I was born in 1978. Though lamaze breathing was introduced many years before, the decades of the 60s and 70s were its heyday. Often, even now, when women think of doing breathwork during labor it is the “hee hee hoo” that often comes to mind. As a yoga teacher, I consider breathing an integral part of any yoga practice, whether you are pregnant or not. I enjoy teaching most forms of pranayama but, and maybe this is because I’m an introvert, or because my mom once told me that I could be “Anything I wanted to be. Just not a singer,” I don’t like to make noise. It took me some time to “OM” with confidence. And so, when vocal toning was suggested as a tool to assist pregnant women in labor, I believed it. And yet. It took me about a year to introduce the possibility to my class. It has since been quoted to me as one of the most useful tools that women have gained as a result of a prenatal yoga practice.
I encourage you to give it a try. Considering that noise is an inevitable part of labor and birth and unfamiliar, and, dare I say, uncomfortable moments are also part and parcel of the whole experience, vocal toning suddenly doesn’t seem so odd.
How to practice:
- Begin by sitting in a comfortable position (you can lean against pillows or a bolster propped on blocks if this works better for you. Practicing in the shower is another alternative that many women find helpful).
- Close your eyes and allow the muscles in your face to soften.
- Take a deep breath in, then as you let it out make a low humming sound, “hnnnn.” Let the sound continue while you completely release your breath.
- Make a lower or higher sound and notice the change in the quality of vibrations. You can place your index and middle finger of one hand at the base of your throat to physically feel the vibration.
- Practice with different vowel sounds, noting the change in the opening of the lower part of the throat. Often, one vowel, or sound, will feel the most natural and comfortable. There are no rules. Go with what works for you.
Some benefits vocal toning offers:
- Increases the length and depth of exhalations, which can often shorten in stressful situations, e.g., when bringing a new human into the world.
- The sound helps to calm and focus the mind and body.
- If practiced during pregnancy, creates a sound of familiarity and continuity for your baby.
- There is a physical link between the sphincter of the throat and the sphincter of the lower body. An open and relaxed throat can help to encourage an open and relaxed birth canal.
Here’s to the noisemakers!