Class #2950

Prenatal Imagery Techniques

30 min - Class


Learn about the breathing, relaxation, and imagery techniques that can be used during labor and birth in this prenatal class with Leah Stewart. She talks you through each of these techniques, explaining how each is useful for keeping you calm and confident during labor. She also shares how you can use everything you know from your Pilates practice to help you have a safe and beautiful birth.
What You'll Need: No props needed

About This Video


Read Full Transcript

We are in our second class of our four part series for our [inaudible] burden class. So if you're joining me for the first time and you're interested in this class, but you haven't watched the introduction to this entire series, go ahead and put me on pause for a second. Go back, bear with me. Watch the introduction so you kind of know exactly what the intention is of these four classes. Now this class is called using calm and confidence and that's kind of a big, broad title because it's kind of a big, broad issue within pregnancy. But specifically here within labor and birth, this is not a movement class, this is not an exercise class. This is a class where I'm talking new through some of the breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, some of the imagery techniques that you're gonna be able to possibly use if you choose to during your labor and birth.

So this is definitely one way you can use practice, some of the breadth with me, but mostly you're going to be sitting, listening to me, writing some notes down and then practicing on your own and kind of see what works for you and what doesn't work for you. So again, that's the intention of this class. So during labor and birth, breath and imagery and what I call calming movements and also working with your birthing partner, um, is going to become so vitally important. This really started for me when I was pregnant with my first son and my husband and I went through a birthing class called hypnobirthing. And we were doing all of these great imagery and meditation techniques and all of these great breathing techniques and it was really fantastic, but it didn't take me very long to say, um, wow, this is completely like PyLadies. This is what we teach in Polonius or what we should be teaching in [inaudible] or some of these mental images, imagery, um, inspiration from imagery and breathing techniques. And in, I was just so, so excited. So I realized I had been practicing this for many years with my [inaudible] practice and I was just looking at it from a different perspective in this birthing class.

So that's what's inspired me to kind of dive deeper into some of these plots things and how we can use them. Like we so often practice in some of these birthing classes that prepare men and women and partners to be able to go into their breathing experience and being more aware and feeling stronger. So we're going to start with breath. Breath is so important always obviously, but it becomes really, really important during labor and birth, um, specifically because one, it helps to keep us calm. That's huge but also gives us energy and gives us, um, kind of resolve and focus. And also physiologically is that breath and getting the oxygen into the bloodstream is going to help with the circulation, help with that help you cert, healthy circulation of blood, not only for you as the mother down into your body, down into your pelvis, but also that oxygen and that, um, that exchange, that respiratory exchange between you and your baby that's still relying on you during the labor and birthing process, um, as they're living in the uterus.

So breath is really, really important. Now we have different types of breathing techniques. Now if you've watched my other, uh, prenatal plotting series, specifically my second series where I'm pregnant with my second son, which I think we filmed in about 2013, I incorporate a lot of these same breathing techniques, but I'm going to kind of dive into them a little bit deeper here. So breathing is really important. Like I said, because it can be calming or it can be energizing as you well know, just through everyday life, right? Sometimes we breathe, relax, read the calm down. Or sometimes we rely on breath that we feel our breath increased as our journal and pumps up. Um, we're excited, we're scared, we're nervous, we're going for a jog, you know, something like that. Um, breath also is a really important tool that we can use in between the experience of having contractions and we can rely on these different qualities of breath to kind of help us journey the waves of contractions.

So we're going to speak to that. The first breathing that I want to kind of just introduce to you is what I call calming breath. And from what I've learned in my own classes that I've taken in research and what I've kind of practiced in my own pregnancies and what I've taught clients is that this breast kind of has a couple of different variations of it can take on. So this breast is meant to be very soothing. It's meant to be very soft, but also very deep. So for me, this breath really comes in handy in between contractions.

So as you know, early pregnancy contractions come on, they're spaced out really wide, right? So the contractions are really light and there's a long time in between them. Then another construction, and this helps to dilate your cervix. Then through mid pregnancy the contractions come a little bit closer together and there may be a little bit longer. And then as you get into the end, I said pregnancy, I'm at Labor is you get into the end of Labor into transition. The contractions are hard, they're longer, and there's very little time in between them.

