Pranayama and an Unplanned Pregnancy

July 17, 2015

By Sari Leigh


Unplanned pregnancy? Pick up a pranyama practice and breathe through it

Unplanned pregnancy? Pick up a pranayama practice and breathe through it

“I am a grown woman. I can do whatever I want!” Beyonce’s words blared through my stereo all last year. I waved my finger in the mirror mimicking Beyonce’s tough posterior. I loved the brazen and unapologetic words belting out from Beyonce’s lips.

She was speaking my language. I am a grown, unmarried, child-free, independent, employed and a degreed woman! I can do whatever I want.

This was all until I found out that I was pregnant.

I coincidentally found out about my little fetal miracle while sitting in the doctor’s office for my annual pap smear.  My moon cycle was missing in action and my gynecologist said, “You are almost 37 years old. What are you gonna do about babies?” My doctor has always been light hearted, attentive and patient about pregnancy. But this time his tone more was serious. I said, “Well my partner and I are not married. I just started a PhD program and financially I just don’t know how a kid would fit in.”  He nodded  with a gaze that implies,  “Is that it?” But his lips said, “Well I don’t want you to run into complications.

“If you want children, now is a good time to start.”

I left the doctor’s office rather smugly thinking, “I am different than other women. I am a yoga instructor, pilates practitioner, a fitness fanatic. My body is under my control.”

“I am a grown woman, I will have babies whenever I want!”

Later that week, my body decides that it has different plans. Two First Response pregnancy tests and a call from my obgyn later, I received a confirmation that I was surprisingly  pregnant! I took a deep breath. I called my best friend and I repeated Beyonce’s mantra, but with a little less enthusiasm. “I am a grown woman? Can I do whatever I want?” I decided to go forward with my pregnancy.

Yet for some reason, I felt like a 16 year old teenager who’d let her parents down.

Discovering that I was pregnant, unmarried and unplanned brought on a host of emotions that revealed my insecurities about being a mother. My body, my finances and my relationships would shift. Yeah I am grown, but it also meant that I was subjected to the humbling laws of change and growth.

Usually when I am faced with a major life transition, I go to my yoga mat. But this was different. My baby and my body did not agree with the pelvic movements in the asana practice. I tried belly dancing, spin and zumba. But unlike all the other grown women who can balance on their heads with big bellies, I could barely walk for 10 minutes.

I was stressed and disappointed in myself.

Six months into my pregnancy, I was placed on hospitalized bed rest. This led to more stress as I was shocked, saddened, confused and scared. But I remembered a popular  yoga quote, “If you can’t move, you can breathe.” I called out for help and two of my yoga sisters, Tiffany and Kahlil, visited me while in the hospital. We held a deep breathing meditation for the beautiful birth of my child. We revisited the basics of the breath. Inhaling deep into belly, the chest the throat. Exhaling releasing all fear, doubt or anger.  We revised the “I am a grown woman” mantra with “I am beautiful, I am bountiful and I am blissful.”

Pregnancy challenged my claims of being grown.

More than being a grown woman, my baby asked me to become a calm woman. So I respected her wishes and kept on breathing, chanting and praying.  Being grown got me in the situation, but being calm will get me through it.  One month later my daughter arrived early, but she is whole, healthy, beautiful, bountiful and blissful.

My unplanned pregnancy taught me about the power of pranayama when faced with uncontrollable and limited physical movement. I learned that my breath would last much longer than my asana practice. My life force will live through my child, not just through a chaturanga.  The practice of pranayama is a steady reminder  that before us there was the breath. After everything there will be the breath.

But in order to get through anything, we need to stay connected to our breath.

I am grateful to God, the medical teams at Sibley, Georgetown University Hospital, the Southeast and DC yoga community for their donations and for my sisters Tiffany, Kahlil, Renee, Jada, Siddeeqah, Syreeta, Tika, the DC Doula Malika, Dave and Amandae for the spiritual and emotional support.
For more info on having a healthy pregnancy:

Dr. Tursha Hamilton Podcast



  1. Claudia says:

    Thank you for this post. It is a reminder that when life happens that you must find your breath. Blessings to you!

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