Breathing is second nature to us all. We take our first breath the moment we are born. We breathe in, we breathe out. We inhale, we exhale. But do we know truly how to breathe effectively? Being mindful of our breath can really help us to stay calm, focused, and relaxed. Breathing techniques can help reduce our anxiety, regulate blood pressure and keep our cortisol levels to a minimum. Hence why breathing techniques are taught in some antenatal classes (especially hypnobirthing) For a woman to birth her baby with as little intervention as possible, oxytocin needs to be present. And for oxytocin to be present, cortisol levels need to be at a minimum. And for cortisol levels to be at a minimum, a pregnant woman needs to be as stress-free and as calm as possible. And to help a pregnant woman to stay as calm as possible, you begin with the breath.
Below are a few breathing techniques and exercises that have helped me on my motherhood journey so far:
• GOLDEN THREAD
This is a breathing technique used in yoga practice. The inhale is taken through the nose, followed by a longer exhale (can be doubled) and passed through the mouth with pursed lips. All the while, imagining that a golden thread is moving from your lips in a figure of eight motion/ or a long straight thread.
I learned this breathing technique in pregnancy yoga and applied it during labour with both of my daughters. For me, it worked wonders.
• J BREATHING
This is a breathing technique taught in hypnobirthing classes. It’s a technique used to help assist you during the birth of your baby during the ‘pushing’ phase. By breathing in through your nose and out through your nose (whilst imagining you’re breathing out the motion of a J bend/pipe- or imagining you’re doing a poo!!) you are using the muscles to open up the space for your baby to be born.
• BREATHING AND STRETCHING
This can be applied to any stage in your life, but especially motherhood. Being a mother is testing at times and when our children push the boundaries, we are pushed to our limits. By stopping in our tracks, taking deep breaths in and out and really being mindful of the present, we are helping to diffuse any tension and stress. I have raised my voice a few times (I am human and struggle sometimes too) and I find it supportive if I roll my shoulders back and take a few breaths. My husband and i also encourage our eldest daughter to take a big stretch up to the sky and a deep breath and to repeat this three times. It helps to calm her down and settles her after she’s been crying or having a meltdown.
As with a lot of breath work, you may benefit from having your eyes closed. You may find this helps you to stay grounded, focused and feel more connected to your mind, body and soul. Some say the best things in life are free and breathing is a true example of that. Breathing allows us to gain clarity and concentration in our lives. It also helps us to slow down and live in the moment.