Parenting Challenge: Day 7: Breathing for Birth, Breastfeeding and Beyond

[We are at the of a weeklong series on using our breath as a tool in our lives and our parenting. Day 1 we started focusing on our breath. Day 2 we used our breath to help our bodies open and relax. Day 3 brought our attention to our thoughts. On Day 4, we noticed our feelings as we breathed. We moved from our emotions to the needs that fuel them  in Day 5. Yesterday, Day 6, was about using breath in parenting to diffuse the intensity of a tough situation.]

Breath Is Life.

Breath animates the human body. As many cultures believe, breath brings the essence of spirit into the body. It is with breath that our body functions and heals.

Efforts to regularly focus on and use our breath as a tool can have lasting effects on us, our children and others in our lives.

Breath is an integral part of the labor relaxation tips that can lead to a pain free birth for some women. In my latest tandem nursing update shared how I used an Inner Body Awareness exercise (from Amy Phoenix of Peace 4 Parents) to help alleviate the struggles of nursing aversion. Breathing, I learned, is my biggest tool for mindful parenting.

Notice how your body feels. If you are beginning to tense, allow your breath to relax you from the inside out. Feel your breath touch every cell in your body, expanding and contracting gently. Bring your baby in to latch on and continue feeling your breath. If the latch feels like it works for you, allow your supporting arm to relax and notice if any other parts of your body feel constricted. If so, breathe into the areas of tension as you allow them to soften.

The benefits to conscious breathwork are innumerable:

Breathing can aid in healing illness:

Mladen Golubic, a physician in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, says that breathing can have a profound impact on our physiology and our health. “You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure,” Golubic says. “There are studies that show that people who practice breathing exercises and have those conditions — they benefit.”

Breathing is calming and centering:

There’s also a reason for the classic recommendation to step away from an argument, take 10 deep breaths and collect yourself before engaging again…..The capacity for breathing to enable us to actually withdraw from overstimulus and the hyped-up pace of the outer world is glorious, and an incredible tool….The breath acts as a link to spirit, synchronizing body and mind.

Breathing benefits all the regulatory systems of the body

Increases supply of oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout the body. Major organs such as brain, and eyes need copious oxygen.

Better breathing can calm or stimulate the nervous system, balance or unbalance brain hemispheres, depending on the technique.

Helps push the movement of lymph throughout the body which helps eliminate toxic waste and strengthen the immune system.

This simple breath awareness exercise develops understanding of where we are breathing in our bodies (abdominal or chest breath):

Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.

There is also breathwork that incorporates both an abdominal and a thoracic (chest) breath:

First inhale by filling the abdomen and then CONTINUE inhaling as you expand and fill the chest. Then exhale first from the chest as it empties and falls and then CONTINUE exhaling from the abdomen as it draws inwards completely. This is one round of the full yogic breath. Repeat this for 20 rounds.

Pranayama is a tool for yogic living, aiding in postures, daily life and healing.

“Pranayama is control of Breath”. “Prana” is Breath or vital energy in the body. On subtle levels prana represents the pranic energy responsible for life or life force, and “ayama” means control. So Pranayama is “Control of Breath”. One can control the rhythms of pranic energy with pranayama and achieve healthy body and mind.

Every minute spent breathing mindfully is a minute well spent.

Rarely will we make our worst mistake when consciously breathing. While breathing is something we do without thinking, the effort we put into integrating breath awareness into our daily life creates a conscious life. In this way, I can better reach for my ideals of parenthood and personhood.

Take time over the next day to notice your breath, and whenever you can please add your experiences and insights in the comments here or on A Living Family Facebook page.

Read more at Babies Can Heal


 

RESOURCES:

Breastfeeding Through Aversion – Inner Body Awareness Exercise | Code Name: Mama

RESOURCES for BREATHING and BIRTH

Active Birth (Janet Balaskas) and Breathing

In the midst of contractions it is helpful to pay particular attention to your out breaths, so you feel you can ‘breathe the pain away’ each time you exhale. If you relax at the end of the out breath, the in-breath has the space to come in naturally without effort. It doesn’t matter if your breaths are short or long, quiet or noisy. In fact as dilation progresses and the womb opens, you are likely to mirror the opening cervix with an increasingly wide open mouth! When the mouth is open, it is natural to express sound freely. This is also a way to naturally discharge and breathe away the pain. So if you moan and groan, wail or become like ‘primal woman’ as someone described herself recently in my classes…don’t worry — all that noise is exhalation!

Breathing During Labor & Birth: What You Need to Know (Lamaze)

Lamaze classes prepare women for a safe, healthy birth by providing the most current, evidence-based information about birth, simplifying birth, and helping women navigate the maze of modern obstetrics. Be wary of “Lamaze” classes that spend a lot of time practicing relaxation and breathing and little or no time building your confidence or discussing how to keep things simple and how to have the safe, healthy birth you want in the birth setting you have chosen.

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