I’ll admit it. I am a bit of a training, reading, learning fanatic. When something BIG is on the horizon, I have always found the best way to prepare myself was to acquire knowledge. Understanding the who, what, why, where, and when has always provided me with comfort. So, when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, this is exactly how I approached birth.
I already had quite a bit of knowledge around anatomy, nutrition, and the inner workings of medical establishments, but I still sought out and devoured resources discussing normal labor and birth. I took childbirth education classes. I visited the hospital. I read blogs. I read studies. I had a birth plan. And, while I had a vaginal birth, I did not have the birth I had hoped for. Far from it. No one pressured me into anything. None of the interventions I experienced were forced on me. Quite the contrary - I had a wonderful supportive team of people surrounding me. But, I felt powerless and like my body had failed me. So, what gives?
I spent the next year lost in a new mom fog, full of postpartum anxiety, and taking such poor care of myself that I must have been actively trying to ignore my needs.
Enter a new friend, a dare to try something new, and a yoga studio that felt safe, encouraging, and tapped into a fierce feminine energy that I had been ignoring to long (shout out to HUSTLE & FLOW - much love).
My yoga mat fast became a place of refuge. A space to take what I needed, and let go of what I didn’t. Again, like all big things, I began to read, and learn, and seek out teachers and styles who resonated with me. During my 200 hour teacher training, I became pregnant and had a very early miscarriage. Even as I write this, I realize I am trying to minimize that experience by labeling it “very early”.
I completed my training, and immediately dove into Prenatal specific training. I found out I was pregnant, again, shortly after completing 40 hours of prenatal specific training. This time around, I read nothing. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I just didn’t. However, I did continue with my yoga practice. I attended and taught prenatal yoga. I focused on breath work. Unintentionally, I began to work through A LOT of emotions from my first birth experience and miscarriage.
Because, if you let it, prenatal yoga asks us to go deep.
While the prenatal classes I attended or taught moved at a slower pace than the traditional Vinyasa classes I was used to, they were not “easier” or “gentler”.
Each class brought something up for me and asked me to face it head on. Pregnancy in general has a way of doing that. We not only talked about getting comfortable with dis-comfort - we practiced it each and every week. We didn’t just discuss the anatomy of the pelvic floor - we explored how subtle changes in our breath engaged or released those muscles. We learned to breathe. THIS IS A BIG ONE - the BIGGEST in my opinion. If I could pick just one tool to put in a pregnant woman’s toolbox it would be breath awareness.
Breath can be used to increase energy, to bring awareness to a particular area (hello, cervix!), to shift our bodies from the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight response), and into the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest-and-relax response). The body responds to the parasympathetic nervous system by slowing the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure while increasing the release of endorphins. Who doesn’t need this during birth?
So when it came time for my second birth, did all of this yoga work? It did. Not because “I got the birth I wanted” but because I felt in control. Of my body and my mind. I was able to use my breath to control my response to contractions and discomfort. I was able to bring myself back from the brink of panic when things were intense. I was able to acknowledge moments of difficulty and move beyond them. I was able to reconcile all of those old fears that my body “couldn’t” or that it would fail me. Talk about an intense 12 hours.
There were certainly other methods of coping I used - support, essential oils, water - and we will chat more about those in a later post. However, my breath and the awareness of my body that I cultivated during prenatal yoga were the biggest. They were life changing.
I want to share that with you. I want to help you GO DEEP. Won’t you join me?