Breathing Techniques & Birthing Positions
Specific breathing techniques and birthing positions are taught to help women feel calm and in control, whether they are riding the waves of contractions, whether interventions or surgery are involved, or whether they are full of doubts in their ability to care for a newborn baby. Focusing on the breath helps to reduce the levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can inhibit the release of oxytocin, the hormone that stimulates the uterus to contract. So if a woman can learn breathing techniques to reduce her stress levels and help herself feel calm and safe, her oxytocin levels will increase and give her labour chance to progress.
Oxytocin is the hormone that is released when we feel safe and cared for; not only does it help uterine contractions, but it also helps women to bond with their newborns and stimulates milk flow when breastfeeding. Babies look to their mothers to interpret the world, so if a mother is calm and relaxed, the baby will pick up on her lower heart and breathing rate, and feel safer. Breath awareness is such a vital skill for new mums.
Mindfulness practices in both classes are also hugely beneficial, allowing women to slow down their thoughts, quieten self-doubt and step outside the whirlwind of day-to-day responsibilities. Positive affirmations are used such as ‘I am the perfect mother for my baby’, ‘I can do it and my baby can’ and ‘I am fit, healthy, energised and beautiful’.
Mental Health Benefits
A huge mental health benefit of women-centred yoga classes is the community. Both pregnant and new mothers need a circle of support. In my pregnancy classes I ask everyone to share something that has happened since the last class. This has proven to be invaluable. Anxieties surface that the women had been dismissing, troubling symptoms are mentioned that they are encouraged to get checked out, tips are shared for dealing with aches and pains. I share my knowledge, but it is humbling to witness other class member’s support and encourage each other. Women are empowered to trust their intuition and request extra help from health professionals. I’ve seen friendships form that have continued for years afterwards.