Yoga for Birthing - Part 1
Practicing yoga throughout pregnancy has many amazing attributes, so many in fact that I would find it hard to list them. Above all else, if practiced regularly and with deep intention and dedication, it shows us how to return to ourselves, to peel back the layers, tune in and take note.
I have decided to split this particular blog post into two parts. In this “Part One” of Yoga for Birthing I share my reflections on:
Moving Body and Breath as One -
Birthing in itself requires us to come out of our thinking brain and tap into the more instinctual animalistic part of ourselves. In particular during asana practice, if we can learn to bring awareness to how the our body moves with the breath we are directly training and preparing for birth. Moving the body with breath helps our attention to draw internally and become more intuitive in our practice. As is the case with any training, in time, this awareness will flow off the mat and into everyday life (and in the case of pregnancy into the birth space as well). As we move through an asana practice generally we inhale as we open and create space in the body and exhale as we close, compressing through the body. Think of the action of drawing backwards and forwards from table top (hands and knees position) to adho muka virasana (downward facing hero pose), inhaling as we draw forward and exhaling as the seat draws back towards the heals. This action in itself can transcend to the birthing mother who may find herself on her hands and knees to birth. When the pushing reflex activates and surges start to work on getting the baby out, the birthing mothers body will naturally begin to draw the seat towards heels as she works on breathing/exhaling baby down through the birth canal. Often birthing mothers describe the action of finding rhythm between body and breath during labour as finding their flow.
Connection and Awareness of Pelvic Floor -
For many women, not a great deal of thought is given to their pelvic floor before they become pregnant with their first child. From this time on, however, it is worth becoming very familiar and comfortable with the area. We are advised of the importance of toning the pelvic floor through pregnancy, and many actions during a prenatal class will aid in this. One area I like to really bring awareness to is the importance of not only being able to control and engage the pelvic floor, but to know what it feels like and how to release the pelvic floor. This is of particular importance for women coming from a yoga, pilates, gymnastics or any background where a strong pelvic floor has been developed, but possibly at the hindrance of it’s elasticity. If we bring it back to yogic terms we can refer to the concept of sthira (steadiness, firmness) and sukha (gentleness, softness).Often in these circumstances women have worked on strengthening and developing control of the region to such a degree they become completely unaware of how to release the pelvic floor ‘without wetting their pants’ as one of my students put it plainly. In this case their focus needs to be on working on the release sensation as much as the toning. I often advise these ladies to research perennial massage for birthing, at the very least it will help with elasticity, but will also aid in learning to relax when there is the sensation of pressure on the area. Another tip to remember is the relationship between the jaw and the pelvic floor. When the jaw is clenched then the perennial area and vagina will generally be engaged and tense locking the base charkra (muladhara) and preventing apana (downward energy) from flowing. If possible make sure you have a reminder or have someone to remind you to keep the jaw released through labour and it will greatly assist with baby’s downward decent through the birth canal.
Stay Tunes for Part Two which will cover ‘Chanting and Effective use of Sound’ and ‘Learning Constructive and Steady Breathing’