So many people have asked me: "Does yoga really make birth easier?"
My answer is always yes, Yes, YES! The practice of yoga makes much of life easier, and the more we practice, the more we can rely on the tools of yoga to back us up in challenging situations. When you look at Yoga as a way of engaging with life, as a lifestyle, then the gifts are much greater than physical benefits. However, when it comes to the intense physical changes of pregnancy and childbirth, physical benefits cannot be understated.
1. The Power of the Breath: A large component of my prenatal yoga classes is the breath. Noticing how the breath is naturally moving inside the body is a huge clue to how we are feeling internally. If we are stressed or rushed, the breath will be fast and short. If we are frightened we may hold our breath completely. But, when we are calm the breath moves slowly, deeply, fully.
We can use these simple clues of the breath to change our state of mind and physical sensations in the body. For example, when a contraction is painful a woman may try to hold back. They may feel frightened and literally hold their breath. A woman with a foundation of yoga will observe her body doing this and then through reminders of their own or of a labor companion she'll remember to deepen the breath. These deep breaths will relax her body, helping her feel calm through the contractions, and physically soften her muscles to open up for baby.
In my Prenatal Yoga Classes we really get to know our breath. I emphasize feeling how the breath moves in different positions so that Mamas notice the difference in their breathing from sitting down meditating to moving through very dynamic poses. The idea is to create an equanimity in the breath no matter what is happening externally. At all the births I've attended the word most commonly said by midwives and doulas in labour is "Breathe". It is much easier to tap into a deep, calming breath when it has been practiced regularly prior to Birth.
2. Moving for Comfort: Prenatal Yoga can really teach a Mama how to create comfort in her body. Many Mamas that come to my classes complain of back pain, sluggish digestion or uncomfortable sleep prior to class. These same Mamas report major relief from back pain, smoother digestion and improved sleep the night after class. This is a HUGE testament to how simple yoga asanas create ease and comfort in the body.
This idea of moving for comfort easily transfers to birth itself. Gently swaying the hips or rocking on hands and knees in labor can dramatically reduce pressure on the hips and low back. With almost every contraction of my labour I got into an all fours position and swayed my hips back and forth. This was just as vital in easing pain as was my labour companion's hands on my back. I've held many Mamas as they lean forward during contractions. Moving in early labour helps encourage contractions to pick up. Moving right up until birth helps baby find an ideal position, and good positioning of baby also can reduce pain in birth.
When a Mama can find a comfortable (or at least a MORE comfortable position) for birth they are able to relax and open easily. In prenatal yoga classes we learn a variety of positions that can be used in birth to create ease.
3. Setting Intention: Intention is a cornerstone of yoga that differentiates it from other forms of exercise. I have found intention to be vital for creating a positive attitude. As one of my mentors, Stephanie Dawn says, Intention creates a pathway for consciousness to flow. Setting an intention is as simple as asking yourself "What do I really want from this experience?". I encourage Mamas to practice this through out pregnancy, or even prior to conception if you are preparing to conceive. This is an incredible way to tune in with your womb or spirit baby and ASK THEM what they want. Daily intentions provide a solid place for pregnant Mamas to turn back to when they feel confused or stressed. In my life I have found that when things don't work out as I wanted, many times I did not have a clear intention for the experience.
One Mama I worked shared this with me: "My intention was to open, and I visualized baby moving down and out throughout the last weeks of my pregnancy. I had a fast and relatively short labor for a first time mom and I know it was because of my clear intentions".
When birth is an intentional experience, with clear desires and visions laid out before labor begins, a family is most likely going to have the birth experience that they want.
4. Opening the Pathway: Regular prenatal yoga practice literally prepares the body for birth. With carefully selected asanas the pelvic floor is widened, strengthened, and an awareness of how to open the birth canal is gained. There is a delicate balance in prenatal yoga of muscle strength, and organically opening. We expand the space in the body. With these fine-tuned asanas the birth canal and whole body is made ready for birth. My prenatal yoga classes also emphasize opening the heart, because no matter how a Mama births, her heart will be opened in ways unimaginable before.
Do you want to engage in this potent practice with me?
A 6-week series of Heart-Centered Prenatal Yoga classes begins the end of the month. Click Here for more info on Facebook, or email me and I'll send you the details.
Space is limited and a special price is available if you register by 11/10/12.