Preparing for birth with yoga
Pregnancy is a wonderful time to practice yoga. A woman’s focus often changes during this time and she is more aware of what is going on inside her body and her mind. It is a time in life when we move inwards and inhabit a different world for a while.
Yoga, being a focused and inward-looking practice, is the perfect complement to pregnancy and birth. It offers practical and effective techniques to strengthen, stretch and relax the body while preparing it for labour. At the same time, it allows a woman to access her own inner power and strength.
The slow steady rhythm of the breath is our guide when we turn the focus inwards. Focus on the breath reduces tension in your muscles and relaxes the mind. It teaches you how to manage your breathing and your thoughts. Usually if breathing has become laboured or shallow a thinking pattern emerges. By imagining the thoughts going into space, or visualising them moving out to sea, you can detach from negative and anxious thoughts.
Breath is the key to managing labour. If a woman holds her breath during labour then stress builds and the muscles become tense, making it difficult to flow from contraction to contraction. Breathing techniques help you to be aware that you are holding your breath and resume slow and steady breathing.
Labour and birth is physically challenging and that is why adequate preparation is really useful. A woman needs to call on reserves of physical, emotional and mental strength to handle labour and the many emotions it brings up. This is where breathing, visualisation and meditation comes in, allowing you to ‘get out of your own way’ and let the body do what it already knows how to do.
Yoga and meditation lets you be fully aware of what is happening during labour. It teaches you not to try and obliterate the contractions, but to focus on them and flow with them, moving deeper and deeper inwards. You experience each contraction and visualise it in whichever way works for you.
Yoga poses are a good metaphor for childbirth. Holding certain poses might be uncomfortable, but this helps you to release the tension in your body and build inner strength. Yoga teaches us to transcend the external pose and turn our senses inwards -even as the body struggles to hold that pose.
Intentional visualisation is a vital anchor for women in labour. You create your own visualisation based on what works for you. The intention is to feel powerful, strong and flexible. Through practice of connecting with a chosen image during pregnancy, you can visualise this symbol when you need it during labour. It will bring your focus back to the breath and movement. Intentional visualisation works in harmony with focus and relaxation. Women have also visualised yoga postures during labour. It is not necessary to do the postures; just visualising them can bring you back to centre.
Being in the moment
Labour and delivery are unknowns. No predictions can be made by anyone as to the type or length of labour. Pregnant women who practice yoga develop confidence in their body movements and become more comfortable with the unpredictability of labour and delivery. They know that staying in the moment will propel them forward, releasing any resistance to the unknown. Any movement that brings in focus and relaxation is yoga. This concept is especially important during labour because the demand is for the woman to follow her breath and intuition in regard to labour and movement.