5 Reasons Why Post Natal Yoga is Good for You

There is a disturbing trend to bootcamp new mothers into shape…it has little to do with real health, true strength and long-term well-being but the promise of a flat tummy and “bikini beautiful” body within weeks of birth is everywhere…Firstly, I encourage you to ask if your post natal class instructor has any specialised training in pregnancy and the post partum period – if they answer no, walk away…And secondly, did they train in Yoga, Pilates, Fitness etc before or just get a quick qualification in post natal provision, I encourage you to seek someone who has experience in their field beyond a dedicated training course – otherwise, how can they tailor what they offer for you and your body? Whilst certain practices will be of benefit to most new mothers, some are better left alone for a while if you’ve experienced SPD, PGP or diastasis recti for example… Know who it is that you are entrusting with your health and well-being…

Then, please consider just being kind and gentle with yourself for a while, for at least 2 weeks and preferably 4, consider taking a babymoon and limit visitors, encourage visitors to help you with practical tasks and keep outings and activities to a minumum so that you can rest when your baby naps and establish breastfeeding and begin to find a new rhythm to life with your baby… Then when you really feel that you need to get out and about, choose groups and classes where you come away relaxed, nourished, nurtured…

So why yoga…?

1. Yoga is non-competitive

2. Yoga shrinks and repositions your womb

3. Yoga develops patience

4. Yoga promotes rest and relaxation

5. Yoga cultivates contentment

1. In early motherhood, we begin to notice the temptation to compare ourselves to others…It is easy to feel that we are not good enough, not losing weight fast enough, not managing that glamorous “yummy mummy” lifestyle… At post natal yoga classes, the emphasis will always be on you…your body, your breath, your baby…You will be encouraged to see that you are MORE than good enough, that you are a phenomenal mama and that you deserve to be nurtured just as much as you nurture your little one…If you need to rest more than you need to stretch your hamstrings, that is what yoga can offer you…If you want to take three breaths in a cat pose instead of six, go ahead…there is no beat to match and no yelling instructor to push you beyond where you are ready to be, no franchised 6 week “one size fits all” route to getting “your old body back”…your yoga teacher will help you find a gentle way to realign and close your pelvis and abdomen, to ease the aches and tensions that so often accompany early motherhood in a world that refuses to slow down with us for a while…you’ll be guided to rebuild tone & strength from the inside out so that you don’t pee your pants if you decide to head back to class with your bootcamp buddies….Want to work harder? Ready for a little more?…your yoga teacher will show you how to gain more strength and how to safely expand your flexibility…no pressure, just honest, sensitive support to help you find the practice to nurture your still changing body…

2. You will be encouraged to put your own needs and the needs of your baby above everything else, meaning that you can relax if your baby needs to be cuddled or changed, or fed or held…No pressure to put baby down, no need to wonder if you’ll hear baby cry over the pumping tunes and the stamping feet…Rest and restore with your baby, and begin to see that you can create quiet, serene moments with your baby, you don’t need to escape to find a sense of peace and tranquillity…When you relax, you are better able to produce oxytocin, which stimulates contractions in your uterus, encouraging it to shrink back down to size so that your womb and the other internal organs can begin to settle back into the space they once occupied… is also vital to the production and let down of breastmilk (*the added bonus here is that oxytocin also gives you that warm fuzzy feeling, to deepen your incredible bond with your baby even more, no matter how you are feeding your little one…) Even as you relax, we can use gentle but powerful engagement of the breath with the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to heal and strengthen your body…

3. Meditation requires that we are able to sit still comfortably for extended periods of time…yoga poses were originally designed to create a strong, supple body that would not suffer discomfort and unnecessary tension whilst remaining still for meditation…Yoga poses will help to relieve common aches and tensions in the body so that you can sit comfortably to nurse your baby or to hold them as they seek comfort to settle into sleep…Post Natal Yoga will work your upper body to encourage healthy posture and release tension from the upper back, neck and shoulders…As you practice Yoga, you are encouraged to withdraw your senses from the external world and focus in on the internal experience, in Post Natal classes, you will be encouraged to draw your baby into that relaxed awareness, to quiet the busy chattering mind of everyday living and to develop patience to live life at your child’s pace…Sometimes we will need to focus on the babies in the room and mothers’ needs will be temporarily put aside, we develop patience and we cultivate a sense of surrender…not of sacrifice, we are not consigning our needs to the rubbish heap, but acknowledging that we are not the centre of our universe for now and feeling content to be patient and return to our own needs a little later…

