This time last year I gave birth to my son. I was in labour, but it was so much more than just ‘labouring’. Of course it was a day of hard work, in fact it was the biggest test of physical endurance I have ever experienced, but what about my mind and spirit?
My experience of childbirth felt like a new level of yoga. I felt connected to my body, my breath and the universal life force flowing through me in a way that I had never encountered. I was literally being opened-up to experience something so much greater than myself.
Practicing yoga before and during childbirth has a myriad of benefits. Yoga asana teach us to how to connect to our body and this is essential in labour. The body knows exactly what to do, so the more we can tune into its innate wisdom the more we can trust and let go. We can listen to what position we need to be in and how to move in a way that will ease contractions.
The power of the breath can also be revealed. Specific breathing practices help to release the pelvic floor and work with the downward energy flow. Staying with the breath guides our attention, relieves pain and keeps us centred between and during contractions. This also allows us to birth with the breath, rather than pushing, which is far gentler.
Labour further offers us a gateway into a deeply meditative state. Our attention can turn inwards to a new level as every part of our being is focused on the act of birth. This meditative awareness allows us to listen to what our body needs, so that we can respond, as well as find complete calm between contractions. The beauty of contractions is they are a series of extraordinary sensations, but each one comes out of and returns to stillness.
The use of mantra is another profoundly helpful practice. Releasing the jaw with mantra helps to release the pelvic floor and sound is an incredible pain relief. Choosing deep resonant tones such as ‘ma, om, ou and ah’ all have a lower vibration that help to take our energy and attention down to the pelvis.
With the inner stillness that comes from these techniques we are then able to connect to the divine life force that is flowing through us with each contraction. We can feel connected to creation, to our baby and to every aspect of our being. We can experience the still awareness and dynamic sacred energy behind life. This is the divine yoga, the play of Siva and Shakti.
Childbirth is always a sacred time of transformation, but for many women it is also a time of fear, grief and disempowerment. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Practicing yoga in pregnancy helps you to tune into your body, prepare your body and to trust your body, so that you have the confidence that you can give birth. Given the right environment it can be a natural and deeply spiritual experience.