Monday, July 16, 2007

Some Prenatal Thoughts (and Practice)…

Last week, Jim and I went to our first Birth Refresher course (as if we’d forget how to do this), to brush up on all the various pain-relievers/positions/stages of labor/etc. All good information to have but, man, I’m not really looking forward to the process. At the end of class, the teacher whipped out a relaxation tape and had the moms-to-be lie on the floor and work on relaxing, while our poor coaches had to crouch uncomfortably nearby and be soothing. Jim was a trooper, although he was making me laugh because the Velcro on his Tevas kept sticking to the floor and making a loud ripping noise every time he moved, not the most soothing sound.

I got into my fave relaxation pose, Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle) on a wedge and did my hardest to ignore the tape. Maybe new age-y music and a narrator with a fake British accent (“Imagine yourself on a PAH-th in the forest, WOK-ing towards a pool of WAH-tah…”) is calming to some, but I thought it was supremely irritating. Silence as a Teaching Tool, indeed.

However, it did feel great to spend some time turning inward. I decided it’s time to get out Richard Rosen’s The Yoga of Breath; a Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama, and start working on my relaxation skills. The book is down-to-earth and Rosen is very clear about how to establish and maintain and strong Pranayama practice. I think it is extremely difficult to just focus on your breath, but it is such a calming, healing process and really deepens your asana work when you put the two together. I am going to need some strong focusing-skills come August 30 (or sooner, hopefully).

Here is one of my favorite exercises:
Supta Baddha Konasana and Circular Breathing

Place a couple of blankets folded into a long tube, a wedge, or a bolster at the base of your spine, so that you can lie down on it with your hips lower than your shoulders. Bring your feet into Bound Angle Pose (soles of the feet together, knees bent) and loop your belt around the backs of the hips and over the outside edge of the feet. Lower yourself onto the blankets, etc. and tighten or loosen the belt so that you are stretching the hip joints, but not so much that the knees are popping up. Take some time to get really comfortable in this position so you can focus on the breath.

Once your breath has steadied, you can turn your attention inward. Begin to observe the breath—how long the inhales/exhales are, if they are different lengths, how long you pause between them. Slowly count the length of each, and try to make them the same count (usually the inhale is a bit faster). When you have done a few cycles of similar length, try to eliminate the pause. This will be much easier at the end of the inhale, because the relaxing chest muscles will automatically start the exhale. Imagine your breath as an oval, with the curves being the transition between in and out. Try to breathe while smoothing around those curves so air is constantly entering and leaving the lungs.

Keep the circular (ovular?) breathing going for a while, but not for much longer than 10-15 minutes. Give a big cleansing sigh, and let your breath return to normal. Stay in the pose as long as you like and then slowly remove the belt and return to sitting. ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved

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