If you don't have an understanding that labor progresses through phases and stAges you would assume that labor is just one process all the way through. This is not the case. In fact active labor is when your doctor or midwife would conSider you to be in a good labor and would have to go to the hospoital or in the event of a home birth your midwife would join you. Good or active labor is usually when you reach or pass the 3 cm mark in dilation.
The thing is that you would not know where you are as far as dilation goes because you would need to be examed by your caregiver. One way to asses active labor is through emotional and physical changes. When active labor sets in you may find the contractions are longer and harder thEn the ones you had been experiencing in early labor. You find that it is harder to walk and talk through contractions as well. My recommendation is if you are ar 3-5 mins apart and your contractions are a good 60 seconds you may want to consider going to the hospital.
What you do physically and how you breath are really important to making sure you keep progressing efficiently and that baby takes proper vertex anterior position and can descent. Sqautting is a good way to help this along but be sure to keep the spine upright, and the hips neutral. You don't want to curve over the baby. Imagine a straight line from your spine to pelvic floor that baby can move down into. Another good pose is lunging to help open the cervix and make room for the baby in the hips. Your breathing should be long and deep. I call it elevator breath. One inhaltion over three seconds and one long exhalations over 3 seconds. This will help you manage the peaks of active contractions and ensure your body is open and not constricting with stress.
For a full active flow for movement and breathing you can read Yoga Birthing from thE website. www.yogabirthmethod.com