The Power of Breathing

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The essence of yoga and the key to a good birth

I was inspired this week by Seun whose waters broke at 32 weeks and had her baby at 33 weeks + 6 days weighing 2.035kg.

Seun wrote:
‘Although this was absolutely not my ideal birth plan, it worked out beautifully as I was able to use all of the breathing techniques to stay calm and to manage my contractions at home apparently for 3 days!
In the end I had to have a c-section. Even then I remained totally calm, to shock of the medical staff. I believe all the work we did with breathing and having a calm mindset as well as my strong spiritual faith led to an amazing c-section experience and accelerated healing.
A big thank you for those 6 weeks I managed to do yoga.’

Breathing is our most essential body rhythm

It is with us from the moment of birth throughout our lives. It floods our bodies with life sustaining oxygen which travels through the blood stream and reaches every cell (and every cell of your baby’s body) and cleanses and clears away impurities and everything you don’t need. If you look at it in detail – simply breathing in and breathing out is a miraculous process.

Like the function of the uterus during labour and birth – it just happens. You don’t have to ‘do’ breathing – it does itself! Most of the time we are not even aware that it is happening.

However, when we deliberately focus our awareness on our breathing, wonderful things can happen. I call this ‘following the breath’ – it’s not a technique but more a focus of awareness.

The breath is a continuous cycle of inhalation and exhalation. When we focus on the natural rhythm of our breathing, we notice that there are two still moments – literally nano seconds – where the outbreath becomes the inbreath and the inbreath in turn becomes the outbreath.

We release the outbreath, let it go – and we receive the inbreath into the clear, vast, and empty space. With practise the tiny pause at the end of the exhalation may become longer quite naturally. Then the inbreath comes in like a flood and you can fully receive it!

Just by getting into a comfortable supported position, lying down or sitting and following the breath with these simple suggestions – we find ourselves becoming calmer, more relaxed, and peaceful. The mind becomes quieter, thoughts drift away and we become more present in the body.

We find inner stillness

During labour this is immensely helpful as we create the space for the birth process to unfold itself – resulting in the birth of your baby.

It is the most wonderful practise – do it every day for just ten minutes or so, and you will have a wonderful tool to a better life – no matter what is going on, and a better birth.

My wonderful yoga teacher Sandra Sabatini says in her book called
‘Breath – The Essence of Yoga”

“…You will find that increasing observation of the breath opens the door to the unexpected. This simple instrument will lead to infinite discoveries, when you are in a difficult situation, if you are in pain, or when everything seems to fail, you can reconnect to your breath and find relief.”

This certainly applies during birth. I have heard thousands of reports of how awareness of the breath was a lifeline during labour.
Many of these mothers reported a natural ecstatic birth – but I particularly love Seun’s story, because it illustrates so well that awareness of the breath works to transform the experience of giving birth in every circumstance – even when things don’t go to plan.

And this after only 6 weeks of coming to yoga! This worked in harmony with her strong faith to help her surrender to the circumstances when her waters broke early, and safely birth her little treasure with the help of a needed caesarean section.

Well done Seun and many congratulations! Your words were inspirational.

With my best wishes to you all for a beautiful birth filled with breath awareness!


Here are 2 photo of Seun’s baby daughter doing really well in ICU and getting ready to feed and breath in the big wide world!


Active Birth is designed for mothers who wish to give birth naturally and have had a healthy pregnancy and no medical complications during labour and birth. Aspects of an Active Birth can also sometimes be used in combination with medical interventions. The website and newsletters offer general information only. They are not a substitute for the professional advice, diagnosis or treatment offered by your midwives or doctors. The Active Birth Centre/ Janet Balaskas in general, accept no liability for the guidance herein, and advise that you do not disregard professional medical advice and inform yourself with other trusted evidence-based sources of information when making your decisions.

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