Relax Jaw & Pelvic Floor to help Ease Labour & Delivery: My Top 5 Yoga Poses
Updated: Mar 11, 2019
When it comes to labour and delivery many midwives, doulas, birth educators and the like understand and talk about the connection between jaw and pelvis. Keeping them both relaxed through movement, positions, breath, cueing and support, in preparation for and during labour helps ease pressure on the perinium and ease baby's delivery.
While Ina May Gaskin’s well known “sphincter law” or “open mouth - open cervix phenomenon” remains controversial, there is a direct physical connection from the jaw to the pelvis via the deep front line (DFL) of fascia (Tom Myers, Anatomy Trains). This linked chain of muscles and connective tissue runs through the pelvis connecting the deep muscles of the jaw, tongue and neck to the bottom of our feet! From the head and jaw the DFL runs under the ribcage to the respiratory diaphragm, which then crisscrosses with the hip flexors (psoas) traveling like two big pork tenderloins down to the hips and pelvis, connecting with and influencing the tension in the pelvic floor. It goes on to connect with the inner thigh muscles, inner lower leg muscles and the dense fascia on the soles of our feet.
As my belly started to "pop" (around 24 weeks), as well as with the development of subconscious yet common pregnancy postural compensations (tucked pelvis, pushed back chest and ribs, decreased core control, etc.) I noticed my jaw and pelvic floor becoming tight to help stabilize me against my stretched front.
So to create some space, balance, and relaxation for both the next fews months of growth coming my way, as well as in preparation for birth (optimizing my alignment, baby position, and to limit the tension in the pelvic floor to prevent tearing, and to mindfully practice breath work, vocal toning to use during labour) I found these 5 yoga poses the most relieving and delicious. Here is some more information on vocal toning and its benefits in relation to birth: http://www.gaia.com/article/prenatal-yoga-and-vocal-toning
As always, listen to your body and see what it needs in the moment. If you are unsure about any of these poses or the safety to you or your growing baby, please consult your healthcare provider or pelvic floor/ women's health physiotherapist.
During these poses, make sure to be mindful of what your jaw, pelvis and hands are doing - try to keep them soft and relaxed.
1. Supported Fish with Lion’s Breath & Butterfly Legs: You can add lion’s breath to any backbend of your choice. I liked it in this combination pose. MAKE SURE to come down and up through the side, then roll onto the bolster to protect your stretched core muscles (potential diastasis recti). Lion's breath: inhale through the nose and exhale opening the mouth, sticking out your tongue while looking up and back. Deep front line includes the tongue as well!!
2. Sidelying Locust with “Ma” tone: Modified to accommodate baby, do one side at a time. Make sure your palm is facing up before you grab the inside of your foot/ ankle (or you can use a belt or pillow case to reach). You can play with where your bottom leg is to provide stability. Once you have your foot you can play with arching your back or neck to get a nice front line stretch. Once you find your edge, actively exhale chanting the sound of “Maaaaaa” for the duration of your exhale. Repeat 11 times. Slowly release, transition through table and repeat on the other side.
3. Wide Legged Virasana (Shero) with Hand Bind and Neck Rolls: Sitting in a comfortable position (use as many pillow, blankets, blocks as you need to feel supported and knees are cushioned) clasp your hands so palms face away from you behind your lower back. Inhale to lengthen the spine, exhale bring one ear to one shoulder and play with the positioning of your head/ neck to feel a gentle stretch in your jaw, neck and shoulders. Rest where you feel a juicy stretch and try to open the jaw slightly to relax it for a few breaths up to a minute. Make sure to slowly roll your chin back to the chest and then up before going to the other side.
4. Lotus with Neck Sidebend & Bumble Bee Breath: Sitting tall in a supported and comfortable position (on sits bones with no tucking of tail or rounding of the lower back) intend your right hand down to the earth, bringing your left ear to the left shoulder to where you feel a gentle stretch. Feel free to play with your head position, looking up or down, looking behind you, etc. until you find that delicious spot to breathe into more. Stay here and as you exhale, slightly restrict the back of your throat to make a humming or buzzing sound like a bumble bee. Continue to breathe and on each exhale buzz like a bee. Rest here for 5-10 breaths as you like. Repeat other side.
5. Seated Twist with Vocal Toning: Sitting tall in a comfortable position (lotus or shero) with a neutral curve in the lower back and knees supported by the floor or blocks, bolsters, etc. inhale arms up over head, exhale to twist to the left bring both arms down to the left, placing the right on the outside of your left knee. Staying tall and breathing into your ribcage, as you exhale you can play with the short vowel sounds (can do them all or pick one you like the most): “a” as in “apple”; “e” as in “echo”; “i” as in “itch”, “o” as in “omelette”, “u” as in “up”. Repeat on the other side.
Wishing you a happy and healthy pregnancy, labour and delivery:)
Disclaimer - Everything shared is for informative purposes only. It is not intended for assessment, diagnosis or treatment purposes. If you feel there needs to be further investigation, please seek out a qualified health care professional for a proper assessment.