Your breath is your anchor, is something I find myself saying a lot in my pregnancy and postnatal yoga classes.
It's common for people to join yoga in pregnancy for the first time, and for people to have not had much experience in being aware of their breath and the influence it has on their body and emotions. I love that pregnancy yoga introduces this powerful tool to people.
We can use our breath in many ways - to help calm us, to energise us, to regulate, to help us manage pain, to clear and quieten. There are many breathing 'techniques' in traditional yoga practises, but a good place to start is just simply noticing your breathing, and using that as a focus. Perhaps also focussing on the sound of the breath, a lovely soft inhale and exhale, to anchor you to the present moment.
We often practise this breath awareness in pregnancy as a way of helping us remain calm, during this period of change and transformation. Using our breath as an anchor back to calm can carry us through so many situations in our parenthood journey...
During examinations and procedures in labour/birth, our breathing helps us keep our pelvic floor relaxed and releases tension through the rest of the body.
When we have difficult decisions to make in pregnancy/labour, we use our breath to help us make these decisions from a place of calm, rather than adrenaline filled fear. It also gives us a sense of space, and time, to make the right decisions for us.
Once our baby has arrived, we take those deep, slow breaths during the afterpains and first feeds. We breathe deeply with long releasing sighs and exhales, during the tiredness and sleepless nights.
Our ability to come back to our breath, and ourselves, is so valuable time and time again in early parenthood. When our toddler is refusing to move from the floor in the supermarket, when we are spinning many plates and it feels like all of them are dropping, when we haven't had a moments peace all day - our breath gives us a sense of rooting.
Here are a couple of common breathing practises we use in pregnancy and postnatal yoga...
- Golden thread breath (similar to 'UP' breathing in hypnobirthing). Inhale through the nose, and the exhale is released through a small gap between the lips. Some people like to visualise a golden thread, spiralling out in front of their closed eyes. For others, counting the inhale and exhale (in for 4, out for 8/more) is more helpful. It's the longer exhale which brings us into our 'rest and digest' state (parasympathetic nervous system response).
- Diaphragmatic breathing. This involves breathing 'fully'. The hands can be placed on the belly, ribs and then chest, to help us visualise the expansion and softening that happens with each breath. When we breathe fully, our core system and pelvic floor can respond in the way it needs to.
To learn more about breathing techniques and practises you can join my pregnancy yoga classes, parent and baby yoga classes, or one to one sessions in Cirencester.