A question was asked on the discussion forum which hopefully clarifies birthlight postnatal breathing

Q. I was taught in my Pilates classes to pull the navel towards the spine on the exhale. Why, at Birthlight, do we teach the mums to do it on the inhale?

Reply (Francoise)

Thank you for your question on the very important point of the postnatal core toning with yoga breathing that is taught in Birthlight. No, it is not correct to say that we teach mums to pull their navel towards their spine on an inhalation. The main toning action is of course an exhalation and this is in conformity not just with the yoga tradition but also with anatomy as all the four layers of abdominal muscles are gently pulled up with the thoracic diaphragm, to which they are attached, on exhalation. The action of ‘reverse breathing’, (named in contrast with the ‘birthing breathing’ we teach in yoga for pregnancy) is exactly this drawing in on an exhalation, that mums gradually learn to extend for the benefit not just of muscular tone but better functioning of the endocrine system, resulting in better hormone balance. When mums are familiar with this practice, let’s say after a week or two (it can be done right after birth for everyone including C section births) then the pelvic floor muscles are involved: the ‘reverse breathing 2’, (that we are now calling Postnatal Breathing 2 for clarity because many people don’t know what reverse means) is as follows: draw in pelvic floor muscles on inhalation, then draw more on exhalation -automatically continuing the action of pulling navel to spine as all the pelvic muscles are connected. At the end of your extended exhalation, release. Most mums will need a normal breath (a breathing cycle with no action) in between practices at the beginning but after a short time mums become able to release muscles completely at the end of their exhalation and then draw in their pelvic floor again on a new in breath. It’s very important to release completely between practices as we promote elasticity over tone, in contrast with many repetitive toning practices that are out there for postnatal core toning. But while in pregnancy yoga the focus is on the release, in preparation for opening the birth passage, in postnatal yoga the focus is on the drawing in action with the outbreath.

Sorry a bit of a long winded answer but I hope it clarifies the misunderstanding that perhaps many Birthlight teachers have about the Birthlight postnatal breathing. There is no contradiction with Pilates. We are closer to the essence of yoga by extending the exhalation. By pre-drawing the pelvic floor on inhalation we help new mums reverse the inevitable sagging of the pelvic floor hammock from late pregnancy – that affects mums irrespective of the type of birth they have had- in order to get a more effective core toning action with the exhalation.