So they get more intense and they get closer together as labor progresses. And that's what happens during contractions. As the uterus presses against the baby and that muscle pushes the baby down, and interestingly enough, the baby is turned upside down. The baby will actually push their little feet up against the top of the uterus and help with that pushing down so that that head can push down into the birth canal and help stretch out those muscles and help stretch out the bones so that baby can safely descend through the birth canal. That contraction is very stressful on mom and baby because I mean babies essentially being squeezed in the uterus there so their heart rate actually goes down a little bit. Um, and then it needs to recover for mom.

You feel this very intense tightening sensation around your midsection, like a belt being tightened around you. You can actually see your muscles contracting as that contraction happens and then it relaxes. So it's like this big build and then it relaxes this big build and then it relaxes. So it's a big kind of roller coaster ride or riding the waves that we have and we want to be able to use breath along with movement along with imagery that kind of guide us through those waves. So calming breath is what I recommend to use maybe in between some of the contractions. Maybe when you're doing some movements, you basically are trying to recover from the contractions and stay present.

So we're going to start with three different breaths. We're going to start with a four count, an eight count, and then a four and eight counts. So we're going to do these together real quick and I increase the count as we go because I want you to be able to be able to increase the amount of time that you inhale and the amount of time that you exhale. So breathing is going to be mostly in through your nose and out through your mouth. If you feel more comfortable going in through your nose and out through your nose, please feel free to do so.

So our first calming breath is going to be for breath in hold for a moment and four breath out. So let's just do this a couple of times. So inhale for one, two, three, four. Exhale, one, two, three, four. So continue to do that a few more times. One and feel how your chest rises and your rib cage expands. Hold it. And then as you exhale, feel how you literally want to let your rib cage relax, your chest soften and your body kind of soften as you exhale. Do it two more times with me. Inhale, two, three, four. Hold that air in for a moment and then breathe out. Two, three form. So as you breathe, you have that rise.

You can feel that rise kind of coming up into your kind of your sternum. Your chest kind of rises and expands. You can feel your rib cage expand. I want you to take that a little bit deeper and I really want you to feel that as you inhale, not only are you letting this area where your, your lungs are housed, be affected. I want you to feel like you're expanding your belly and breathing into your belly. So let's do that two more times. So inhale two, three, four. So everything is filled up and then literally let everything soften as you breathe out. Two, three, four, fill everything in. Two, three, four and then breathe out. Two, three, four. Now that's a great place to start because you won't feel like you're holding your breath too much or you won't feel like you're running out of air.

But what we want to do is we want to increase your breathing capacity, your ability to get more oxygen in there, a longer breath in, and your ability to slowly release all of the oxygen out when you, um, when you exhale. And when you release that breath. So you want to come in and come out and you're not really releasing oxygen when you breathe out. Sorry. But you know what I mean? Just your breath. I saw it. I'm like, can I explain it on pregnancy brain. But your breathing your oxygen in you and you and you breathe out carbon dioxide. Sorry, that was my fault by correcting myself. So we're going to have, now we're going to go from four, four. We're going to go four counts in and eight counts out. So again, I want you to feel that expansion of your belly and that now this amount you to feel the expansion of your belly, but also a little bit of elevation through your spine. So here we go.

Let's do it three times. Let's go. Inhale, two, three, four XL, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Now the time you get to eight, you should feel like just that last bit of air. But what it does, it completely releases that body. And as you fill that air release out of your lungs and out of your body and out of your mouth, you want to kind of compliment that with feeling like a rule, like a release or a melting or a kind of softness of your musculature as well. So even if you feel your body kind of relaxing a little bit and your posture kind of, and you'd never hear plotty seizure. So it's kind of slouching a little bit. That's good.

