Eight ways that Birthlight yoga helps pregnancy and childbirth
As my daughter Maya bubbles and fizzes with energy towards her first birthday, my mind recounts with awe her journey into the world. I relive the profound sense of gratitude and wonder I felt for my partner, Eirene (a totally brilliant midwife), Joyful Babies and Francoise Freedman (founder of Birthlight), for helping Maya come to us with such grace and presence. I am moved to shout out loud about Birthlight Yoga, the beautiful practice which enlivened, honoured and protected my growing baby and me with gentle yoga techniques throughout my pregnancy and childbirth.
I taught twice weekly and went to Birthlight classes whilst pregnant.
1. Yoga encourages feeling good
Pregnancy yoga sequences are relaxing and help us produce oxytocin, the baby bonding hormone which orchestrates the bodies’ natural pain reliever and contributes to our level of happiness. When our breath and body flow together, the body moves with greater ease and balances our internal systems, helping our bodies cope well with stress. In fact with a regular yoga practice, situations which were once stressful often disappear.
When women come together for these nourishing practices the magical hormone of ‘oxytocin’ weaves its way through the air, our bodies and babies, creating the lovely warm fuzzy feeling of happiness, security, and relaxation. Once we’ve got it running through our bodies, it’s far easier to recreate this beautifully abundant nourishing cocktail in our labour and birthing experience.
Many students come to class with a big grin saying that yoga time is the highlight of their week, when they really get time to bond with their babies and relax their bodies. Whilst pregnant in class, I felt like I was right where I needed to be. Surrounded by beautiful women with growing babies, every session left me feeling rebalanced and reconnected with myself and my baby. As the teacher, it brought a glow to my heart to hear our local caretaker remark how happy these women are!
2. Yoga prevents and alleviates pregnancy ailments
The myriad of experiences we encounter as women journeying through pregnancy is huge and can be all encompassing. It can be joyful, uplifting and exciting, and it can be niggling, painful and downright frustrating too. We need to find ways to enjoy living on a day to day basis for nine whole months and to synchronise with the ebb and flow of hormonal, emotional, physical and mental changes. The wealth of ideas and practices that Birthlight taught me, kept me so positive and empowered. There are moves to counterbalance all kinds of challenges. I had pelvic girdle pain throughout my pregnancy and my yoga practise was as ever my best friend, my practice alleviated my pain, relaxed my body and mind and helped me find new ways to move.
3. Yoga connects with our instinctive nature and inner voice
The beautifully flowing, rythmic nature of the yoga moves when practised regularly enables our body memory to store the moves, so we can move and breathe more and more instinctively, leaving thoughts to the side. When in touch with our instinctive nature we have a heightened awareness of what we need, what is instinctively right for ourselves and our babies. This important inner voice becomes louder and clearer the more relaxed we are and the greater our ability to relinquish control, to let go. We can find this through our yoga practice, with our breath and movement combined.
Finding my inner voice and hearing it whisper its way clearly through my contractions was a turning point in my labour. As my labour progressed and the contractions intensified, my ability to distance myself from the pain began to fall apart, and I became more and more anxious. I knew that the less relaxed I was, the more difficult our labour would become. There was an angel midwife, Eirene who came by our poolside at times, giving me focussed unwavering, caring eye contact. I became aware that when she left the room, my anxieties rose and when she returned with her caring eyes, I settled again. I found strength to ask her to stay. She stayed until the very end, my voice and Irene’s presence changed the course of Mayas’ journey into the world.
4. Yoga uses sound
I used fun, soothing, simple and most importantly, deeply empowering sound practices and wow did these help me through our labour. Sound can help release the cervix and prevent tearing, and this is how I birthed Maya, without stitches. In my mind I thought I would be very quiet, I had a good idea that I would deeply internalise the experience (having spent 10 days on a silent meditation retreat the year before!!), but oh no, using sound really helped me centre myself and release my birthing muscles!
5. Yoga improves blood circulation
We become our growing babies’ life force, without us they cannot survive. We grow a placenta and our babies are nourished through this powerful tree of life. We focus on many practices that energise our bodies and improve our blood flow, to carry vital nutrients via the placenta to our babies.
After Maya was born, a little later, I rose on wobbly legs from the birthing pool in a haze and daze, a time in life for which there are no words, and my placenta pulsed and charged with life into the empty pool. In that moment, there was a deep instinctive knowing, that Maya had been filled with all she needed, and I will carry that with me for the rest of my life. Quality blood circulation is crucial in pregnancy.
6. Yoga brings friendship
Women coming together and feeling a sense of inclusion and shared experience, is central to us feeling emotionally supported in pregnancy. When we get this support, we feel resourced, and when we are resourced, our babies know! An absolute essential ingredient to a positive pregnancy is to feel nurtured and not alone. It has been a truly precious, deeply important and necessary first year, for Maya and I to spend time with our ‘yoga mums’ and their beautiful growing babies. Sharing the funny moments along with the tiredness and anxieties too, we are now celebrating first birthday parties together.
7. Yoga is empowering
Birthlight yoga helped me take responsibility for my pregnancy experience, perhaps the most potent gift of all. In the past I experienced a physically and emotionally traumatic miscarriage that left me feeling very unwell for a year, through extreme blood loss and hormonal and emotional upheaval. Using yoga on falling pregnant again gave me a strong sense of purpose and focus, where I took responsibility for the pregnancy challenges as they arose. In society, pregnancy can be a time where there is alot of fear and avoidance, and I found that by practicing regularly I was able to stay in the celebration and power of motherhood, embracing the ups and downs with yoga modifications and lots of breathing and relaxation. Importantly this gave my partner confidence in me and our growing baby too.
8. Yoga connects you with your baby
Love nestles itself deep within the heart of yoga. Embarking on a pregnancy yoga journey brings so much potential for a precious, deeply connected beginning with our babies. The sequences, meditations and breath work give lots of guidance into bonding. I remember the first time I truly experienced my baby communicating with me in a class. I was surprised to observe that in the still of the yoga space it was very easy to listen to my growing baby communicating with me, it was a remarkable moment the first time I could truly listen and hear. It was as if the space had become purified through the shared silence, allowing a perfect, safe space for my baby to communicate and be heard. Also in this group I noticed my belly seemed to expand, seemingly with pride as if talking to the other bellies in the room. The potential for growth and human connection when women come together can be the truly magical.
It is an honour to work with women during this deeply transformational time, and learn about what works best for them.
Lisa Szramowski xxx