4. Most new mothers will tell you that they are tired, many will describe themselves as exhausted…in fact, even before pregnancy and motherhood, a majority of us are chronically sleep deprived…Rest is vital to health, it is not a luxury, it is not laziness to want to take life easy for a while…Your body has been through 9 months of change and the physical shifts and hormonal disruption continue beyond childbirth…Your body is likely to be bleeding (lochia) and blood loss requires support and nourishing of the physical body, rest is as vital to this nurturing as is eating well…Your hormones will continue to fluctuate as you move into the fourth trimester and beyond in the first year of your child’s life… the feel-good, well-being hormones/neurotransmitters Dopamine and Serotonin are released when we meditate, work with balancing breath practices and rest in deep relaxation… Lack of sleep can disrupt these essential ingredients for good mental & emotional health, Yoga can promote their production to help prevent and reduce the baby blues and post-natal depression…

birth of mother pain

5. Your body loves gentleness, your heart and mind love gentleness…Yoga encourages you to accept where you are now, in this moment… Yoga will enable you to appreciate your innate beauty and strength, to love the body you have today and marvel at how it supports you and grew your baby, how it continues to change and to nurture you and nourish your baby… Yoga does not promise you abs and lean thighs, but it offers you the opportunity to experience health and love your body no matter its size or shape… Yoga’s offer of gentle, individual practice suited to your body, and its ability to connect you to the calm within you mean that it is ideally suited to motherhood… You don’t need an hour to follow the workout, you don’t have to feel the burn or melt into a puddle to feel its benefits – it can give you those too, but really this is not the time – you can take one quiet moment in breath awareness, sing quietly to your baby, stretch in Cat or balance in Tree and all this will be Yoga… And you will also be encouraged to be gentle in the way you speak to yourself, consider the gentle, encouraging, loving voice you use with your baby and use it to speak to yourself, turn down the volume on that old critical, harsh voice and embrace non-violent communication with yourself as well as with your baby…

You have emerged beautiful and bold from the most ordinary of miracles, give yourself some credit, show yourself some love…Come and take an Early Post Natal Recovery class, and stop trying so hard, it’s time to try easy…

Let Yoga open your heart, calm your mind and love your body…

OMx

Travelling the Labyrinth…

What surprised me about Birthing From Within…?

What surprised me most was that it provoked so may questions!  What did I learn?  Am in a labyrinth or leaving one?  Am I being called to enter or called to return?  Do I want another journey?   Will there ever not be a labyrinth to travel?

Turns out that there are myriad labyrinths in my life…I am slowly exiting the one that was the birth of my second son…I believe I have just stopped resisting the call to take the next step and journey into a new labyrinth…

Birthing From Within Labyrinth Art

Birthing From Within Labyrinth Art

I am about to embark on the full BFW Mentor & Doula Program…I do feel called, but I have been questioning myself…am I ready…is now the right time for my family…is this really my path…?

I do feel called…after a week surrounded by the beauty of Galstonbury, bathed in the spirit & character of the town, precious days spent amid a circle of incredible, inspiring, good hearted women, I know that I was not the only one being called, not the only one searching my soul…I know that I am ready to step on to this path, and to release the resistance, begin the letting go of some old ideas, to allow some part-known truths to crystalise…

I am called…Fresh from the 3 day introductory course…trying to make sense of it all, slowly integrating the experience, practising some of the skills I began to learn…

My Birthing From Within journey really began when I was pregnant with my second son, when I was still hurt, disappointed, frustrated by elements of my first son’s birth…and it had been a *good* birth, a *natural* birth, so I questioned my *right* to feel that way, but I acknowledged that I did…

Ina May Gaskin’s book “Spiritual Midwifery” had been my bible in my previous pregnancy, and I read it cover to cover again…her assertion that “This is not pain, this is an interesting sensations that requires all of my attention” had become my personal mantra, and it worked for me in both labours…Thanks to Finn for reminding me that this too is non-focussed awareness…I loved her attitude of putting out positive energy during labour, to love those caring for us & to feel that returned as sustaining love & strength…I loved that Ina May was resolutely positive about birth…And I knew that I had some issues to resolve before this next birth, or they may cause me to lose my way in labour or to slow down & resist as Ina May had raised…

