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Breathing can change everything

Originally posted July 21, 2014.

Perinatal Therapist Spotlight: Robin Muskal, Ph.D.

Please welcome my colleague from Morristown, New Jersey, Robin Muskal, Ph.D., with a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and has trained as a psychotherapist, body worker and energy practitioner for 20 years to BirthTouch® as a guest expert today! Robin works with the perinatal and postpartum population as an adjunct wellness practitioner. She is an advocate for whole person care and helps patients build a strong network of community supports. Utilizing a meaningful set of interventions and techniques, such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness and cognitive behavioral strategies Robin, will assist with transitions, balance of mood and empowerment towards self-integrity and healing. Robin is a Board Certified wellness coach, and a teacher of Iyengar yoga. She has a private practice in Morristown and Florham Park, NJ.


It is quite common for both the expectant and postpartum mother to experience periods of anxiety. This uncomfortable state can be mild, with shallow breathing and racing thoughts, or more intense, including irrational fears that may feel overwhelming. In either case, focusing on the breath can be an immediate anxiety reliever.

I recently learned in an anatomy class how expansive our lung capacities actually are. Our lungs span from our upper chest down to below our ribs and around to the sides and back of our bodies. That is a lot of area that our breath inhalation should be covering. For so many of us, our inhale is shallow and never reaches down to our lower ribs and around to the sides of our diaphragm unless we are involved in a cardio workout.

So, in our day to day lives when we are washing dishes, or as a mother changing our baby or even nursing, our breath does not typically reach below our upper chest. If you can visualize the expansiveness of your lungs, while breathing it is then possible and even probable that you can significantly decrease your feelings of anxiety.

To reduce anxiety, I recommend that you inhale by breathing down into the abdomen, and visualize your breath moving into the sides of your body as though you were adding wings. You can count to 4 or 5 while inhaling and then count a steady exhale of 6 or 7 seconds. While exhaling, it may be useful to visualize blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. This can be practiced several times a day. Giving your full attention to this simple exercise can decrease the simple worries of the day or the more intense bouts of anxiety that can creep up.

As a practitioner, many of my clients feel the anxiety the strongest in the morning hours. I often recommend taking a few minutes to practice this breathing technique before the day begins. Even 3 rounds of inhales and exhales can make a calmer and more emotionally steady day. Remember, anywhere and anytime, this can be practiced. You do not need anything more than yourself and your breath.


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