Article by Evelyn Einhäuser. Based on an online seminar series by Dr. Kausthub Desikachar.
Pregnancy is for many future parents a very special period in their lives and often couples invest much time and energy to prepare themselves accordingly.
The ancient yogis also treated pregnancy with utmost importance, but their perspective on what it actually meant had a much wider scope than what many people think of it today.
Pregnancy was seen as a vehicle in which the spirit could continue on its spiritual journey. Our spirit is anaditvam, without beginning, and anantatvam, without end. It is a continuous, ever existing entity spanning through space and time. This birth is for our spirit like a point on a straight line; a line that has no beginning and no end.
But every birth is still significant for the spirit. Because only when consciousness manifests in matter does it have the ability to fulfill its dharma and can receive liberation. The discovery of it’s own true nature (moksha) is the gift prakriti gave purusha and it is the yogi’s ultimate goal.
In former times, yogis therefore gave huge importance already to a healthy conception. Just like a farmer prepares the ground before he plants the seed, they prepared the parents meticulously.
They wanted the progeny to be as healthy as possible, and with that the yogis did not just imply physical health. They also meant healthy svabhavas (predispositions), vasanas (impressions from past, including from our ancestors), samskaras (patterns) and karma (destiny).
Naturally they also hoped that their children would be healthy so that they could carry on the traditions of the family and community and fulfill their specific dharmas.
In order to create a healthy progeny, the preparations for conception started already three months before the actual act. According to the Carakasamhita, an ancient ayurvedic and yogic text, the couple would undergo processes of oleation (oils were enriched with special herbs) and sudation (sweating) to remove toxins and excess Vata. Purgation (virechana) and vomitting (vamana) as well as specific enemas helped eliminate excess Kapha and Pitta. The couple also had to follow a very specific diet that supported a balance of the four elements and six tastes in both parents.
After three months of cleansing procedures they waited until the woman got her period, as the time right after menstruation was perceived as the ideal time to conceive. From the first day of menstruation onwards the woman was supposed to sleep on the ground for three days and was meant to also not clean herself during that time. It was a ritual that helped the future mother connect thoroughly with mother Earth and feel held by her. The man also slept on the ground for the same amount of time. On the fourth day, both partners were supposed to bathe, oil themselves and wear white. Before the actual act they were then meant to recite a mantra that asked the gods for a strong and brave child, a child that would not just be able to survive but would have the best predispositions to pursue a spiritual path.
Many factors were considered important and said to be influencing the progeny at the time of conception, from the health status and spiritual inclination of the parents to the blessings from other family members and the actions of ancestors.
Yoga practices for preconception traditionally addressed three areas of the body: First the metabolism, as it plays an important part in the healthy development of the dhatus. Sukra or the seminal fluid is the final dhatu. Therefore by influencing metabolism we ensure that the seed of the man and woman will produce the healthiest offspring. The second area targeted the circulation, as it has a role for the mobility of prana, the distribution of nourishment and the passing on of vasanas and samskaras. And for all practices the breath naturally had a vital role, as it aids to general health, circulation, vitality and is the link to the Atma.
Specific twisting asanas and mudras as well as other pranayama techniques like suryabhedana or ujjayi are perfect to support the metabolic functioning while Vinyasa Krama with brhmana asanas and pranayama with specific karanyasas, sariranyasas or bhavanas is best suited to aid circulation.
But not just the physical aspects were taken into consideration. For the ancient yogis, the mental faculty at the time of conception was maybe even more significant. At best, the mind was meant to be in a state where it was satmyamanah (wholesome), saumyamanah (pleasant), kamasahita (with the desire for the partner and to have an offspring), adhyatmika (spiritually connected) and full of sraddha (faith) and dhairya (courage).
To prepare the mind accordingly, special meditations were recommended to the parents, like for example the Kamala dhyanam (a meditation on a blossoming lotus), the balamukunda dhyanam (meditation on Krsna as a child) or the gayatri dhyanam (meditation on the sun in its female form). Also specific affirmations were meant to help people change negative thought patterns so their minds would be positive.
The integral approach of preparing not just the body, but also the mind for conception is something that also modern yogis should keep in mind when they want to become pregnant.
And even if some of the ancient ayurvedic preparations and measurements might seem like an ordeal to some modern day practitioners, many of the ancient yogis were happily undergoing all these procedures. Because they had the awareness that the true beauty of pregnancy lies not just in doing something for yourself, but in contributing to help another spirit in its journey onward and upward.
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