The average human being like you and me takes long shallow breaths through a typical day. In pregnancy, this breathing lowers the level of oxygen your baby receives. Is there a way to rapidly refill your blood with a gush of oxygen to help the baby's brain and critical body organs develop? Yes, here it is:
What you need to do is to set aside 8-10 minutes daily to breathe deeply and consciously relax. Anytime of the day is fine. Make sure there are no distractions near you and your stomach is not packed with a recent meal or snack.
- Begin in a comfortable seated position. Feel free to sit on a chair or on a cushion with your knees bent and wider than your hips. Play some calming raga-based music in the background. If fine with you, hold your fingers in Pran mudra.
- With your mind, scan your body from the top of your forehead to the tips of your toes. Acknowledge that your body has been changing in the past several weeks or months. Embrace these changes. Imagine The warmest arms of love hugging you- just the imagination will slowly fill you with warmth.
- You may pause at your belly centre and hips, acknowledging the area in your body that is holding your child. Then, after you are done scanning the body, place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
- Observe the rhythm and cadence of your breath. In-out, in-out, in-out. The air feels cool near your nostrils. In-out, in-out, in-out. Let your attention focus on the breathing. If you feel it wander, gently come back to the breathing.
- Breathe at your own pace. Don’t hold your breath. Simply let the breath flow.
Are you getting distracted during Ujjayi?
Just note the topics that are vying for your attention. Recognize and label your emotions. Do you see a little stress with your never-ending list of tasks and chores? Are you spotting some sadness because your husband is not taking out enough time? Is there a feeling of loneliness because your family is not being supportive? A little bit of fear about how the baby is doing? Just acknowledge the emotions.
Set the intention to let go of them for now, and focus on this moment.
Feel a warmth flowing from your hand placed on your belly. A deep warmth emerging from your palm is reaching the baby. The baby is smiling, accepting the warmth.
Say affirmations during your deep breathing.
Please repeat the following affirmations to yourself:
- My baby feels my love.
- My baby senses the peace I feel.
- I accept my labour and birth. I trust my body.
Repeat these affirmations to yourself as many times as you like. Try to be kind to yourself.
How can I relax with breathing when I am angry and/or stressed?
Even if you are agitated, just deliberately copying a relaxed breathing pattern works to calm the nervous system that controls the body's involuntary functions. So, just do it even if your mind is not cooperating. Just breathe deeply to a pattern for lowered blood pressure and heart rate. reduced levels of stress hormones in the blood.
Ujjayi helps in labour
In Ujjayi breathing, you breathe in and out of the nose with the lips sealed – no breath passes the lips.Yoga teaches how to breathe deeply and consciously relax. It helps in expanding the diaphragm when one fills the nose, lungs and expands belly, and exhales completely through the nose until the stomach compresses. This increases oxygen in the body and is a great preparation for labour.
Learning Ujjayi breathing helps the pregnant woman stay calm when she needs it most: during labour. When one is in pain or afraid, the body produces adrenaline. It not only works up the woman, it also halts the production of oxytocin, a hormone that helps labour progress. A regular yoga practice helps the woman to resist the urge to tighten up on feeling the contractions, making labour easier. The keyword is ‘regular’ - occasional yoga or breathing exercises will not get long-term benefits though they might calm you for that moment.
Let’s try a 1 minute exercise now
Sit in a comfortable position and relax your face muscles. Notice how your vaginal muscles feel while doing this.
Take a pause. And now, frown, making an angry expression. Notice how your vaginal muscles feel now.
Did you notice mum? Your vaginal muscles behave the same way your facial muscles do.
When you were relaxed, the muscles were also relaxed. But, when you frowned and were angry, your vaginal muscles,in all likelihood, tensed up.This was just a pretend exercise. Imagine if the frown was the outcome of actual pain or anger, how tense the vagina would become.
What are the goals?
Goal 1: Send maximum possible oxygen to the womb during pregnancy.
Goal 2: With practice,learn tokeep vaginal muscles relaxed and let labour progress well when labour starrts. Also, for the mother to stay well-oxygenated, thereby conserving strength for when it comes to pushing.