Knowing how to use your breathing

Using our breathing is being taken more seriously than ever before – with yoga, meditation, mindfulness, hypnobirthing – but it can still be ridiculed and it is still often seen as being in isolation to our every day lives. It can be used in classes and reactively with pain, panic and anxiety but it could also be used everyday, just to balance us out and to get rid of any tension we might be holding on to.

I use breathing and relaxation techniques in my birth preparation sessions, as a birth doula, with postnatal mums, with anyone who is anxious.

I teach and use simple but effective breathing skills to keep you calm, to head off any panic, to relax your body, to manage and ease pain.

I use and teach what works for me – so I keep it about simple focus on your breath and on relaxing your body. Personally, I’m not into flowery language and descriptions – I stick to simple language and facts and I find that it works. But I also encourage you, as you practise your breathing, to use language, mantras, instructions that work best for you – there isn’t one way to do this.

Breathing can get a bad rap because it can be assumed it’s all hippy nonsense and we all know how to breathe – the truth is that we take our breathing for granted and we could use it and focus on it more than we do. When I teach it, I want it to become familiar to you, I want you to bring it into your everyday life so it is a practised skill to use when you need it.

This is not about learning a new way to breathe – it’s about getting to know how you breathe and slowing it down. That’s it.

It can also be assumed that breathing is about sitting in yoga poses, being zen-like relaxed – it absolutely can be this but it can be used and practised while you are standing, walking, sitting on the loo, in the bath, running, with contractions, sitting on the bus, at work, while you are rocking a screaming baby…

It’s flexible and beneficial – it doesn’t perform miracles but it does provide more calm and focus, clearer thinking and the ability to have more of a grip. It can also just make you feel a bit better, with a bit more energy.

Simple tips to use and practise your breathing…

  • breathe in deeply, through your nose if you can, be aware of your belly rising
  • breathe out through your mouth and relax your shoulders, loosen your jaw, uncurl your fingers
  • slow your breathing to a relaxed pace – don’t force it, find a pace that feels comfortable for you
  • do this for a couple of minutes or until you feel calmer
  • you can also start and end your day with a few focused breaths

Using your breathing in labour…

  • focus on your breathing – as described above – and work with each powerful contraction as a distraction and to make it more manageable and effective
  • use your breathing if you feel overwhelmed or panicky to head it off and stay calm – this is really useful if your labour becomes more complicated and you might feel out of control
  • Use your breathing if you are being induced or you are having a caesarean

Keep it simple…

  • Just slow your breathing down
  • And relax your muscles
  • Don’t overthink it

I will soon be uploading some videos about practising and using your breathing but you can also get in touch to find out more about how you can use your breathing in labour.