Yoga for birth – 3 types of breath

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This video Yoga for Birth – 3 types of breath is dedicated to my beautiful friend Sarah who requested a video on how to focus on something to help with the pain of labour. I hope you get the birth you’re imagining Sarah and that you get to welcome your newest addition feeling empowered and strong (because you are). x


So I put a call out the other day on Facebook for video requests and this was a great one that was actually already on my list so I knew it had to be first off the rank. (You had to know there would be a whole range of pregnancy and birth videos coming now that I’m expecting our third, right? If you’re not expecting – fear not – I’ve got a really strong inversion prep one for you next week – I promise it won’t be all about babies! #maybe #cantreallypromise).


To answer the original question – what can you focus on to help with the pain?


The breath.


The breath is honestly our most valuable tool during birth.  If you can use the breath to actively relax yourself when things get stressful, when you start feeling afraid and when sensations of pain start getting intense – you have everything you need to get through it.


I recommend practicing ujayii breathing, which just means you create a sound with the breath on the exhale by constricting the throat slightly.  The benefit of this is that you have a sound to focus on as well as the feeling in the throat.  It’s harder to lose focus with both of these things to concentrate on.


During birth there are 3 types of breath you can use whilst practicing ujayii breathing to help reduce pain and fear.


1. Relaxation Breath


Relaxation breathing is used between contractions to relax the body and allows you to get the rest you need.  It can also be helpful when stressful situations come up (like going to hospital or dealing with a less than ideal doctor or midwife).


During this type of breathing we simply try and make each inhale and exhale as long as we possibly can.  You can also use this type of breath as a reminder to take a simple body scan to check everything is relaxed.  Head, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, belly, legs, feet.


2. Soft Belly Breathing


Soft belly breathing is used during contractions to help you focus your energy and oxygen towards the uterus, which is doing the most work at this point in opening the cervix.


Again breathe in and out through the nose but this time imagine the belly filling like a balloon.  Imagine all the air swirling around your baby and then as you exhale imagine the balloon drifting away.  As you do this try to keep the belly as soft as you can, rather than adding to the tension that is naturally occurring.


3. Breathing Down


The final type of breathing is used during the ‘pushing’ stage’.  Though you should be allowing your body to do the work and simply breathing down towards your baby rather than trying to tighten and push as the name suggests (this is actually counter-productive! Don’t believe the TV shows and movies!).


This time we can imagine our belly filling on the inhale, but on the exhale we send all of our air and energy down towards our baby and out.  At the same time we should try and relax through the shoulders and jaw (which helps to relax our lower body) so that the natural expulsive reflex can take over.


So that’s a quick run down of the three types of breath.  There is lots more information and personal story in the video so check that out if this is something that interests you.


You can watch the introduction below or see the full video in my online studio.  If you haven’t already you can sign up for a free 30 day trial of the studio here – no catches – just try the ever-growing library of videos and cancel anytime.  (But there is so much there that I really hope you’ll love it an stick around!).


So tell me, how did you manage pain during labour? Any tips to share on focusing and not freaking out?  Or if you have a request for a video you’d like to see, let me know in the comments!


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