Learning relaxation to use for labour and life

Often in life, we have experiences that we would consider to be stressful, and the thought of labour for many women can be very stressful.

If you knew that you had an interview tomorrow, a blood test or a dentist appointment, how would that make you feel? If you had ten things to do before this, how do you think your body would start to react?

There are fairly typical responses to ‘stress’ in the body which can include muscle tension e.g. in the neck and shoulders, clenching and sweating hands, fidgeting and crossing legs or squeezing them together. On the inside stress signals that occur may include breathing and heart rate changes, stomach churning, ‘butterflies’ or nausea.

In preparing for labour and life as a mother, it can be useful to think about what your own body’s reactions are to the things that cause you stress. Holding extra muscle tension in your body can become tiring, and can also cause neck or back ache. In labour, these responses can cause contractions to be more uncomfortable and can also slow down the progress of labour by affecting the body’s natural labour hormones.

There are many ways available to help you prepare for contractions and labour, and “Relaxation with Breathing Awareness” is one way.

There is a law in our body called “the law of reciprocal inhibition” which means that when we use one muscle group, the opposite muscle group needs to relax. For example, if you start with a clenched fist, and then stretch out your fingers and thumbs, the forearm and clenching muscles will relax.

This is the way our body works for example when we kick a football. Our quadriceps, (the front thigh muscles) work and our hamstrings at the back of the thighs relax. If this didn’t happen, the hamstrings would tear when we kicked the football.

You can use this law to develop a simple way of moving your body, away from the positions of tension. When practiced, key moves can be learned and then used to do this more easily, even in different positions. There are three key moves.

• Stretch out your fingers and thumbs. Stop stretching your fingers and thumbs. Feel and register this new position of ‘long soft fingers’
• Pull your shoulders down moving them away from your ears. Stop pulling your shoulders down. Repeat. Feel this lower and new position of ‘low shoulders’.

• Point your toes away from you and let your legs roll out or move into a comfortable position. Stop and register this ‘resting feet and open thighs position.

The more often you practice these three key moves, the more likely that you will be able to use them in daily activities and also in labour. Start to notice when the tension in your body changes, and use these times as practice moments. When you are waiting for a doctor’s appointment, have a blood test or examination or if you are feeling challenged, these are all opportunities to use and practice the three key moves.

It may be hard to imagine how you could use these three key moves to put yourself into a comfortable position during labour, but if you practice, you will find it easier to use this as one of your toolbox tips for labour.

Put yourself into a position that you may use for labour such as leaning over a bench, against a wall, over a ball, lying down or on all fours. Use the three key moves and then to add to this, you can begin to expand your focus into ‘Breathing Awareness’. Again practicing this can help you to prepare for labour and give you a great tool to use after you have had your baby or babies.

Breathing Awareness Practice

Become aware of your breathing. Don’t try and change it, just become aware of how it is happening. Notice how fast or slowly it is happening. Where is it happening – for example in your upper chest or lower down? Is your tummy rising and falling?

Now as you breathe out, breathe any tension out of your body with each breath out.

Imagine that if you did have any extra tension, that you could breathe it out of your body, out through your mouth, down your arms and out through your fingers, or down your legs and out through your toes.

Become aware of your breathing again and notice if it has changed at all since starting this relaxation practice.

Spend some time just focusing on your baby or babies, just thinking about your baby safe and snug and secure inside your uterus, getting ready for the birth just like you are.

You may also be interested in: Good posture lasts forever – Breathing”

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From the moment of opening this book it was like taking a deep breath into the soul.  Katrina Zaslavsky has encapsulated inspiring birth stories in this book which will help you to Embrace Your Pregnancy, Overcome Your Fears, Be Inspired, Go Natural and Empower Yourself.