That's what I want you to feel. I want you to feel that relaxation. So let's do it two more times. So inhale two, three, four and out. Two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and in two, three, four and out. Two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Now that breathing, I'm not really even doing the breadth with you cause I'm speaking about, I can feel the relaxation even just in the counting. So this is a great pattern to kind of get yourself into. Now if you want to increase it a little bit more, you can do an inhale for eight, which is kind of hard to do and an Xcel for eight or you can do an inhale for six are in help for seven and exhale for eight.

And what that does is we're just increasing that capacity for that breathing. But I've found the kind of four, eight pattern to be really the best pot on t to kind of practice. But you can certainly increase it. And in the interest of time, I'm just going to tell you that you can increase it, but we're going to move on to the next set of breath so that, that, that calming breath is really important. Really getting the, um, the idea that the relaxation on the Xcel is meant to happen and that filling up is meant to happen on the inhale. So going into what we call focus, breath or energizing breath, and this is the, the physiology of the breath doesn't change, but the quality or the intention behind it changes the image that we put in our mind or the way that we count through it. So these are going to be quicker breathing and quicker breathing out. So we're going to count a little bit faster.

There's going to be a little bit more urgency, um, in that breath. Now, this breath for me, um, or this type of, of um, focus or this kind of quality of breath, Willie tends to come in handy when we're, when we're kind of getting through the intensity of contractions and it's kind of Nice to still, you don't want to hold your breath during constructions, you want to use your breath, but this more urgent breath tends to be, in my opinion and a lot of other people's opinion, really helpful. So we're going to start with 10, 10 and we're going to work our way up. So we're going to breathe here and I just want you to think of like a, think of like a water coming from under the earth and coming up and out through like a geyser. Okay? I kinda want you to think of that burst of energy. So we're going to count quickly. So here we go. We're going to count up. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 out, two, three, four five six, seven eight, nine 10 into three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine 10 out, two, three, four five, six, seven, eight, nine 10. So you can see how in my voice in the way that I'm counting, it's a very different type of quality than the four eight but with a lot softer and a lot more wavy. This is a little bit more, I don't want to use the word explosive but a little bit more powerful and you can feel kind of how your posture changes. You can feel kind of how your body, um, dynamic responds to that.

So start with that 10 10 and this can be, you can be in the middle of the contraction, you can breathing in and out and you're breathing in and you're just writing that contraction. The using your breath to kind of help you feel that focus, help you feel that intensity kind of matching that level of intensity. Then we can increase the 10 10 to a 1515 with the goal getting to a 2020 so it gets higher. And Higher and higher. And as you practice the breathing, your lung capacity will increase and you'll be able to breathe in for a longer period of time. So let's just try the 15 a couple times. So you ready? So here we go. So you want to sit up straight you and you want to imagine that water coming up from the earth and out like a geyser. So here we're going to go. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine 01112131415 and out. Two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 01112131415 ready again into three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 11, 12, 13, 1415 and let the water come back in.

Two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 1415. So it's this, to me, this breathing is more vertical. You feel this vertical movement, this site, you know, you fill your posture scenes where the calming breath is a little bit more lateral and rounder. And those are kind of some of the qualities that I've associated with that I've found to be helpful with myself. And I found when I describe it that way, to be helpful with women. So that's going to be two really, really helpful breathing techniques. So practice those, practice the calming for four and then four, eight and then you can increase that to six, eight or eight eight practice to focus breathing, which starts off at 10, 10, 15, 15, 20, 20. Try to get yourself to 2020 and know that you use one in between contractions and one during contractions.

So one that's very energetic and one that's very calming and see if that works for you. And you can of course play with some variations of that for what works best for you, but you're never going to be holding your breath during that. You're never going to be, um, uh, taxing on your respiratory system. It's going to be very healthy because really being a lot of Aaron and can be sending all of that other air out. Good. And so that's going to be some of our breathing and breathing into the belly.

Breathing deep into the pelvis as well. So moving from breath, we're going to incorporate imagery. Now we know that imagery is a huge part of some of the successes that we have in practicing PyLadies. So when you're taking your pilates classes, your instructors will often use imagery as a tool to kind of help you understand what needs to happen with your body of what needs to happen with the exercise. So an imagery is a technique that's used in psychology, sports psychology. It's used constantly, right? We're constantly being encouraged to use imagery and use the power of images to help us achieve a certain goal or to work through a certain issue.

