Pregnant women sit, gently cradling their swollen bellies. Eyes closed, they focus mindful, loving intent on their unborn babies. They begin to exhale deeply. A soft, humming sound is added to the out-breath. A sense of calm fills the room as vowel sounds are woven in, increasing in depth and intensity until resonant lullabies result.
As a result of combining my yoga background with my training from the College of Sound Healing, women from my Yogabirth classes are now toning their babies into the world.
The practice described above has become a regular part of my pregnancy and birth classes. Toning is an effective tool for pain relief during labour and a means of staying calm and relaxed.
It allows the pregnant woman to maintain a harmonious, meditative state for hours at a time. Labour is an orchestration of hormonal responses and it is the hormone oxytocin, triggered by the primitive brain and essential for uterine contractions, that conducts these primal responses.
The harmonising and soothing effects of vocalising have been natural for the labouring woman throughout human history. The pathway of the mother's breath directs the flow of energy through her baby and down towards the earth.
During this time, connections between mother and unborn child are made. A foetus can hear from four months' gestation and mothers report great foetal activity in response to this practice followed by periods of restfulness. They feel their babies listen and enjoy the inner vibrational resonance of this ‘sound bath’ of sound. The babies seem to sense that their mother is in a place of serenity.
Toning is best done in an upright and forward posture, which places the pelvis in the most favourable birthing position. Extended exhalation has the positive effect of increasing inhalation and oxygenating the body. A hum is initially used to maintain direction, focus and, most importantly, loving intention.
This sounding breathwork, practised regularly during pregnancy, becomes familiar to all who are to be involved in the birth. Familiar, natural tones embellish the breath to ease the mother and baby and soothe the partner and birth attendants through this rite of passage.
The timbre of the tone brings mindful awareness to the mother. She remains in an ‘alpha theta’ brain state, which is physiologically necessary to maintaining maximum oxytocin flow. This sounding breathwork has been noted to really help follow the gravitational urge to open and deliver this new life and light the way to the amazing joyful transformation that is parenthood - brought into being by utilising the loving, directional power of sound.
My recent CD: Birthing Relaxations, provides a variety of resources, including this sounding breath work, and helps to inspire the confidence to stay with this primal power of birth, Using the soothing sonic massage of sound, it taps into the depths of inner energy. Further details can be found on www.yogasense.co.uk.
I always found the toning part of your class very relaxing. It did feel like the baby could hear. In today's society I don't feel that people are very good at just being and really listening, rather than doing.
I used toning in labour and the thing that I found most advantageous about it was that my husband could join in and feel that he was taking part and it created a powerful energy for contractions. I think unless he had been to the Partners' Workshop he would have just thought I was being rather weird.
I have also toned after birth and it seems to have a calming influence on the baby, particularly in moments of colic. Perhaps it just makes me feel calmer and more able to cope.
Before I became pregnant and joined your classes, I went to yoga on a regular basis and found the benefits of this extremely useful.
I had never heard of the uses of toning, but after attending your classes and practising this at home on a regular basis, I realised what a significant effect this had on both myself and subsequently my baby.
The toning which we practised in the class was very useful and calming. I would also take at least 5 minutes each day at home to sit down and relax and tone through each of the vowel tones, whilst either circling on my birth ball, or on all fours and rotating my hips, or sitting with crossed legs, my hands cradling my pregnant belly. Your CD was of great use as I could tune into this, thus enforcing each sound with confidence.
I decided to have a home birth and during the first stages of my labour I used the toning, whilst being on all fours and rotating my hips. This I found to be very useful and when the midwife arrived and examined me I was 5cm dilated. Throughout my labour I remained focussed and in control and as a result my baby's heartbeat remained strong and steady. Holly Elizabeth came into the world on 17th November 2006 at 11.53 a.m.
My partner was not an advocate of the toning and often mocked my use of this until he realised how it really worked for me. I told him that when Holly was crying I would either put your CD on or tone to the baby, at which she would usually stop crying and listen and look intently at me. He even actually admitted that he had toned to our baby when it was crying using the humming sound.
Your informative classes helped to make my pregnancy and the birth of my daughter such a positive and wonderful experience, for which I cannot thank you enough.