Yesterday I saw an amazing video on Facebook showing the movement of the diaphragm when breathing. This little video clip demonstrates the range of motions breathing creates, it’s amazing!
Breath is the tool that holds body and mind together and brings them to life. Without this magnificent tool we would not be able to live, and yet, we usually take breathing for granted. Breathing, of course, happens even if we don’t pay any attention to it, but after we become conscious of it, and start putting an effort on making it more profound, can we greatly improve the quality of our life.
Babies are experts in the use of the diaphragm, and are known to have a very profound diaphragmatic breathing. Unfortunately, already around the age of three, children lose diaphragmatic breathing, causing their breath to become shallower. This is thought to be caused by increased stress levels associated to starting daycare. In fact, stress is one of the biggest reasons why children and adults have short and shallow breath. When somebody is stressed, their breathing becomes faster, preventing the body from receiving all the oxygen it needs to function properly. When a woman is pregnant, the ability to control her breath becomes even more important, because she is actually breathing for two and is responsible of providing enough oxygen and nutrients for the baby.
She will face many physical and emotional changes. One of biggest physiological changes relating to breathing, during pregnancy, is a blood volume increase, up to fifty percent. This means that there is proportionately less haemoglobin, and that the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is reduced causing breathlessness. Additionally, the heart rate increases so that the body can circulate the increased blood volume. When the expectant mother becomes fully aware of her breathing, she can reverse some of these negative physiological changes in her body. Knowing how to control her breath, she can gently lengthen and deepen it. This slows the heart rate. Even though the capacity to carry oxygen in the blood is reduced, the pregnant woman can still increase the amount of oxygen available to her by practising deep breathing. This increases the gaseous exchanges with the mother’s blood, making oxygen and important nutrients more available to the foetus, which then promotes good foetal growth.
Another big change that occurs later in the pregnancy is a limited movement of the diaphragm, caused by the growing belly. Through yoga, women can learn other ways of breathing and keeping their breath long and deep. One of the best ways to achieve that is to expand the movements of respiration into the sides of the ribcage, and the upper back. To do this, women need first to become conscious of their breathing, so that they may explore the different ways of having a full breath.
Many pregnant women suffer from constipation. This is partly caused by the growing uterus that creates pressure on the digestive organs. Deep breathing gives a nice massage to the digestive organs, helping them function better. Not only does this make the mothers digestion function better, but it also promotes foetal growth.
When women become pregnant, they usually face a wide range of feelings and emotions. They go through feelings from joy to sadness, and from trust to fear. They need to face many physical changes that can cause them discomfort, pain, and uncertainty regarding their pregnancy and the well-being of their baby. They experience hormonal changes which have a direct effect on their mood. It is important to understand that our emotions have a direct effect on our physical well-being. Many of our emotions are being stored in different parts of our body and, if we do not deal with the negative ones early enough, they start manifesting in our body. This is where conscious breathing becomes very important, because it helps us to tackle some of the emotions before they become too big and start causing physical problems as well.
Someone has once said:“When you own your breath nobody can steal your peace”. This person has managed to capture one of the most powerful effects of breath control in one phrase. When you breath consciously and deeply, you can reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, and turn your senses inwards. Nowadays, stress is a big factor in decreasing the quality of life, and pregnant women are affected by this as well. When you are stressed, your sympathetic nervous system is turned on, telling your body that your are in danger. This, for example, increases the heart rate, releases glucose from the liver, and disturbs the digestion. Stress can also lead to depression, hypertension, and insomnia. If you learn to control your breath, you can tackle the stress in its early state, and prevent many of its negative side effects. Deep breathing inhibits the sympathetic nervous system greatly, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system that promotes healing. Conscious deep breathing slows your heartbeat, lowers your blood pressure, makes your blood flow return to the digestive organs, and relaxes you.
If you would like to learn how to breath properly during pregnancy and birth, experience the effects breathing has on the baby, and feel the amazing benefits of deep breathing in your own body then I warmly welcome you to my prenatal classes at the beautiful NiLU Yoga in Thalwil. Classes start on the 26th of February and run weekly every Tuesday evening at 18:30-19:45. Get in touch to reserve your spot!
I’m a certified Birthlight prenatal yoga teacher and my pregnancy yoga classes draw from the Birthlight practices, methods, knowledge, and deep understanding of the physiological and psychological challenges expectant mother’s go through during the pregnancy. I include dynamic meditation, guided relaxation, and careful alignment of the asanas that I have embodied during my alignment based yoga teacher training organized by the Purna Yoga College.
Stay tuned for my next post about different breathing methods during pregnancy, how to incorporate breathing in the physical practice of yoga, and what breathing exercises are best for deep relaxation and birth.