Pregnancy Yoga – Breathing Tools
In her book, Preparing for Birth with Yoga, Janet Balaskas suggests that many women find releasing sounds helpful in coping with intense or painful contractions.
It can be useful to practice sound breathing in labour positions from time to time throughout your pregnancy so that your body ‘learns’ to breathe spontaneously, with sound, for labour and birth. If you practice now you will do this instinctively at the time.
During each pregnancy yoga class, a few breathing techniques will be weaved throughout the session. The aim is to empower you with a few tools to help calm the breath and focus the mind. Below are some breathing tools described, so you can give them a go at home.
Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath)
This way of breathing is extremely grounding and centering. This breath can be used in breaks between contractions. Try to use this breath throughout each yoga class so that is becomes easy to drop into.
To do the ujjayi breath, breathe in and out through the nose, drawing the breath from the back of the throat, to create a gentle aspirant sound.
As Matthew Sweeney puts it – “don’t breathe with your face. Minimise sound at the nose and avoid clenching the teeth, let the teeth be apart – the aspirated sound should not bounce off the roof of the mouth. Thus, the sound drops into the throat and chest, allowing better diaphragmatic movement, with the bottom jaw relaxed and lowered slightly. The tongue can rest on the bottom of the mouth.
The sound of the inhalation should match the sound of the exhalation, rather than a louder and harsher sound on the exhalation. The exhalation should peaceful at all times“.
Use your ujjayi breath in your standing poses. These poses are good for developing physical strength as well as the mental fortitude necessary for labour. These poses help to build stamina, courage and is a place to learn how to steady the breath and remain calm, even as the body works strenuously.
Chanting OM (AUM) is beneficial in both developing sound awareness and lengthening the exhalation. The continuous chanting of OM for several minutes, can be very calming.
OM is actually chanted as AUM. The first sound ‘Aaaaaaaaaaah’ starts deep down, low in the belly, then changes to ‘ooooooooouuuuuuuu’ which travels further up the body to the solar plexis, then changes into the ‘mmmmmmmmmmmm’ which resonates up over the head.
Sit in a comfortable seated position and do 8 rounds to begin with.
Bhramari (The Humming Bee Breath)
The Humming Bee Breath involves making a series of long, humming sounds – ‘mmmmmmmmm’. It has a direct impact on the pituitary gland, which influences the ‘relaxation response’, counteracting our ‘stress response’. It can be deeply calming when done. (As described by Ana Davis, Bliss Baby Yoga)
Sit in a comfortable seated position (maybe a baddha konasana against the wall). Take a deep breath in, and then hum (mmmmmmm) on the out breath, inhale, then hum (mmmmmmm) on the out breath. Do 5 rounds.
You can also do the humming bee breath with the thumbs closing off the ears and the hands wrapped around the skull.