This article was written for OM magazine (www.ommagazine.com), and was featured Autumn 2012. OM magazine is one of the leading national yoga magazines and can be bought in Tescos. Susannah also has a regular feature in OM called ‘Spot the Difference’.
Breathing for a Better Pregnancy and Birth
Breathing well is especially important during pregnancy when you are breathing for your unborn baby as well as yourself. Each breath nourishes your baby with new oxygenated blood and takes waste products away. Your breathing also gently rocks your baby with the ebb and flow of your breath.
Higher & Lower
When we breathe fully and smoothly we feel relaxed and free. This usually involves breathing low into your belly. During activity and when experiencing stress our breathing moves higher up in the chest. Breathing higher up in daily life will increase feelings of anxiety. The converse is also true. If you become conscious of your breathing, and allow it to settle lower into your belly you will feel more relaxed. In pregnancy as your baby grows you may experience as sense of ‘less space to breath’ and of your breath being higher and faster. This can be misunderstood as anxiety, in pregnancy this lighter higher breathing is perfectly healthy.
Reduce Anxiety & Feel Good
During pregnancy it is normal to experience some anxiety as you grow into becoming a mother. Normal levels do not harm your baby but knowing how to breathe well will help you feel good. This can be especially useful during procedures that you are not looking forward to, for instance giving blood or internal examinations. You can help yourself enjoy pregnancy by focusing on a steady relaxed out breath.
Look, Listen & Feel
Watching and listening to your breath can help increase positive emotions and bring you back to yourself. This process of noticing the breath and focusing on it is called breath awareness. You can listen to the noise of your breathing, see your body rise and fall with each breath, and feel the expansion in your lungs. You may even feel movements in your spine and pelvic floor as you breathe. Breath awareness will help you gently settle your mind and emotions throughout your pregnancy.
Traditional yogic breathing practices cleanse, balance, heat and cool the body. Nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) is good for balancing the body by stimulating the left and right sides. This is good for pregnancy as it can gently energise, or relax, depending on what you need most at that time. Many yoga breathing practices are too strong for pregnancy so there are breathing practices have been developed which have been specifically devised for pregnancy.
Conscious Breathing for Birth
Using breath awareness during labour will help you work with your body and become more intuitive. Consciously watching your out breath will focus your mind, which allows your body’s natural intelligence to get on with the job it needs to do, unhampered by your thoughts. Conscious breathing will help you feel steady, and trust your body to ‘go with’ the experience. Imagine you are blowing away any discomfort or anxiety to help you stay in the moment.
Specialised breathing practices act as a natural form of ‘pain relief’. These practises focus on a long exhalation and soft mouth. Birth-Day breathing and Dandelion breathing adapt to your needs during each contraction. Each contraction increases to a peak, and then decreases again – in these Birth-Day breathing techniques your breathing does the same. Many women come back to YogaBirth class full of amazement about how these breathing techniques have worked so well for them.
‘It made a HUGE HUGE difference – the breathing works wonders!’ Leeza Minns
Your Birth, Breath & Baby
Your breathing connects you with your baby throughout pregnancy, labour and birth. Bringing your baby into the world is one of the most important things you will ever do, and breathing your baby into the world is a beautiful, satisfying way to do it.
Susannah has written and illustrated ‘Yoga & breathing for pregnancy & birth’. This covers yoga, specialised breathing techniques and active birth positions and is available from www.amazon.co.uk and www.theyoga.co.uk/yoga-shop/