Deep breathing #Goals
8 deep breaths over the course of 1 minute, and then your body follows. Or does it? Well, 8 deep breaths can work if your diaphragm isn’t constricted, if you don’t have chronic stress, or are prone to panic attacks.
On the surface, it makes a lot of sense to tell people to take a deep breath. Deep breathing is a way to slow down our breath, and ultimately our autonomic nervous system. However, lots of people living with chronic stress or anxiety disorders find this act almost impossible.
If you don’t practice deep breathing regularly there is a good chance you experience constriction in your primary breathing muscle-the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that contracts and flattens to fill your lungs with air. As you exhale, it relaxes and expands upward. When we are breathing at rest, or in a parasympathetic state, it should handle most of the work.
Working in conjunction with the diaphragm is a whole set of secondary breathing muscles . These muscles are in your neck, chest, and belly. Typically, when you are at rest, they are too. If you live with chronic stress or trauma these muscles are often overused, and your diaphragm does almost none of the work. Many of us don’t realize that we have not relaxed our diaphragms and that we are always bracing our primary breathing muscle to some extent.
What happens to muscles that have not been moved? They get stiff and eventually weak. It does not feel good when you become aware that your muscles are stiff and weak.
Here’s the bind: Women who are in labor need to breathe deeply. It’s important for their own well being, but also for that of their baby’s. What do you do if breathing makes your panic? What do you in labor if you are being told by your nurses, your provider, or your doula to “just take a deep breath!”?
I have some exercises for you to practice. But first, If you’re about to have a baby and don’t have time to work on your breath, or if you’re labor, please tell someone that deep breathing just ain’t your thing right now. You need to put your focus elsewhere.
Here’s what you can do in labor if deep breathing doesn’t work for you:
You might need to focus on your hands or a spot on the wall; you can look at 5 things in the room, listen to sounds far away and then closer to you, or follow your breath without forcing it deeper. The point is: don’t activate a stress response, find ways to bring a sense of calm into your body the way you currently know how, and talk to a support person about it so you have an advocate in labor.
If you’re a birth worker, this is for you:
If you’re a birth worker and you notice your client isn’t breathing well or isn’t responding to your deep breathing coaching, don’t push them. Have them focus on something more neutral and allow their breath to return to its normal pattern.
Exercise To Get Your Diaphragm Moving:
Exercise to get your diaphragm moving (if and when you’re ready):
Breathe slowly through your nose.
Expand your belly, pushing the air down into your abdomen, then fill your lungs.
Hold the breath lightly for a few seconds (or as long as you can tolerate).
Exhale through your nose.