And Labor and birth is no different. Imagery is a very, very powerful tool that we can use during labor and birth. But what type of imagery do we want to use? What works well? The reality is is that the options are endless. So I'm going to just give you a couple of little things that you can think about, but also again to kind of serve as a launching platform for you. So you can take like, oh, I kind of like what she's saying with this, but I'm going to use this similar image instead of that image because it resonates with me more. So in the interest of time, we're just going to focus on a couple of different things.

So what is our goal of imagery during Labor and birth? We have a couple of things. One, like the theme of this class is to remain calm in our body to is to remain confident and aware and present in our body. And when we use imagery, it's, I don't want to use a bong connotation of it as, as a distraction because it can be a distraction as much as it can pull us into focus as well. And sometimes we need one or the other or sometimes we need a combination of both, but it mentally gets us different in our body. So we have calm and we have, um, confidence and focus.

And then imagery also anatomically kind of works to provide things like help us, help our pelvis open, help our cervix open, help, um, to um, all of those things to kind of help the baby kind of descend through the birth canal and to kind of um, get the body prepared or in a place where it needs to be. So we can rely on movement to do that. We can rely on breath to do that or we can rely on imagery or the best situation that we want to be in is we want to be doing all three of those. So a couple of images I want you to think about as far as opening up the cervix and opening up the pelvis is when you're going to be doing these images. Most likely when your doing some movements or maybe if you don't feel like moving during labor, you're just sitting and breathing and you're thinking about these images.

So very popular one, which I'm sure you've heard is kind of the opening of a flower. And you imagine your cervix and you imagine your birth canal, like a flower that opens and the baby comes out through the center of that flower, but the flower opens delicately and the flower opens gradually and slowly. So it's not an explosion. It's not a harsh movement. It's a very delicate, beautiful, gradual opening. Think of those time-lapse images that you see of flowers upon the sunrise in the morning, opening slowly up to that sun.

That's kind of the image that you want to use. So as you are progressing through your labor and as you feel those contractions kind of grow over time and you feel that the baby is responding to those contractions by descending through the birth canal, that's that slow, gradual opening of that flower. So when you feel that intensity of a contraction, you can use your breath and you can feel how that center of that flower is trying to push open. And then during, in between the contractions, you can feel that those little pedals are kind of just sitting there nice and soft. So that's going to be an image that you can use as well. Another image that we can use. Excuse me. So I want you to Kinda think about that one.

Another image that I found to be helpful for myself and I've had some feedback from women is particularly when we're sitting on the ball and we're doing some hip mobility, is the image of a funnel. Now the funnel kind of stays open. We don't want to imagine the funnel closing at the bottom because that would be, that would work opposite of what we want, right? Because we want the pelvis open. But this is kind of this idea of this funnel and the spiral going down.

So as we're breathing and we're doing our circles, we can imagine the beat, we're kind of the babies kind of colliding down in that funnel. As we go down in that funnel can get wider and wider and wider. We use our breath to expand the circumference of that funnel and that's a really nice image to use as well. It's, it's soothing, it's soft, it doesn't have a lot of pressure, it doesn't have a lot of urgency. It just kind of has this kind of falling that's kind of collapsing kind of image. So give something as simple as, you know, doing your calming breath, breathing in for four and then breathing out for eight and just doing that breath pattern over and over again and re-imagining the baby, descending through that birth canal, through that funnel over and over and over again. So that's another great image that we can use. Um, another great image that I've used to kind of help dissipate some of the uncomfortableness and the intensity of the actual physical sensation of having the contraction and the discomfort of it is to imagine that the role of that contraction is to hug your baby in really tight for a couple seconds and then to release that hug.

