Breathing in labour

Annabel Hargrave is an active birth yoga teacher with over 14 years experience I went to her classes before the birth of my 2 boys and felt her classes really helped me understand how breathing correctly in labour can really make a difference. Here she describes how breathing helps in labour and gives a step by step guide to the coloured ribbon breath visualisation.


Breathing, essential to life and birth, is the core of YogaBirth classes. Over the weeks spent in the class through the practice of simple breath awareness, visualisation and sounding, you will become familiar with the natural rhythm of your breath and increase your ability to focus inward. The repetitious nature of this work is a form of self-hypnosis. When practiced in simple postures this hypnobreathing will enable you to go into the “zone”- a meditative state which is perfect for labour. This practice is healing and calms the busy mind during pregnancy, clearing the way for you to listen to your own intuitive voice. Breath awareness is the background to YogaBirth, so that when the time comes and your body takes over during labour you will instinctively know how to use your breath to soothe, steady and guide yourself through the waves of contractions and breathe yourself to an easier birth

Coloured ribbon breath visualisation

Take a yawn, release jaw, throat, teeth. Close your eyes. Have your teeth slightly apart, the lips slightly apart.
Watch the easy natural rhythm of your breath.
Allow there to be a very small gap between the top teeth and the bottom of the teeth, between the top lip and the bottom lip. Breathe in through your nose and out through slightly parted lips.
Feel a fine cool breeze passing out between the lips.
Allow the muscles of your face to relax and feel soft. Feel the breath now travelling in through the nose, and out through the mouth.
Allow the breath to be so fine that it feels as a fine thread or ribbon is spinning out between the lips. You can choose whatever colour you would like it to be, golden, silver, purple, blue – any colour you like. It’s smooth, silky, soft and supple, and it is spinning out and out and out with every exhalation.
Allow the exhalation to lengthen each time, without pushing or forcing, but simply letting the out breath increase in length, as the beautiful coloured ribbon or thread of breath spins into the air in front of you.
With each exhalation allow for the breath to go in though the nose and out through the mouth.
Feel the breeze of the exhalation travelling out between the lips, out into the air, in front of your closed eyes.
The exhalation will naturally and inevitably lengthen. Let the end of the silver yarn carry the mental attention farther and farther away with each exhalation. It is as if the final point of the outgoing breath were to carry the mental focus completely out of your body.
The longer the breath – the longer the distance between the mind and the body so your body is left with stillness and quietness. The exhalation releases tension and allows the body to rest. The exhalation is the antidote to pain and tension.
Stay with the moment and rhythm of your own breath
©Annabel Hargrave

For details of Annabel’s classes please refer to her website or email her, or phone