You might’ve heard about women giving birth using nothing but breathing techniques and wondering what the hell it’s all about.
Using your breath is one of the most simple and powerful tools that you can use to help you cope with pregnancy-related symptoms AND in the birth itself to help soothe the sensations of labour in your body. You can use it on its own OR combined with any other coping strategy
In my work as a Qualified Hypnobirthing and Pregnancy Yoga teacher, the breath work we do is paramount to the practice.
I am going to share with you, 3 quick and easy breathing techniques to help you prepare for a more relaxed and enjoyable pregnancy and birth.
All of these 3 techniques send calming signals to your nervous system that all is well and safe. Your body then enters the parasympathetic nervous system and symptoms of stress and anxiety are reduced in the body.
Ok let’s get down to it…
Alternate Nostril Breathing.
How to do it:
- Rest your left hand on your lap or knee.
- Make a “peace sign” with your right hand. Rest them lightly on the bridge of your nose between your eyebrows. Place your thumb gently onto your right nostril. Place your ring and little fingers gently onto your left nostril.
- Close your left nostril (using your ring and little fingers) and release closure of your right. Exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril.
- Close your eyes and begin by softly closing your left nostril (using your right thumb) and inhale slowly, deeply, smoothly, gently.
- Close your right nostril and release closure of your left. Exhale through your left nostril.
This completes one round. Continue the steps for a couple of minutes to get the benefits or as long as you wish. When you’re finished: relax both arms, sit and breathe naturally for a few moments before opening your eyes.
Take a look at this video for a demo, again, a slight variation with the positioning of the hands.
What it’s good for –
If you are suffering from the headaches or insomnia that sometimes come part and parcel with the pregnancy then this is the one for you.
We tend to breathe more through our right nostril when we are stressed or anxious.
A few minutes of this breathing technique can help to ease a headache and help to regulate sleep-wake cycles.
Not good if –
You have a cold or are more congested.
Buzzing Bee Breath
How to do it:
- Sit comfortably, with the back tall and shoulders relaxed.
- Start by taking a few natural breaths, an option here to close your eyes here(as long as closing them doesn’t produce more anxiety).
- Keeping the lips lightly sealed, inhale through the nostrils. Exhaling, make the sound of the letter M, essentially a humming sound. Some people prefer to use the fingers to lightly close off the opening ot he ear and enhance the sound. Sustain the sound until you need to inhale again
- Then repeat: Inhale through the nose, then hum like a buzzing bee as you exhale.
- Continue for several minutes. You can practice as long as it feels good to you.
There are slight variations to the technique and you can watch a video here
What it’s good for-
Levels of anxiety can be heightened in pregnancy, worrying about the birth or how you are going to look after a baby. If you are feeling stressed and anxious or your mind is spinning then this is the breath for you.
Not good if –
You are in public, it’s a noisy breath and you might get some staring, you also might not give a shit, in which case go for it!
3. Belly breathing/Birth breathing
How to do it:
- Take slow deep breathes in the nose and send the breath right down into the bottom of your belly.
- When you breathe out, use the mouth, either gently sighing or pursing the lips and softly blowing The air out. Lightly control the breath, You are looking for the exhale to be longer than the inhale.
- Look for a ratio of 4 counts inhale to 7 counted exhale
- Repeat for a couple of minutes or as long as you like!
There are lots of similar breathing techniques with different names in Hypnobirthing and pregnancy yoga but in essence they are doing the same job.
What’s it good for?
- In pregnancy to stay nice and calm and gently quieten the mind. And you can do it anywhere without drawing attention.
- When you labour it helps you stay calm between your contractions
- Taking in lots of oxygen to send you your reproductive organs (they get priority when your body enters parasympathetic mode I mentioned above) this means your uterus can work efficiently.
- A more comfortable birthing experience. When you are in the parasympathetic nervous mode. The birthing hormones that are responsible for acting as mother nature’s pain relief ( endorphins and oxytocin) can move freely around the body helping to soothe the sensations of your labour
- Helping birth partners to stay calm too! This one isn’t just for the Mamas. I always encourage partners to learn too.
As part of my Hypnobirthing course, I also teach additional breathing techniques to help you cope during the labour. One to use during a contraction to help you work with the muscles of the uterus AND a second to use in the second stage of labour, coupled with a powerful visualisation to help breath your baby down gently and easily.