Introduction and learning objectives

Cultural origins and inspiration

The inspiration for Birthlight came from the Peruvian Amazon where Françoise Freedman conducted her fieldwork in anthropology for Cambridge University. She observed the different ways in which the Amazonian families in rainforest communities handled and cared for the pregnant women, new mothers and babies and she applied the ideas to her own family. Some traditional techniques from the Indic cultural tradition (Ayurveda) have also been incorporated and adapted into Birthlight. Years of practice and research underlie the integrated set of exercises presented on this course.

Postnatal care traditions outside the United Kingdom

In India and Pakistan new mothers are expected to follow a 40-day confinement and recuperation period also known as the <Jaappa> (in Hindi). A special diet to facilitate milk production and increase hemoglobin levels is followed. Sex is not allowed during this time. During the period, women usually stay away from household activities and are sup- posed to have a rehabilitation period through rest and a special diet.

In some East Asian cultures, such as Chinese and Vietnamese, there is a traditional custom of postpartum confinement known in English as ‘doing the month’. Confinement traditionally lasts 30 days. Women in Japan frequently practice ‘ansei’ or peace and quiet, for a period of time after giving birth for the purpose of recuperating. This tradition combines prescribed foods with a number of restrictions on activities considered to be harmful. It is widely believed that this custom helps heal injuries to the perineum, promote the contraction of the uterus, and promote lactation.

Traditionally, Greek mothers would spend 40 days confined at home with their infant after giving birth. At the end of the 40 days (the sarántisma, or «fortying»), the child was symbolically taken to church for the first time, where the mother asked for a special blessing on the conclusion of her puerperium.

There are many modern theories seeking to justify this traditional practice, including weakness of infant immune systems, unimpeded establishment of breastfeeding and the need for bonding time between parent and child.

Birthlight: from ‘birthing lightly’ to ‘light after birth’ with yoga: an innovative approach to ‘doing the month’ for Western mothers.

Overall Aims and Objectives of the Postnatal Yoga Course

-To convey a greater understanding of the importance of yoga breathing and micro-movements to
renew core strength and to promote relaxation and nurture for new mothers in the period following birth

-To give students a repertoire of practices to work safely and confidently with postnatal mothers and their babies, guiding them through simple yoga based exercises to realign the body and balance the mind and emotions

-To ensure a progressive transition from gentle postnatal yoga to a more dynamic practice for new mothers to join a general yoga class or other fitness regimes

-To create a long-lasting foundation for mothers’ wellbeing