Learning the art of true relaxation in pregnancy is perhaps the most valuable time you will ever spend. For both you and your baby, throughout your pregnancy, the effects of proper relaxation on both body and mind are profound. Most of us think we already know how to relax. Make a cup of tea, put my feet up, turn on the TV or pick up a magazine…aaah, now I’m relaxed! Wrong!!! This is just taking a break from the stresses of the day and although it’s of great value, it can’t confer any of the huge benefits of proper relaxation.
So, what’s so special about this relaxation in pregnancy technique? First of all, it has been proven that it:
Lowers your blood pressure …and so reduces the likelihood of pregnancy complications.
Boosts your immune system…because it slows the production of the stress hormones that can suppress your immune response
Calms the limbic area of the brain…so it gives you a break from emotional strains and stresses
Boosts your mood…by producing the endorphins that are responsible for the feel-good factor
Combats tiredness and muscular tension…because it increases the blood flow to your muscles and your brain
Eases pain and pregnancy discomfort…because it boosts the body’s natural painkillers
All this means that time spent learning proper relaxation in pregnancy pays you dividends.
The Chillout Technique: How to Do It
What follows is a brief guide to one of the very best relaxation in pregnancy techniques.
There are two main things to focus on in relaxation in pregnancy: breathing and muscles.
Breathing for Your Baby
Developing your breathing awareness will benefit both you and your baby throughout the coming months and will also help you during the birth.
Try a small experiment: next time you find yourself feeling stressed, take a few moments to check your breathing. You will most likely find that, like most people’s, it is shallow and rapid and takes place in the upper part of the chest. This type of breathing has the effect of increasing your metabolic rate, leading to a decrease in your oxygen intake. This in turn causes a drop in energy levels and can also increase pain, discomfort and stress.
By contrast, breathing deeply and rhythmically can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, ease musclular tension and help you sleep better.
The Whole Body Relaxation
Lie down on a comfortable surface with your feet shoulder width apart. If you’re uncomfortable lying on your back, either sit straight in a comfortable chair or rest on your side with a pillow between your legs for support. In this position, you may not be able to breathe as deeply but it is most important to feel comfortable.
With your mouth closed, breathe slowly in through your nose, feeling your stomach rise as you gradually fill your lungs with air. Hold the breath for 1-2 seconds before exhaling slowly, still through your nose. Continue with this gentle breathing pattern and begin to imagine yourself lying on a warm beach. Your body is supported by the soft sand and the sun is keeping you just the right temperature. You can hear the waves in the distance as they roll onto the beach, then withdraw with a long, soft hissing noise. You begin to match your breathing rhythm to the sound of the waves and soon you are ready to relax fully.
How to Relax Your Muscles
It may take you several weeks to master full muscle relaxation, but once you do, it can really help you feel smoother emotionally and fitter physically. Lying on a comfortable surface or sitting with your back completely straight in a comfortable chair, make sure your body is aligned. First tense and then completely relax each group of muscles, one at a time, alternating between your right and left sides. Do each stage twice, as you will find that the second time you repeat each relaxation, it will be more profound.
Begin by tensing and releasing your toes, then flex your feet up and down, then circle your ankles one way, then the other. Move on to your calf muscles, then your thighs. Move slowly up your body, through your pelvis, tummy, vital organs, chest etc, tensing and releasing each muscle group twice. When you reach your shoulders, shrug them, then release, then carry on down your arms – your biceps and triceps, forearm muscles and then your hands. Curl and release your fingers and let them hang loose and relaxed. Your neck should be relaxed, as should your brow, cheeks and facial muscles. A gentle smile helps relax your mouth and jaw.
Now go back to imagining that warm beach, synchronising your breathing with the rhythmn of the waves. Relax in this space for at least ten minutes, longer if possible. If your mind starts to drift back to thoughts of daily life, just notice what it’s doing and gently pull it back to the beach scene. If you like, take yourself on a mental wandering along the coast, looking at beautiful scenes, both large and small. Your baby will benefit enormously from this deep level of relaxation and you will be acquiring the skills to make your pregnancy a healthy and happy one.
After a while, when you’ve become really good at using this tecnique, you may want to add music. This can really enhance your relaxation experience and also take you to deeper levels of consciousness that can have very beneficial effects on your unborn baby.
And as an addition to your ‘relaxation in pregnancy’ session, this could also be the perfect time to enjoy some poetry specially written for welcoming a newborn baby into the world. These newborn baby poems are a real celebration of a very special time!