Relaxation Techniques For Labor – Total Body Relaxation

In our previous article on body awareness/tension recognition, we have addressed how to develop a sense of body awareness and recognize muscle tension. The next step in refining your relaxation skills is to relax your entire body. The Total Body Relaxation exercise will help you to do this using verbal cues and mental images. As with the Body Awareness/Tension Recognition exercise, have your partner give you the cues and then observe you for relaxation. Table 5.2 presents the verbal cues, what you should do, and what your labor partner should observe. When you have completed the entire sequence, your partner can physically check your body for relaxation. Then take a moment to come back to the present, take 2 deep breaths, open your eyes, and slowly get up with your partner’s assistance. After performing this exercise several times, you may be able to mentally take yourself through the routine, without the verbal cues from your partner.

Table 5.2. Total Body Relaxation Guide

Verbal Cue Woman’s action Partner’s Reaction
Close your eyes, take several deep breaths, and begin to let the tension flow from your body. (Pause). Start at the top of your head and release any tightness in your scalp, moving it down the sides and back of your head. Relax scalp area. Observe relaxation of face.
Lower your eyebrows. Let eyebrows drop. Observe relaxation of eyebrows.
Close your eyes, Feel your eyelids becoming heavy, your eyes sinking back into your head. Relax eyes, lids, temples, forehead, and surrounding area. Observe relaxation of eye area.
Let your jaw drop. Your lips should become slightly parted. Relax jaw and slightly open mouth. Observe relaxation of jaw.
Allow your head to rest against the pillow. (if her head is not supported, say: Slightly lower your chin). Relax head against support (or lower chin). Observe relaxation of head.
Feel your shoulder blades open outward, like a dress falling off a hanger. Relax neck, shoulders, and upper arms. Observe relaxation of upper body.
Starting at your right shoulder, move any tightness down your upper arm, past your elbow, down your lower arm, past your wrist, through your hand, and out your fingers. (read very slowly). Relax tight arms from shoulder down to fingers. Observe relaxation of right arm.
Repeating this on your left side, start at your left shoulder and move any tightness down your upper arm, past your elbow, down your lower arm, past your wrist, through your hand, and out your fingers. (read very slowly). Relax left arm from shoulder down to fingers. Observe relaxation of left arm.
Concentrate on your breathing. Slowly breathe in oxygen to your baby and slowly exhale carbon dioxide and tension. With each out-breath, sight out a little more tension. Exhale and relax body further. Be aware of tension release. Observe relaxation of body.
Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, making each breath a little longer, until you feel very relaxed. Try to feel as if you are breathing right down your back, starting at the base of your neck and slowly moving down your upper back, past your ribs, down into your waist, and into your hips. (Read very slowly). Focus on breathing and relax back muscles. Observe relaxation of back.
Relax right leg from hip down to toes. Observe relaxation of right leg.
Repeating this on your left side, start your left hip and move any tightness down your thigh, past your knee, down your calf, past your ankle, through your foot, and out your toes. (Read very slowly). Relax left leg from hip down to toes. Observe relaxation of left leg.
Feel every limb become heavy—Your feet, lower legs, thighs, hips, hands, arms, shoulders. Experience feeling of heaviness. Observe relaxation of arms and legs.
The force of gravity is pulling you down into the Earth. Experience feeling of sinking. Observe relaxation of body.
Your knees are so heavy that they need to flop apart to the sides. Feel legs become limp and open to sides. Observe relaxation of legs.
Your whole body is melting and spreading across the floor. Feel sensation of tension flowing outward. Observe relaxation of body.
Now take a minute to go over your body. If you feel there is any area that is still holding tension, think about bringing some heat to the area, and release the area to the warmth. Feel warmth of sun on tense area. Observe relaxation of body, then physically check for total relaxation.

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