So it's Kinda like when you see a friend or relative that you haven't seen for a really long time and they run up to you and they just give you this really strong hug that just takes your breath away, but you know that it's so filled with love and so filled with gratitude to see you. It's a nice image to kind of view our contractions that way instead of viewing them as this like horrible, awful experience that gives us a lot of pain because the contractions are so beautifully designed to help the baby enter the world. And if we look at it from that perspective, yes, we're still gonna feel the intensity. Yes, we may associate that Attensity with pain, but it helps us to look at what the purpose of them and why they're there. And maybe just maybe we can kind of work through them from a different mindset, which will help us work through them a little bit better. So that hugging of that baby in becomes really important.

So I want you to kind of take some of the, without talking you through some of those images, those are some great images that we can use during our birth and labor process to kind of help us view things from a little bit of a different ways. So, um, and there's so much more that goes with, I wish I could talk you through tons of them, but unfortunately I can't. Um, and please feel free to like share some in the comment box and that worked for you, that worked for your clients or anything that kind of comes up and we can share some more imagery idea cause there's definitely a lot of them. So those are the first couple three that I want you to play with. Another element of calm and confidence is kind of some of the messages or this is just really quick little tidbit here. Some of the ways that you and your breathing partner can kind of work together.

And so as you're discovering through your prenatal series and through your prenatal practice and hopefully as you discover a little bit more with this short series that I'm presenting here and kind of how to translate some of that into your labor and birth experience is to kind of communicate to, um, who's going to be present with you at your birth. Um, you know, your husband, um, a sister, a Doula, um, your mother, um, you know, um, just any partner that you, that you have in your life that you want to be there supporting you, what is it going to look like? Their role is going to be as far as if you're going to choose to incorporate some of these breathing techniques, some of these imagery techniques, um, some of these movements, um, choices or options that you have. And so it's really important to communicate that to your partner because when you're in labor and you're in the throes of labor, um, sometimes it's kind of hard to, to kind of, it we kind of forget, you know, what all these options are now. Intuitively our body takes over. Um, if it has the resources to, but it's, you know, it's kind of Nice to have somebody to kind of say, you know, maybe make a suggestion to maybe get in this position or to try to, um, you know, maybe move, move your spine a little bit or something like that. So kind of what are some of these things that can help you stay calm and help you feel that confidence because your birthing partner can really be there to kind of guide you into a certain position or a certain exercise that you've communicated to them before going into labor saying, wow, when I'm in the kneeling position on my hands and knees, it feels really strong for me. I can feel, I feel really good on my back. I feel really good in my pelvis and I want to be able to use that position when, when I feel like giving up or when I feel like you know, I, the intensity of the contractions are, are just getting a little much for me.

So can you, you know, I'm, I may not be happy with you suggesting something in the throws of labor. I may respond to it, but you know, what would you be able to, to remind me of that? And that's something that's really, really important communication between you and your birthing partner because in my opinion, that really helps to keep that confidence soaring up and keep that calm as well. Another thing is physical touch from your birthing partner. Again, whether, um, you know, this says this is a husband or this is a boyfriend or this is a Doula or this is a friend or a family member, um, or a nurse or somebody who is with you as your and supporting you through is kind of that act of physical touch. And I know I don't know the statistics exactly off the top of my head, but Stephanie had been spoken about the, if there is a gentle sweep of fingertips on the arm or down the back, it helps to release those endorphins and it feels good and it feels comforting and it feels calming and those endorphins are going to really help to keep you as the laboring mother calm and feeling happy and feeling confident and feeling elated in even in the moments of of really intense parts of labor and birth. So that messaging and that verbal and nonverbal communication between you and your birthing partner or partners, it's going to become so very important for the support that you are going to be looking for. And now finally in this little calming and Confidence Class, as I've been talking your ear off and hopefully you're writing stuff down, but it's kind of what I call calming movements.

And you're going to see this a lot in my next two classes of this series, but what I call rocking, swaying and circling. So these can be done in a lot of different positions. So we'll just go through this quickly. If a woman is left to her own devices and she can meet, move freely, and this has been seen a lot, is that women kind of go into this, um, they can go into this kind of labor, trans or dance if you will. And what you find is they kind of move, they move their body intuitively, they move their body organically, they move their body primally immune, however you want to describe it. But that's where it's kind of been this inspiration of kind of some of these movements. So rocking for me. What I mean by that is, I mean this forward and back position, right?

