Birth Breathing

July 05, 2011 by Dimitri Trufanov  
Dimitri Trufanov is a Chicago-based Systema instructor. His wife Olga recently gave birth to their third son.
The youngest boy was born at home and Olga agreed to share this unique experience.

Why did you decide on home birth?
The choice was natural for us. The older kids were born at a local hospital. What we didn’t like about that was that there was too much interference from the staff at moments when inward focus was most needed. So, we wanted more control, a quieter environment, one that home, you know.

Also, I wanted to avoid any pain medications, so we used homeopathic remedies and soothing music. Going through labor in a deep bath of water helped as well. Of course, there were two experienced midwives and an assistant present during labor and birth. Even though we had everything ready to go to a hospital on a moment’s notice, we never had to because everything went so well.

How did Systema help during the process?
Most importantly, breathing is taught during every Systema class. After only a few classes I was able to connect breathing and movement. I started finding and releasing tensions in the body, and psychological ones too. Overall energy level soared. Amazing! Actually, with Systema breathing, during the last few months of pregnancy I did not even feel heavy or tired!

What was most important in preparing yourself and the baby for the natural birth?
A couple of things.
First, it’s trusting the wisdom of the body. We already have everything we need and it flows naturally as long as we simply trust ourselves.

Second, it’s learning to be mindful, fully present in the moment. Being aware of what’s going on and dealing with what you have, one moment at a time. How can we do that? Many teachers said it and they are absolutely right: breathing.
It’s especially important because there is such a powerful connection between mom and baby. 

Did you use any specific breathing techniques?
Well, any rigid techniques go out the window with the first contraction (by the way, we decided to call them waves instead, which takes away some of the seriousness and psychological tension). Instead, I focused on the principles that work.  They are listed in chapter 3 of Vladimir’s book Let Every Breath. Breath training has proven to be most valuable for me. It’s so much deeper than anything I can share.

Could you mention the key points that made the difference?
All right.
First, birth breathing needs to be continuous (that is without holding or stopping). If you forget to breathe, that’s when fear and pain can creep in.

Another idea is that breathing always leads the work. It takes some practice and the result is, when the pain wave comes, your breathing is already adjusted. I mean breathing in a way that is right for the moment, for the level of pain, etc. So, here is another principle – sufficiency. As Vladimir said, we move because we breathe, and movement can be external or internal. Giving birth is mostly internal work… What else? Yes, letting go and making sounds helped a lot, which is in line with ‘audible breathing’ used in Systema.

How does that compare with your previous training?
Previously, I took Lamaze classes and the instruction was mostly intellectual, perhaps even too ‘numerical’. They provided some cookie-cutter breathing patterns but didn’t really teach any principles. That was my impression.

You mentioned connecting with the baby. Did it feel different this time?
Absolutely, with fewer distractions I was able to focus inward and really pay better attention to my breathing. On top of that, there were no synthetic pain killers in the blood stream, so the baby was fully alert. He felt it was time to come out and actively helped, too! I think that was the main difference. And of course, being fully present to hug and cuddle with the newborn right away was priceless. I felt totally happy, blessed and fulfilled. Overall, I’d say Systema has made a huge positive impact. Thank you.

Dimitri Trufanov Dimitri Trufanov is a certified Systema instructor and a well-known Systema translator.
He has been training in Systema with Vladimir Vasiliev and Mikhail Ryabko since 2003 and has about 20 years of martial and weapons art experience. Dimitri teaches regular classes and seminars at Systema Chicago.