The most important time to be able to skillfully breathe could very well be during the (laborious) miracle of birth. Jill Miller, creator of the brand new online video program Roll Model Mama, is well acquainted with this need. She personally experienced the crucial power of her own well-trained breath after opting in for an epidural while giving birth.
“I ended up having an epidural at the last minute with both of my kids,” shares Jill. “I went through all the hard labor, then at the unbearable time I was like, okay I’ll take it! Then I was numb. And they’re telling me to push, and I’m numb.”
It is during moments like these when breath-training becomes so relevant. When labor is overwhelming or medications change your ability to sense your breath, if you’ve trained your body, you can fall back on your own somatic recall. She explains “Thankfully, I’ve done so much breath practice, the motor map for my push muscles was still available to me, even though I couldn’t feel them.” As Roll Model Mama shows, this will prepare you for sensing and embodying your best possible breath throughout labor, delivery and beyond.
“During pregnancy, no matter where you are on the planet, during labor, you are going to be told to breathe,” notes Jill. “Somebody — your doctor, your midwife, your doula — is going to coach you through breathing… they are going to say breathe in, hold your breath, now push! My theory is that you want to practice that. Not just blowing/huffing/puffing, you want to get to know the muscles that inform the mechanics of breath. Make them beyond second-nature: so they are at your command.”
Training Your Breath for Labor
The Roll Model Mama video program places great emphasis on understanding and toning your primary breathing muscles.
The program includes exercises such as the Anatomy Locator, Breath Set, and Inspiration Tune Up, where you get to know the tissues that relate to “good breath.” By boosting the pliability of your respiratory diaphragm and increasing the suppleness of your intercostal muscles, your breath capacity is increased. Then by training your transverse abdominals to fire on command while relaxing your pelvic floor, your ability to push is empowered. You will also learn how to avoid poor breathing habits that won’t support a calm, steady birth experience.
“Your breathing is a highway to being able to find peace, relaxation and a way to soothe yourself very quickly in any circumstance” shares Jill.
A unique aspect of your breath training in this program is the Diaphragm Vacuum exercise. This age-old yoga technique trains your neurological relationship to your breath. It expands your entire breath capacity and increases the size and power of your breath cycle.
“That means that all of the muscles that line your birthday suit, that line that inner baby carriage, become stronger, more pliable, more robust, and more neurologically balanced. It also means that you can improve your ability to go into the relaxation response.”
The Diaphragm Vacuum exercise is quite extraordinary to see on a fully pregnant body, check out this video to see Jill practicing it just three weeks before the birth of her second child.
Boosting Postpartum Healing with the Breath
Becoming a master of your breath goes beyond preparing for and moving through labor. Good breath habits also set you up for the recovery phase of the fourth trimester, when baby has arrived.
“If you have a c-section, the breathing muscles are the first ones you need to connect with,” offers Jill. “But no matter how you had a birth, those muscles are the first ones that need your attention postpartum. They are the ones that are going to help you re-stitch the seams of your core back together. Training them in a conscious way throughout the pregnancy will pave the way for quicker healing – often called ‘bouncing-back.’”
If you are inspired to gain mastery of your own deep core breathing muscles, or to help pregnant women you teach or care for do so, check out the new Tune Up Fitness Roll Model Mama video program. These practices just might become a bedrock for inner calm and self-trust throughout your journey through birth, and beyond.
Photo: Jill, Robert and baby Asher (who starred in Roll Model Mama :))