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 on how to breathe during labor, 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.”

Jill practicing the Diaphragm Vacuum while very pregnant

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 :))


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Learn more about the Roll Model Mama Program

Ariel Kiley

Ariel Kiley is an NYC-based yoga and meditation teacher, teacher trainer, published author, and IAYT certified Yoga Therapist. Ariel is spokesperson and program designer for Equinox Fitness Clubs Regeneration classes. She created the 2018 "Yoga Fundamentals" program on She is a lead teacher trainer for the fitness therapy system Yoga Tune Up®. Ariel also is co-creator and co-director of the Dou Yoga 200-hour teacher training. Ariel has published numerous posts and articles on the topics of yoga, meditation and yoga therapy. Additionally she co-authored the book Smitten: The Way of the Brilliant Flirt about self-realization and dating (Chronicle 2013). She has been featured on Extra!TV, CNN, NY Daily News and has worked as yoga consultant to the TV show The Affair. Ariel specializes in stress reduction and Somatic Experiencing® trauma resolution.

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man, so powerful. I gave natural birth twice and the power of breath is supernatural. It’s everything. Thanks so much for sharing this article, Mamas will find it so helpfuL!!

Monica B Pack

Again, for someone who has yet to have children, what a great article to read and know about The Roll Model Mama. And attaching the importance of breath and how it can support you in life, having a child or not. I look forward to exploring more breath work to support my life.

Amélie Savard

Wow I didn’t know there was The Roll Model Mama! It must be a great tool! I also didn’t know that we can do the pregnant diaphragm vacuum exercise! Thank you!


Firing your TA, while relaxing PF muslces…Now that is intriguing, and interesting and I must find out more. That seems very hard to do, but very necessary obviously, especially in pregnancy. I thought I was also taught/told pregnant women should not hold their breath, because it cuts off oxygen for the baby, so there is lots for me to learn from Role Model Mama videos!

Priscilla Daniel

Thanks for the breathing video.

Priscilla Daniel

Thank you for the video.


El nacimiento de mi segundo hijo afortunadamente fue por parto natural, deseaba experimentarlo, mi primer hijo nació con una cesárea de urgencia.
Tuve un trabajo de parto bastante y con el antecedente de la cesárea no era conveniente inducir el parto (creería que nunca lo es..pero no tengo autoridad para decirlo. Respiraba profundamente cuando podía e intentaba relajarme entre contracción y contracción.
Lo cierto es que me dieron epidural y experimenté lo que Jill comenta en esta nota, no sentía mis músculos y no tenía muy claro cómo colaborar con el nacimiento de mi hijo. Qué importante tener este recurso y autoconocimiento.

Wendy Rodríguez

Breathing is a process or act of our body that we perform unconsciously and is accompanied by life itself, if we do not breathe, we die. But breathing is not just the reflex act of bringing oxygen to our lungs, it is also a great resource to keep us calm and calm and to which we can all access. In addition to the fact that breathing keeps us alive, it also allows us to give life, because during labor we need to breathe in order to push and help the baby be born. But it seems to me even more… Read more »

Kila Divina

“Your breathing is a highway to being able to find peace, relaxation and a way to soothe yourself very quickly in any circumstance” YES! My sister is in her second trimester and we have been speaking a lot about breath and what else she can do to prepare for labor and recovery. Very interesting using Uddhiyana Bandha when pregnant, I would never have thought this was safe but now I understand the value of its use during pregnancy as well! I think the Tune Up Fitness Roll Model Mama video program will be the perfect gift for her!


That video of the diaphragm exercise is amazing! Wow! So often pregnant mamas are told they can’t do things. This article is a must read for all mommies to be.

Edwina Ferro

This is wonderfully helpful! The breath is our way in and so important for the laborious event of delivering a baby!! I didn’t know you could do the vacuum breath while be pregnant. I wish I knew that when I was pregnant. I loved your video and demonstration! And, building the pliability of my respiratory diaphragm and increasing the suppleness of my intercostal muscles, increases my breath capacity. I’m happy to know that the muscles that line my body and baby carriage become more robust and strong which creates a neurological balance for my body’s response to go into relaxation… Read more »

Rachel Taylor

In all of my yoga studies and teacher trainings breath retention while pregnant has been discouraged. It’s really interesting to watch and read about this breath because it seems like it approaches pregnant women from an empowered place of what their (our) bodies are capable of and embracing that instead of approaching pregnant bodies as terribly fragile and pathologized. Labor is awesome in the truest sense. I appreciate the approach to preparing for labor that recognizes and works with the power of the pregnant body.


This is super interesting! I was definitely taught never to instruct breath retention from my prenatal yoga training but this makes so much sense and the visual of seeing the outline of the uterus in Jill’s demonstration is just so cool. I love the idea that even with an epidural the mind can still map back to these muscles. And I’d like to believe the baby is getting some good stuff out of this action as well – like a little snuggly massage that will maybe lead to a deep understanding of how to self-soothe when he or she comes… Read more »

Christina Gericke

awesome! Some of my pregnant clients are intimidated by th traditional yoga opinion, that they should not do kumbhaka during pregnancy. I learned this in my Teacher Training as well. But everything you write in your article sounds absolutly logical to me. I will soon have a look in the book “Role Model Mama”!


I had known that learning to breath was essential for my pregnant students but you have really clearly articulated the specific benefits. Much appreciated.


Seems so helpful!!
I wish I knew all that when I gave birth to my kids!!


So pleased that Jill has once again put her vast training and personal experience together and created the Roll Model Mama. I love that this shows us all not to be afraid to breathe and try these exercises and really develop an intimate knowledge of our body and the breath.
It’s another amazing tool to share with clients, especially my cousin who’s just fallen pregnant! Thank you.


This is very interesting. I’m curious to see how my clients will feel with this vacuum breath in anticipation of labour and postpartum. If I have a second child I’ll be applying this!

Lucy Beiler

Pregnant or not , I have practiced this breathing to remind myself of a fuller range of movement that is possible for all the muscles involved in breathing. It gives me a reference point when I catch myself holding my breath or shallow breathing. It feels invigorating and relaxing to do this breath work. I’ll pass this on to our daughter who is pregnant. I will be attending the birth so I’ll remember to breath too! Thanks Ariel and Jill.

Jon Connelly

The part about the motor map was really interesting. Going to share this with my sister!

Christina Klein

Fascinating that you can see the outline of your uterus with a breathing exercise. As well as the parasympathetic response you can give yourself during child birth. Its amazing what we have at our fingertips to aid in relaxation, full breathe and sensation in our breathing muscles in and around the abdomen.

Sun Kim

It was so fascinating to watch Jill’s pregnant diaphragm vacuum demonstration!!! Thank you for including the awesome video clip!!

Ashley Corlis

Breathing is essential in labor and delivery! I found that apana vayu or breathing down and out was so helpful in delivering my baby girl. It’s only natural that our life force would help give life to another.

Ashley Corlis

Breathing is an essential tool in labor and delivery! What a great post that talks about a topic that is so important to giving life. Using our life force to help bring another life into this world is the most natural thing we can do! Apana vayu breathwork was helpful in delivering my baby girl. Feeling the breath traveling down and out got my baby out!

Shelly Lutz

I love this demonstration of how powerful the breath is! I am currently 5.5 months pregnant with my first and the thought of going through labor is very daunting. I would like to go natural without medication, but there might not even be a choice with it. I love that no matter what ends up happening, using the breath to prepare the body helps in any of the situations. Also, doing the Diaphragm Vacuum pregnant was a trip being able to see the outline of my uterus! Though it was much harder to create the slack in my abdomen than… Read more »