The summertime, especially down in Texas, is hot and sunny. While this can make for some fun days of swimming at the river with the kiddos, it can also make for some uncomfortably hot days, especially for mamas in the midst of summer pregnancy. According to Ayurveda, the fire and water elements naturally increase in our environment during the summer. This means that the hot, sharp, light, mobile and oily qualities can rise in our bodies leading excess internal heat. When heat moves into unwanted areas we can experience rashes, headaches, heartburn, burning eyes, indigestion, hyperacidity, and many other inflammatory conditions. These imbalances annoy anyone, but especially pregnant mamas in the summer. Luckily from an Ayurvedic perspective, there are some basic practices that can help most people to stay cool during the summer. 1) Eat sweet and cooling foods (avoid hot, oily, spicy foods): Healthy grains, rice, milks, fresh fruits, fresh coconut, split yellow mung beans, dates, soaked or blanched peeled almonds, warm steamed greens, sesame seeds and ghee in moderation. All of these foods are cooling, and excellent for pregnant women in the summer.
2) Shitali/Sitkari Pranayama: Excellent cooling breath for anyone wanting to cool down, but especially pregnant mamas. Be sure to be gentle with any pr?n?yama during pregnancy, and reduce the amount of breaths to between 1 and 3 (instead of the normal 10-12).
A dear colleague and fabulous yoga therapist Genevieve Yellin of Sundara Yoga Therapy gives wonderful instructions for these two breathing exercises:
Shitali: Lower the chin slightly. Curl the tongue and begin to draw the air in through the straw of the tongue. As your draw air in, slowly lift your child toward the ceiling. Do not drop your head back, the goal is to open the throat. Close your mouth at completion of the inhalation to wet the tongue. Exhale slowly though the nostrils as you lower your chin. Make the exhalation longer than the inhalation.
Sitkari: Draw the upper and lower teeth close together, but not touching. Place the tongue just behind the teeth and “flattened.” Draw the lips back and wide to exposure all the teeth. Draw air in through the teeth and slowly lift your chin toward the ceiling. Do not drop your head back, the goal is to open the throat. Close your mouth at completion of the inhalation to wet the tongue. Exhale slowly through the nostrils as you lower your chin. Make the exhalation longer than the inhalation.
3) Stay Hydrated: Water, water with fresh squeezed lime (lime is cooling while lemon is heating), coconut water, and cooling herbal infusions are excellent. Cooling herbal infusions ca include a homemade blend of Raspberry leaf, Nettle, and Oatstraw. For infusions, boil 1 cup of water to 1 Tablespoon of herbal mixture). Pour water over herb and steep for 30-60 minutes. Yogi Tea also has a wonderful “Women’s Mother to Be” blend. The herbs above are cooling, and nourishing for pregnant mommas in the summer.
4) Coconut Oil Abhyanga for 2nd or 3rd trimesters of pregnancy (& anytime during preconception or postpartum): Follow directions outlined in our abhyanga post, but DON'T massage the oil in deeply, simply spread over the skin the way your would a lotion. *Avoid if there is any sign that pregnancyis threatened, and also avoid during the first trimester.
5) Stay out of the sun between 10am and 2pm: The fire element is strongest between 10 and 2 (and arguably until 4pm in the southwest!). In the summer, pregnant moms should stay inside and rest and relax during these hours.