saying that “As long as you don’t do Kumbhaka, it is perfectly safe”, is like saying — “You can drive on an unknown road at 300 kmph. Just as long as there is no bump there, you’ll be perfectly fine.” What is the guarantee that you won’t end up doing Kumbhaka if you’re not proficient? Breathing is an involuntary process, remember? Can’t Kumbhaka happen involuntarily and leave you dumbfounded? Can’t a bump on the road show up suddenly from nowhere? Is it really in your control? In contrast, walking, running, lifting weights, exercising, Yogasana, etc. are all voluntary actions. Think about it objectively…

        To the best of my knowledge, only those in very advanced stages of (spiritual) evolution actually have the ‘capacity’ or ‘power’ to do Pranayama safely and that too must do it under the direct guidance of a very proficient Guru – finding one is a different topic altogether. For the rest, it’s just very tough for me to believe it is safe…

        Last but not the least, there are much safer alternatives to achieving the goals we have with Pranayama. We just need to explore them sincerely and we will find them. Pranayama is not child’s play.


  6. In olden times, Pranayama was done under direct and very careful physical supervision of the Guru. Today, Pranayama is taught ‘remotely’ and practiced on one’s own, and yes people have seen large benefits, but we should remember that any ‘tool’ or ‘medicine’ or ‘practice’ that is very powerful and has very positive effects, can also have equally disastrous effects if done incorrectly. So there is a risk. Talking about that risk, like this article does, can only help.

    It is my understanding that there are alternative ways to having the same effect as Pranayama that are much safer to do on one’s own for people in today’s age. Today our body and mind are not as strong as that of people in earlier ages where Pranayama was an integral part of the Gurukula system. Hence it can be ‘risky’ for the average person to do today, particularly when not done under direct guidance. (guidance means everyday practice, not just learning once under guidance). If you find it hard to believe this, consider that even gym physical training or any sports coaching is done under direct visual supervision.

    If we suffer from common cold, we won’t use a broad purpose antibiotic to help cure the cold. Sure, taking an antibiotic may help the cold, but it might cause more harm than good too depending on various factors. So we’ll probably just use some simple home remedies. Pranayama is the one of the ultimate spiritual tools to achieve great spiritual heights. Even for those with spiritual goals, Pranayama is not the first thing advised. So, using it for mere physical benefits is possible, but perhaps not the best thing, perhaps there are better alternatives. The point is that our individual goal should match the tool’s intended goal. And teachers should be careful about communicating the intended goals of the tools.

    In the end, of course, we have to evaluate what works for us, and what doesn’t…but care is necessary and right knowledge cannot hurt.

  7. If you want to avoid pranyama then do sudarshan kriya

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

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

  8. in kriya you cannot rigrously you can do normally

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      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.

  9. 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.

  10. Carolina Dutt Bhatt says:

    Practicing Pranyama with acertified prenatal Yoga instructor who knows which forms are suitable and also that holding the breath of course is a abolutely no-go while pregnancy, Pranayamas can definitely be performed to improve health and provide mental relaxation to the pregnant lady.

    As many degrees you might have, I think it is never possible for a man to know how a female body feels and especially a female body while pregnancy and LABOUR PAIN.
    You write it is not possible to sit straight for a pregnant lady – In my prenatal classes I teach from 13th week of pregnancy how to improve posture and bring awareness to a healthy sitting position which creates space for the baby inside the womb as well as it if beneficial to avoid backpain. For such a lady it is not hard to sit upright, alsonot during late stages of pregnancy.

    Pregnant ladies will not practise Pranayam for a long time, but only for a short time, and only those which are suitable for beginners and pregnancy.
    Awareness towards the breath is MOST important in preparation for a natural and heathly delivery, to avoid epidurals which can lead to complications and finally a Cecerian. (which can be absolutely avoided if there are no complications).

    Please clarify the information you provide, since you misguide some woman who could highle benefit from breathing tequniques,

    Thank you, Namaste

  11. indig011082 says:

    I need some clarification, my wife was unaware of her pregnancy and performed Kapalbhati for 30 mins and aganisar for around 10 mins with 15 surnamskar. Now she has stopped doing it after confirmation. She is now 6 weeks pregnant. Did this will have some adverse effect on our child?

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