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The Calm Birth Practices

By Anna Humphreys

The Calm Birth practices are evidence-based and rooted in ancient wisdom. They are grounded in time-tested techniques perfect for these modern times. Together, these practices teach you to breathe completely, rest deeply, and heal yourself and the world. They also teach you to understand the consciousness of your baby, and to deepen your bond with your baby.

The Calm Birth practices can be used at any point during pregnancy or birth. It’s never too early or too late to start— there are no medical risks associated with meditation. Partners can also practice these techniques to deepen their bond with the baby and the birthing parent. 

Practice of Opening

“I felt so connected to my baby and body with the Practice of Opening… And it helped with sleep, too!” — Sumana, new mom

This is a practice of healing the nervous system in preparation for childbirth. It uses head-to-toe progressive release for increase of energy, function, and awareness. This application of progressive relaxation (PR) also focuses on the baby’s growing body. Gaining this sense of awareness of the child within creates a deep and lasting bond.

Progressively releasing muscular stresses improves mind and body function. A calm mind has increased potential for coping with intense sensations and for relaxation between contractions.

The method is based on Progressive Relaxation techniques developed by Edmund Jacobson, M.D., at the Harvard Medical School and the University of Chicago Medical School in the 1920s and 1930s. A wide range of medical problems were successfully treated by healing corresponding problems in the nervous system. The method was then further developed in the University of Massachusetts Medical Center medicine/meditation program beginning in 1979.

“When I got an epidural, this practice helped me stay connected to my baby even though I didn’t feel labor anymore.” — Lauren

In the present use for childbirth, refined through nearly 20 years of application, the practice slowly brings attention through the whole body, releasing muscle system tension that restricts nervous system function, offering prenatal bonding and potential for optimal fetal development.

How to Use

Practice of Opening is ideal for use in the late afternoon or at night, when you are ready to rest and bond with your baby. It can help facilitate sleep and bring awareness to your body and your baby, preparing you for birth. Your partner can lie behind you with hands on your belly, relaxing and bonding.

Practice of Opening is a wonderful way to relax during your labor. If you feel the need to lie down, listen to this practice and connect with your baby. You can have contractions and return to the practice, getting deep rest in between. Additionally, relaxing your body in this way can help stop pre-labor contractions or allow for the contractions to become more regular and productive. If you have an epidural, this practice can help keep you focused on your body and your baby.

Womb Breathing

Womb Breathing is a sitting meditation using complete breathing. It brings in vital energy and oxygenation for full function in childbirth. Daily practice of Womb Breathing helps pregnant people and their partners progressively recognize and release anxiety and fear in preparation for labor. This practice helps people free themselves from fear of pain and fear of fear. They are able to breathe calm into labor, preventing themselves from suffering, entering new dimensions of life.

This method gives a new vision of the pregnant body and its potential. Based on a meditation method proven effective through centuries of use, it gives women the chance to prove their great inborn capability for childbirth. Meditation strengthens the immune system and activates physical and energy body systems.

With Womb Breathing, parents benefit themselves, bring their children into greater function and ability, and can maintain the practice for the rest of their lives.

How to Use

When you are first beginning to practice, it is ideal to use Womb Breathing at least once a day, and then take several minutes throughout the day to practice this new type of breathing. Womb Breathing is best used in the morning, so that you can set the intention to breathe this way for every breath of the day. This type of breathing comes naturally. Your body likes to do it on its own: It knows what’s good for it!

Eventually, you may decide to try the meditation without the audio guide, simply sitting into empowered breathing for 15 to 20 minutes. Maintaining a regular practice is important, as the benefits increase with consistency. You can always switch from self-practice to the audio guide as you like. Womb Breathing is the most important practice. If you only have time to do one meditation in a day, please do this.

By sitting and breathing in this empowered way throughout your pregnancy, you start to breathe completely during the day without even thinking about it. By your baby’s birthday, you will be able to use Womb Breathing to center yourself throughout the labor, connecting with your baby and supporting the release of joy-inducing and pain-relieving hormones. If you wish to listen to this practice during labor, do so, but it is not necessary. You can carry this breathing through the final stage of labor. You can practice this to connect with your baby with an epidural or during a cesarean. Your partner can remind you to return to your Womb Breathing and can practice it themselves.

Giving and Receiving: Compassionate Breathing

Compassionate Breathing Giving and Receiving is to be a sitting meditation of compassionate breathing. Pregnant people and their partners, if present, practice healing themselves in preparation for the birth. The practice can also heal any disturbance in the wombchild from the past which may be present. This can benefit the health and development of the baby.

This method brings a healing practice into preparation for childbirth for the first time. It applies tong len, a famous practice from meditation science, to pregnancy and birth. This practice has been known for centuries to have extraordinary healing potential. Compassionate breathing encourages parents to discover their natural ability to heal.

How to Use

Giving and Receiving to be used as a complement to the other practices during and after pregnancy. It is not ideal for the pregnant person to use during birth, unless they feel there is something to be healed in the moment for themselves or the baby. However, the partner can use this method to channel healing into the birthing person and/or baby.

Calm Birth was developed from Robert’s years of work with doctors, childbirth educators, midwives, nurses, and doulas. It’s based on methods he learned and was authorized to teach during his more than 20 years of apprenticeship with Tibetan meditation teachers and doctors. He has presented more than 100 hospital and conference training seminars in the Calm Birth method since 1997.