Supportive Breathing Techniques for Pregnancy, Birth and Motherhood.


One of the things I love most about Yoga is the breath awareness it brings. Breathing is one of the few vital bodily functions that can be done both consciously and unconsciously. However, without awareness we have limited control over our breath, and we may be unconsciously restricting ourselves from the beautiful life giving and rejuvenating qualities that a full breath brings to the body and mind.  Attending a regular Prenatal Yoga class throughout your pregnancy is a great way to get familiar with some really useful breathing techniques.  Not only will breathing properly help you to feel good, you will also be proving your baby with a beautiful supply of fresh oxygenated and nutrient rich blood. The 7 techniques listed below will help you to stay calm and grounded throughout Pregnancy, Birth and Motherhood.  Many of them will also help you manage the discomforts of contractions during labour.

Observing the Breath

Your breath will be one of your greatest tools during labour, but without cultivating an awareness to your breath you have no control over it.  This breathing technique is a  great introduction to breath awareness.  It is super simple and very effective at calming your body and mind.

To begin:

Bring your attention to your breath.

Notice where in your body your breath naturally wants to flow to.

Notice the speed, depth and intensity of your breath.

Notice the sensation your breath creates at the tip of your nose as it air flows in and out of your nostrils.

Really slow down and take your time to observe the above steps.

Spend just a few minutes doing this.  If your mind wanders off, don’t worry, simply just bring your attention back to your breath.  With repetition you will find your mind slowly begins to wander off less frequently.

After a few minutes or so, check in with yourself and notice how you feel.

Belly Breathing

Belly Breathing is a great way to calm your mind and relax your nervous system. It slows down your breathing and heart rate, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. It is a great breath to use during Pregnancy, Birth and Motherhood.   For the uterus to contract efficiently it needs a good supply of blood, focusing on sending your breath towards your belly will help you to ensure you aren’t holding your breath, tensing your body and consequentially restricting blood flow to your baby and your uterus.

Belly Breathing is also a lovely gentle way to tone your deep core stabilising muscles.

To begin:

Place your palms flat on your belly with your middle finger tips touching.

Inhale through your nose focusing on filling your belly up with your breath. As you do this, notice as your middle finger tips slightly move away from each other.

Exhale though your nose, focusing on drawing your belly button or your baby towards your spine.  You will notice you middle finger tips meet up again.

This is one round.  Continue like this for as long as it feels comfortable.

Ujjayi Breath

Often referred to as the oceanic breath for its audible ocean like sound. This  very powerful and grounding breath will help you find a state of calmness and peace. It is great to use during contractions to help keep you grounded and focused. The audible sound of the breath helps to calm your mind by giving it something to focus on.  Consciously focusing on your inhalation and exhalation helps you to slow down and lengthen your breath. Slowing down and lengthening your breath is very nourishing for your nervous system ,helping to lower your heart rate and decreasing stress and anxiety.

To begin:

Bring the palm of one hand slightly in front of your face. Inhale through your nose. As you exhale through your mouth imagine your are trying to fog up a mirror. This is done by slightly constricting the back of your throat and creating a haaaa type sound.  Repeat this a couple more times with your hand in front of your mouth, then lower your hand, close your mouth and exhale through your nose, creating the same sound.  Once you have achieved the audible sound on the exhale you can progress further by creating the sound as you inhale.

Come back to your normal breath at any time.

Nadi Shodhana

Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing is great breathing exercise to help relax your body and mind, lower anxiety levels and promote overall well being.

To begin:

Bring your right hand to your face, resting your index and middle finger at your 3rd eye point (the space between your eyebrows).
Use your right thumb to block off your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril.
Close your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril.
Keeping your left nostril closed, inhale through the right.
Block your right nostril as you exhale through your left.

This is one cycle. Continue to alternate the breath in this way between your nostrils for up to 5 minutes or for as long as it feel comfortable

Bhramari Breath

This beautiful breath also known as Humming Bee Breath will help you shut off the outside world and go within.  It helps you to stay focused and present during labour.  The audible sound of the breath gives the mind something to focus on, and the vibration that the breath creates in the body stimulates the Vagus Nerve, which is responsible for switching on your Parasympathic Nervous System.  Utilising the Hummin Bee breath during contractions will help to keep you focused and relaxed. It will also help to keep both your jaw and pelvic floor relaxed.

To begin:

Gently block your ears with your index finger, close your mouth and bring your tongue to the roof of your mouth.

Take a deep inhalation though your nose.

Exhale though your nose and as your do so, create a humming sound.  Allow the exhale to be long and slow and when its finished continue the cycle. Once you get the hang of it you can release your hands to your lap and continue humming.

Double Length Exhale

This breath is super nourishing for your nervous system as it mimics sleep breathing.  When practiced while awake helps to bring your body back into its Parasympathetic nervous system.  It is great to use in-between contractions to help calm your body and mind, preparing yourself for the next contraction.  It’s also great to use if you are struggling to get to sleep.

To begin:

Inhale for a count of 3, then exhale for a count of 6.  If the count of six seems to long, adjust it to suit your needs.  With practice and repetition you may will slowly be able to increase the length of both your inhale and exhale.  I like to aim for an inhale breath to the count of 4 and an exhale breath to the count of 8.

Golden Thread Breath

The Golden Thread Breath is another very soothing and relaxing breath. It focuses on lengthening the exhale which has a calming affect on the Nervous System. Using this breath during labour will help you to stay focused and relaxed instead of in the panic zone.

To begin:

Have your lips slightly parted, take and inhale through your nose.

Exhale through slightly parted lips. As you exhale visualise the exhale breath leaving your lips in the form of a golden thread or golden piece on ribbon.  Allow the exhale to be long and slow and continue to visualise this golden thread swirling though the air in front of you.

Continue to inhale through your nose and exhale through parted lips, visualising a beautiful golden thread.


I suggest making the time to practice these exercises throughout your pregnancy,  find the ones that work best for you, then get familiar with them.  During our Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Terms we take the time to  practice these, usually its a new breath each week or every second week.  Learning them slowly will avoid overwhelm and confusion.  Being prepared for labour with a couple of different but familiar breathing techniques will help you to stay calm and focused.  Most importantly, all of these breathing exercise will help to prevent you from tensing up during contractions.  Find a few that feel good in your body and practice those, you don’t need to use them all, but having a few that you are really familiar is ideal.

Please reach out if you’d like any more information on these breathing exercises or more information on out Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Classes, or our Active Birth Workshops.

Let me know in the comments if you found this useful. I’d love to hear what your favourites are.

Kristy xx



1 Comment

  • by jodibrown85
    Posted October 26, 2021 11:01 am 0Likes

    Ohhhhh I love this!!! My all time favs are Ujjayi Breath and Nadi Shodhana! I haven’t tried Bhramari Breath or Golden Thread Breath so I will give one of them a go tonight before bed xx

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