I am not sure where I came across Birthing From Within, only that it was likely through a wise woman friend…And it felt right, so I read it, and I explored aspects of my pregnancy, labour & birth experience through creating art…but I drew the line at practising the pain coping techniques…Those I avoided, I coped in my first labour, I figured that I could cope this time…and it turns out I did, happily, luckily!  And whilst I (thought) I got what Pam England was saying about not writing a birth plan, I couldn’t shake off the need to clarify what it was about my first son’s birth that I did not want to repeat…I felt slightly indignant at the notion I was not preparing *properly* if I wrote a plan…so I wrote one…I’m not sure anyone but my husband & best-friend-come-doula ever read it…

My first son was born in hospital, after transferring in from home to the labour ward, no intervention, a forward-flesh-tear…My second son was born at home, in water, with his brother smiling at me as he watched *our* new baby arrive, no tear…It was the birth I had dreamed of, I was elated, I was passionate, I was determined to help other women to prepare so that more of them could labour & birth their babies *naturally*…

Even before Glastonbury, the BFW introductory recordings had me challenging my mindset, here are the musings that I drafted just before heading off to Glastonbury:

Childbirth Preparation is sometimes an odd phrase, since it implies that preparation is necessary and therefore can influence the outcome…

In reality, whilst we association preparation with control, *control* has little place in childbirth…

I am about to undertake the Birthing From Within training in Glastonbury and I am aware that in her book of the same name Pam England does not advocate making a birth plan.  She feels it can distract a woman from real preparation for birth…I understand this, and yet…it seems to me that for many women it is about exploring their options, becoming informed, communicating their emotions, hopes and expectations with their birth companions and care-givers…for some it may even feel a sacred ritual…

So, if women in my classes ask me about birth plans, I suggest that they keep it brief and that they start it with a request to their caregiver to help them achieve the birth they want…avoiding lists of “dos & don’ts” that may irk a tired midwife or ruffle the feathers of a proud consultant…

I suggest they communicate their preferred place of birth and to make it clear they expect to be supported in their choice; I emphasise the need to plan to birth in the place where they feel most safe, not the place where they think they should, or where a loved one would have them be, or where they have been told they are “allowed” to be because of policy or staffing levels…I aim not to be contentious but to encourage because we women need to speak with loud, clear voices so that our needs are heard and met, not sidelined in the name of saving money or easing logistics, so that we and our babies are as safe as we can be as we birth as we should and not as we are told…

And whatever their intentions,  I remind them is that there is very little that can be controlled in labour & birth, and that their breath is the one thing over which they alone can always have control, so we do a lot of work on connecting to the breath and exploring ways of breathing that may be useful, comforting, and calming in labour & birth…but which ultimately I hope will allow them to be so familiar with their breath that they will instinctively breathe in the way optimum for their stage of labour on the day…

Birthing From Within - Finger Labyrinth Glastonbury

Finger Labyrinth Magdalene Chapel Glastonbury

…Back to the present…I feel a little silly!  I had misunderstood all this time…Pam England was not telling women not to plan for birth, but to plan in a deeper, more meaningful way…a piece of paper is no more than a talisman if there is not some effort & experience behind it to strengthen & sustain the birthing woman…

I use the words “surrender” and “breathe your baby into the world” a lot…although perhaps that is shifting already…Virginia Bobro cautioned against “bumper sticker” birth…In the beginning, I resisted strongly…Harumph, arrogance…she is wrong, surrender is a powerful word…Slow dawning realisation, I am so arrogant…ask myself, have I truly offered women the opportunity to learn what surrender actually is, what it means…

I resisted…asking questions, more, deeper, what is behind the statement, the fear, the need to avoid…I resisted the shift in language I will need to fully integrate…

And I felt horribly fearful that I have been letting women down all this time…Have I unwittingly given promises of something not mine to give…have I implied that their birth choices are not valid…that their births were to be scorned…

I do hope not, and I cannot cling to those fears because they are only manifesting from a place of love in any case…they reflect my desire for every woman to feel elated at the birth of her baby…to be proud of her journey through the labyrinth…to feel she can celebrate her immense strength, her complete selflessness, her own birth as a mother…these fears provoke my own inner enquiry, demanding that I seek answers, that I move forward, that I act each moment from a place of love…

And so, I journey on, letting love guide me and opening my heart in the name of service to all women…

In Prem,

OMx