A True Story
We were about halfway through a typical Thursday 9:30 AM prenatal yoga class when it happened. The fire alarm went off in the building. It was LOUD! I told my students to get up, walk toward the door, leave their yoga mats behind, put on their shoes, grab their belongings and walk down the stairs where we would meet outside. I locked the door and followed them down the stairs from the third floor to the sidewalk. Everyone was calm. They all did exactly what I told them to do. In the hallway and the stairs the alarm was EVEN LOUDER than it had been inside the studio! We assembled on the sidewalk outside the building. I counted. Everyone was present except for one person who walked to their car – and cried – I later learned. The alarm on the outside of the building over our heads was INCREDIBLY LOUD!
In this chaotic setting, I suddenly remembered that I was the yoga teacher in this story. I began to guide my seven pregnant students (and another MamaSpace Yoga teacher who happened to be observing my class) to practice Nadi Shodhana. Sometimes called alternate nostril breathing, Nadi Shodhana is a Pranayama yoga practice. It’s easy to do while standing. It’s exceptionally calming to the nervous system. I confess. At first, I was a little surprised that they followed along and actually did it. Like really, we’re going to make a spectacle of ourselves in front of a crowd of strangers? They kept it up, though. We all did. It didn’t really matter that we were standing on a city sidewalk with an annoyingly loud bell signaling danger right over our heads. We were simply the prenatal yoga class in the midst of all this craziness.
Eventually, the alarm stopped and we were informed we could go back inside the building. Nothing was on fire. We were given the vague explanation that someone on the fourth floor had done an unspecified something that triggered the alarm. All the pregnant people and I trudged back up the stairs to the third floor to begin again.
Response to the Unexpected
I guided everyone to get comfortable in a child’s pose on their mats. While they were assuming this inwardly-focused posture, I asked them to think back and remember everything they could about their initial response when they first heard the alarm – that moment when I told them that we had to leave the building immediately. What did they think? What did they feel? Where did they feel it in their bodies? This, I reminded them, was their conditioned go-to response to unexpected events. I know that birth (and life, in general) is famous for dishing up the unexpected. We have no control over it. What we can control is our response. Once we become more intimate with our conditioned responses to the unexpected, we can evaluate whether these responses serve us. If they don’t, we then have the opportunity to try something different.
Taking Yoga Off The Mat
One of my favorite teachers always says that the real yoga begins when we roll up our mats. She’s right, you know. My pregnant students were fortunate to get this real-world opportunity to take their yoga (in this case Nadi Shodhana) off their mats and onto the sidewalk. They got a glimpse of the conditioned response vs the considered response. This is a gift.
Nadi Shodhana How-To:
WHY SHOULD I DO IT?
- It is relaxing to the central nervous system.
- It reduces stress.
- It brings oxygen to the body.
HOW DO I DO IT?
- Stand on the sidewalk or…
- Sit tall on a small bolster, rolled towel or blanket to tilt your pelvis slightly forward.
- Fold down the index finger and middle finger on your right hand.
- Turn your palm toward your face.
- Place your thumb near your right nostril and your ring finger near your left nostril.
- Gently close your right nostril with your thumb.
- Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring finger.
- Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril.
- Keep the right nostril open, inhale, then close it, and open and exhale slowly through the left.
- This is one cycle. Repeat for three or four cycles – or as many as you need.
WHAT IF IT’S HARD TO BREATHE THROUGH ONE NOSTRIL?
- Breathe through both nostrils while opening and closing the hands in the pattern described above.
Where Can I See A Video About This?
Right here. Our own fabulous Emily Dalsfoist made this wonderful Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) video clip. Enjoy!
About Carol Gray
Carol is the founder and owner of MamaSpace Yoga. She has been a therapeutic bodyworker in private practice for over 30 years. She specializes in Craniosacral Therapy for pregnant and postpartum people and infants. Carol has spent years developing hands-on techniques to enhance the mobility in pregnant bodies including the bony pelvis, the abdominal organs, the support structures and lower segment of the uterus. She is proud to have pioneered the integration of this gentle manual therapy into prenatal care, the birth place and postpartum care for birthing parents and babies. The goal is to give babies more room to develop, grow and get born. Her specially-designed yoga classes have grown naturally from the roots of bodywork and yoga.
Carol has dedicated her professional life to supporting expectant and new families by promoting gentle aware birth. She has attended births for over 35 years – at first as a doula and from 2000 to 2012 as a midwife. She has since retired from attending births in order to focus on practicing and teaching CST and prenatal yoga. Her many years as a birth worker have forever changed her and her worldview. Those experiences remain an integral part of who she is as a therapist and teacher.
Carol is the founder and director of the The Carol Gray Center for CST Studies®. She teaches high-quality, small group classes that are appropriate for bodyworkers, birth attendants and other health professionals. She is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) as a continuing education approved provider.