Say the word breathing to nearly any pregnant woman and her mind immediately goes to the old patterned paced breathing, often associated with panting dogs and laboring women. Not only is this form of breathing not appropriate for labor and birth, it's not great for pregnant women either. Breathing in yoga is a completely different form.
The Yoga Breath
Ujayi breathing, or the yoga breath, is said to promote calmness and a feeling of well-being. During your pregnancy, practicing this form of breathing can be beneficial to you and your baby in many ways. It will help you learn relaxation techniques that are beneficial for labor. As your mind and body relax, you are better able to give birth with reduced amounts of pain.
Breathing is a known way to reduce stress and to increase relaxation. This is the foundation of most childbirth classes. What type of breathing is practiced varies from organization to organization. Be sure to ask your potential teachers which form of breathing they use.
To learn this technique, you will need to practice. Slowly intake your breath, filling your belly or abdomen first, and then draw the air up into your lungs until they fill and your rib cage separates. Then slowly exhale all of the air until your lungs are completely empty. You can add thoughts to the breathing as well.
For example, imagine, as you breathe in that you are bringing good, clean air to your baby. “See” that breath travel down through your body and through the placenta and umbilical cord to your baby. Then as you exhale, imagine carrying away all the toxins in your body, away from your baby.
Holding your breath in labor while pushing can decrease the amounts of oxygen to you and your baby. It can also lead to excessive straining, which can cause hemorrhoids or even tearing of the perineum if the baby is born too quickly.
Learning to control your breath is also important in the pushing phase of labor. Doing yoga-type breathing during this phase will increase your oxygen levels as well as those of your baby. This makes it safer and more satisfying for you as you push your baby into this world.