CF writes: “We were taught the Lamaze technique in the 70’s for natural childbirth. Is it New Age? It has breathing exercises and effleurage massage.”
The Lamaze method of natural childbirth is not New Age. It is named after its founder, Dr. Fernand Lamaze, a French obstetrician who introduced the method in 1951 for mothers who wish to give birth naturally and avoid anesthesia. The method includes childbirth education classes for mothers- and fathers-to-be along with breathing techniques that help the mother to focus and remain relaxed during childbirth.
Unlike New Age breathing exercises which incorporate visualization and other techniques designed to bring a person into an altered state of consciousness, the breathing exercises associated with Lamaze involve baseline breathing (consists of monitoring one’s normal breathing pattern for one minute to determine how many breaths are normally taken in that time), slow breathing (teaching one to take anywhere from 3-5 seconds to inhale and exhale). Blowing breathing is another Lamaze technique that involves inhaling through the nose and exhaling by blowing out of the mouth. Patterned breathing is the familiar “hee hee hoo” technique usually associated with Lamaze that consists of exhaling with two short breaths and blowing out the rest of the air through the mouth.
The effleurage method of massage is also acceptable. Known as Swedish massage, it is one of the most common massage methods used today and involves the use of a succession of light or deep stroking or gliding motions to massage muscles.
There are a plethora of New Age variations of massage but they’re easy to spot. First, because they involve the manipulation of “energy” rather than just muscle and; second, because the the hands of the masseur normally do not make contact with the skin but instead hover above it while supposedly manipulating this alleged “energy.”
Lamaze is not nearly as common these days as other pain-free childbirth techniques, many of which incorporate hypnosis. Some of these programs do venture into the New Age. For more information about this visit Hypnosis and Hypnobirthing on this blog.