Pregnancy Yoga: My yoga philosophy for labour and birth
Updated: Mar 8
Every so often there's an article like this. And it reminds me that for a long time I've been meaning to set out my approach and philosophy for the yoga and birthing classes I teach for pregnancy.
People are often surprised that I'm not a hard core advocate of 'natural birthing'. Every birth is a celebration. Every new life is a miracle, however it unfolds.
At its heart, yoga is a practical discipline. It's not about skipping through the woods with fairies and unicorns (sorry if you're disappointed about that!). It's about being aware of how things really are for you from moment to moment, without expectation or judgement. Not how you want them to be, not how you wished or feared, just exactly as they are as you experience each moment. Then you can make calm choices based on that information.
And in yoga class you have an opportunity to practice making your own choices about what is right for you. Developing the practices that work, discarding or modifying those that don't. The birth workshop in particular explains how your body position, body relaxation, mind, hormones and emotions work during labour and birthing to help to support you and ease the process along. And how they can also get in the way and make things more difficult and less comfortable. Then, the practical, simple techniques make sense and you can use them to help manage your experience not just in labour, but after baby is born too.
They are useful even if you are induced. They are useful even if you use medical pain relief. They are useful even if you are assisted in birthing with ventouse. They are even useful if you have a C-section.
Yoga gives you twice as many options. It doesn't suddenly cut half of them out or make some of them 'wrong'. You use what works and leave the rest behind. Once you understand, then you can freestyle. Make it up. Adapt. Experiment. There's no definitive way to birth. When you have confidence you can calmly communicate your choices to the people around you too. Confidence means you can ask questions as things unfold and keep asking till you understand enough to choose well. It's a vital skill when you have a little one too. Ask questions and if you know something needs attention, keep going till the action you need happens.
But I don't think the articles are just about the NCT. Or even about C-Sections. I think they're about judgement.
Everyone seems ready to pitch in with their opinion, with a list of 'shoulds', plus all the expectations, judgements and standards you've set for yourself about how this will be 'perfect' if...
In yoga you can let all that go. It's a place of acceptance and being ok with how things are. I am heartbroken for every mum starting sentences with 'I failed because I had a section...' or 'I caved in and I wasn't brave enough so I had some pethadine'. Choose what works. We are lucky to have the full range of natural practices and medical support in the UK. It's ok to use them.
I don't filter or edit the birth stories and I invite everyone, no matter their experience to share, so you can read a whole range of experiences and maybe balance out the drama and editing of programmes like one born every minute.
I keep up with the latest recommendations and clinical research. I weigh each one against my experience with the hundreds of mums I've taught and my yoga training and practice. You may be surprised how much clinical evidence there is for yoga practices and techniques in scientific papers and studies.
Finally. Relax. You really are doing great :-)