So going forward and going back, you know, undulating through the spine, just reaching forward and back. So that's what I mean by rocking. And by swaying, I mean more of a lateral movement. So it's Kinda Koombaya. He sitting in a drum circle singing and dancing. And that's what we want.

We want it to just be free and not no inhibition and just natural, right? So that kind of that swing movement. And then of course circling is circling. So whether it's the torso, whether it's the head, um, you know, whether it's the pelvis or a combination of all of it, you have that circling position. So all of these movements are, not only do they just naturally mimic kind of just natural dancing and rhythmic movements in our body. They also serve a function in keeping our muscles subtle cause me supple and soft and keeping us relaxed. And the more we relaxed and the more we have circulation and blood flow through our body and oxygen through our blood, the better we're going to be prepared. And the baby is going to be prepared to really have a really joyful journey into the world.

So that's really what we want through these rockings swing and circular movements. And with the no, I want to say with that, what you'll find is it's important that your jaw is relaxed, your neck is relaxed, your lips are relaxed. So you might find yourself with your mouth, open your job, relax your head, kind of swooped down. And again, this is all in an effort to just use this movement naturally and organically to keep the body moving efficiently, but also, um, suppoly and also organically within labor. So sitting, you can do those movements and you'll see us, we move, we can do them. Um, you know, in a four point position rocking, we can do swaying, we can do circles. I mean, you can do it in any position. And finally we can do this in a standing position or an all of the body positions that I showed you, you know, sitting on the ball, leaning forward on the chair I showed you in class one. You can do that. In fact, in my second prenatal series filmed in 2013, I have a whole [inaudible] kind of standing class where I do a lot of these kind of movements. So you know, a lot of this rocking movement of your torso swing and kind of circular, um, movement here. So you know, you can do it really in any position that feels good for you. Um, and that feels more advantageous that you're able to labor in or, or, or in some cases what you're actually allowed to do given your circumstances. Um, you know, if you're, if you're kind of bed bound or not.

So it really just depends. So there's so many options now and you know, some of this doesn't really look like Pilati is, and, and I think for some, for some that can be a little bit problematic, but you have to remember that these are what, again, in the Intro, I called the covert qualities of PyLadies. The things that we don't practice. Um, they don't appear on the surface all the time, but they're there. They're underneath all of those times. We go into the studio and get on the reformer and get on the mat and we practice and get deeper into our practice. These are the qualities, the breadth, the imagery, the calm, the confidence.

And when you go through an experience like labor and birth, you're not going to be sitting on the bed doing pilates. You're not going to be doing the plot is exercises like you practice them in the studio. You're going to be incorporating some of these covert to these other elements that don't always rise. So evidently to the surface, but they're there. So that's why I'm showing you how you have learned how to move your body during. So you've learned how to appreciate the movement that your body is capable of and now filling that confidence, feeling that inhibition to be able to let your body move the way it wants to during labor. And that's going to look different for you than it looks for me.

But what hopefully we both can agree on is that as ours, and then it makes us feel good and it helps us to have the birth journey and experience that we really want and that we really enjoy. So thank you so much. We're going to move onto our next two classes that are more movement-based and a little less just talking base. So thank you for joining me. I hope that helps all the best to you.

Related Content


Thank you so much))) to much important information not only for pregnant women but also for Pilates instructor
very informative video.
I just wanted to know from when the breathing practise should start during pregnancy.
1 person likes this.
Wanted to say thank you for this series. I practiced with you for the last 2 weeks and gave birth (3 weeks early) last week. I gave birth on my side using the hip opener movements. Baby basically moved down on own and I pushed for 15-20 mins. I do feel the muscle memory was facilitated through this practice. Thank you

You need to be a subscriber to post a comment.

Please Log In or Create an Account to start your free trial.

Footer Pilates Anytime Logo

Move With Us

Experience Pilates. Experience life.

Let's Begin