We are all born knowing how to breathe. Did you ever notice how a baby breathes? Each breath is deep and full, filling the entire body. Each exhale empties completely. It is rhythmic and natural. Somewhere along the line, we forget how to do this. Maybe we tighten our bellies as we breathe in. Perhaps we forget to breathe fully, getting by on shallow breaths until something in our day causes us to suck in a load of air and release it in a tremendous sigh. The huge sigh is our body’s way to remind us to breathe.
Why is breath so important in pregnancy? Breath can help you through labor and delivery. By learning to breathe consciously, you can use your breath through moments of difficulty and pain. The mind is more relaxed when deep breathing is practiced. The body becomes calmer, enabling the body to “let go.” It is your natural rhythm. You learn to tune into the body and increase your body awareness.
In my prenatal yoga classes, we try to create a synergy between breath and movement. As we move through postures, we use the breath to open up spaces in the body. We try to cultivate strength and softness. We use the breath to clear the mind of anxiety and find a space of peaceful stillness.
Try this belly breathing to release tension and anxiety:
Sit on the floor, in a comfortable cross-legged position. ( Sit on a pillow to raise the hips if you have lower back pain.) Place both hands lightly on the belly. Breathe in slowly, through the nose, filling the belly with breath, expanding from the bottom to the top. Breathe out slowly, from the top to the bottom. If it helps to visualize, imagine filling a pitcher with milk–The bottom of the pitcher fills first, filling from the bottom to the top. When you breathe out, imagine pouring from this pitcher; The top of the pitcher spills out first, emptying from top to bottom.
Move only the belly, not the chest. Let the diaphragm do the work. Visualize the breath as light. As you breathe in, you are sending this “light” to your baby. As you breathe out, you are releasing tension and toxins from the body.
Practice this breath whenever you need to clear the mind. Take time out of your day to find some peace. A little relaxation will go a long way!
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