We do it all day and night long, from the moment we are born, and yet do we place much time or dedication into the art of breathing? We have the opportunity to consider food and water choices, but we rarely think about our air, the main necessity of life.

There are so many types:

The held breath

The gasp

The sigh

The short breath

The pant

The meditator breath

The breath of a yogi

The wheezy breath

The inability to catch your breath

The gorgeous sound of a belly laugh, with so much breath

The sight of something that takes your breath away

The breath of a birthing woman

Or the first breath of a new born baby.

These are the delights of life. 

So firstly, I wanted to take a moment to think about the air we breathe, and taking the time to breathe. 

When we are caught in stress, worry or feeling anxious, or during times of busy-ness, exercise or sexual activity our breath is naturally affected. Breath is one of the human bodies fascinating miracles, that the outside world can affect, and our inside world can affect right back. When you know you need more air, more space in order to calm, to restore, to reset, then know the key is in your hands. By controlling our breath, we can turn having our breath being affected, to our breath affecting our mind and body. It’s this gorgeous interaction, and it’s simple and powerful.

So when it comes to labour and birth, the air, the atmosphere, the environment, all affect our breath and can assist and support you- when you chose the pace and the place to where it’s going. The starting point is focusing on the act of breathing, and noticing what you are currently doing. The next step is to know that you want to change it, by perhaps taking a larger breath and then directing it to where you want it to go ( in order to release, or calm, or to be more powerful), and lastly changing the pace, which will often lead to a shift in your physical position.

Where possible, I liken the act of the body to nature, so in the same way that a wave comes in, pauses and then retreats, and pauses and then continues the cycle, so too with our breath, it is not just in and out. You can play with all four parts (inhale/ expand, pause, exhale/release, pause). This is just one simple technique. 

You can also experiment with where you are sending your breath to- can you send it to the chest, the ribs, the upper back, the lower back, your belly, your bum, feel it in your whole body….? Pregnancy- it’s time to play, and get that oxygen working for you and your body, so your central nervous system can simmer down.

For some this is a simple reminder, for others they may not pay it much heed, but in birth, breath will be your companion, and if you have the skill to tune in, and change, then it will be a great tool in your took kit to expand, release, encourage the baby to come down and to birth beautifully. The sound of breathing will change in labour and birth. The sound of deeper, stronger breath is welcomed. Breath to the belly fuels your body for the amazing work it’s doing. A held, short or fast breath has an element of fear to it, and will need some encouragement and love and relaxing.

An old midwife used to say to me, a held breath is a held vagina. True. Take the air in and take it everywhere, especially to your baby within.