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Ayurveda for Pregnancy: Wisdom for the Mother-to-Be
By Margo Bachman
A huge wave of anxiety swept over me in the eighth month of my first pregnancy. I was worried that I wouldn’t know what to do in labor, and I would forget everything I had been practicing. And even though I was overjoyed to become a mother, I also felt nervous about how much my life would change. I wondered if I could still travel freely, and if I would feel satisfied staying home with the baby for a year.
Nervousness and anxiety, characteristic emotions of imbalanced Vata dosha, are natural and understandable, especially during pregnancy. To create more harmony for myself, I followed a basic Vata-reducing program of eating warming, well-cooked, and spiced foods. I got plenty of rest and spent several days a week swimming and massaging warm sesame oil all over my very pregnant body. My teacher and mentor taught me a chant to invoke divine qualities in my growing baby. Through chanting slowly and calmly, I began to feel very relaxed in my body and mind. I practiced daily an asana called Supta Baddha Konasana, extending the exhalations to relax my nervous system, while my body softened and I visualized a smooth labor. Within a few weeks, my anxiety diminished significantly, and I felt more grounded and prepared for what lay ahead.
The month finished with a birth blessing ceremony guided by my friend Nina. She organized a circle of my closest women friends to gather and prepare me for my new journey. All the women brought candles, a blessing, and part of a meal to share. Nina began the ceremony, smudging everyone with sage and waving an eagle feather to energetically clear the space. Each woman came up to me, one by one, and gave me a blessing for the birth and my new life. We all shared a meal illuminated by candlelight. My heart felt blown open as I realized how special each relationship truly was. At the end of the ceremony, Nina organized a sign-up sheet for women to prepare home-cooked meals for me after the baby arrived. I left feeling deeply nurtured, inspired, and confident about the changes to come.
Instability of Ojas
“Ojas is the essence of the body responsible for strength, natural resistance and is considered essential for life,” says the Ashtanga Hridayam, a classic Ayurvedic text. “It is said to be present in the heart. . . . Its presence in the fetus and mother produce strength and contentment, and its absence fatigue and anxiety.”
I now see that the vacillation of my emotions during this eighth month was perhaps from an instability of ojas. Almost every classical Ayurvedic text talks about how ojas moves from the mother to the fetus and from the fetus to the mother in the eighth month. Because of this transfer, it is said that the mother and fetus alternately become happy and energetic when ojas is strong, then fatigued and anxious when ojas is weak. The instability of ojas makes it an unfavorable time to give birth, both for the mother and for the baby’s health.
You may notice yourself feeling surges of energy coming and going, obviously or subtly. You may also not notice anything, which is completely fine. Either way, this month is an opportune time to replenish your ojas by following a diet and lifestyle appropriate to your constitution. If you have strayed from following a diet that is in harmony with your dosha, now is an ideal time to come back to it.
Ojas can be fortified by eating foods that build and nourish, and by doing wholesome, rejuvenating activities and yogic practices. You may notice that some foods and activities will have more noticeable and immediate effects on your energy and vitality, while others will take longer to kick in. Regardless of what you feel or notice, replenishing and supporting your ojas will help you to feel balanced, strong, and healthy through the end of your pregnancy and into postpartum.
almonds and walnuts
dates and figs
honey (avoid raw honey in pregnancy)
fresh fruits and fresh pressed juice
saffron and cardamom
fresh ghee, butter, and milk (particularly warm, spiced milk)
whole grains, like wheat
split mung beans
root vegetables (like yams)
With Nourishing Activities
being in nature
spending time away from computers, telephones, and televisions
performing oil self-massage daily
taking a relaxing vacation
With Yogic Practices
certain breathing exercises outlined in this book
ayurvedic (tridoshic) herbal jelly called chyavanprash (safe in 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy, if certified and tested organic)
This is an excerpt from my new release: Yoga Mama Yoga Baby, Ayurveda and Yoga for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth. Available from amazon.com, margoshapirobachman.com, barnesandnoble.com and soundstrue.com.