Motherhood and Yoga have occupied a central space in my heart and in my working life through the last twenty years. Women become pregnant; sometimes by surprise, or by choice and for many of us through sustained effort and intervention. A test will confirm what we may already be feeling or confirm what we can’t quite believe to be possible, an everyday, extraordinary, ordinary miracle of growing a new person. And now?
As appointments begin, we plan or stumble to make changes to all aspects of our lives but where as women do we find the support we need? There are two periods in a woman’s life that she will increasingly seek out ways to find well-being through a yoga practice; pregnancy and menopause. Two stages of transition filled with uncertainty, both with their joys, challenges and times of growth.
Women who have never practiced before will hear that yoga is ‘good’ for pregnancy. Perhaps our first enquiry is simply a need to exercise our bodies but if we are lucky we will find so much more and begin a life long relationship with the practice and philosophy which is Yoga.
We anticipate that our bodies will change, we know that at the end of this will need to birth this baby! This change may feel glorious, we are inquisitive and excited by birthing or we may experience a problematic relationship with a change in how our body feels and looks. Our cultural narrative and family stories of birthing may leave us anxious and fearful of what is happening and what is to come.
What will a yoga class offer you? Movement, breath work and meditation to continuously bring you into balance however the weather of pregnancy is experienced. A coming home to your body. Strengthening it, making space in it to support this growing baby. Finding a way of being more comfortable in your body in every sense. Learning how to relax your body, to sleep better, to release discomfort, emotion and fear from it. We are more than a body simply growing a baby; a yoga practice will reflect this: body, energy and mind. You will be guided into a relationship of influencing your breathing to profound effect. Our thought patterns will be guided to shift, an alchemy in how emotions occupy our body will occur, our heart will expand and become both vulnerable and fierce in preparation for becoming a mother. We learn how to with power, move and dance your baby from your body. Journeying from your head to your heart to allow the biology of your body birthing to take centre stage. Working with women what I know to be true is that however the work of birth unfolds this relationship of movement, breathing and meditation and using it to work through birth with care, that holds the woman with respect in the centre of her experience, is hugely protective.
This lyrical description should not take away from how yoga practices of movement, breathing and meditation become a huge and very practical set of tools to grow and birth a baby. Yoga works with our biology, birth happens in the body and we can influence our body through breathing and our thoughts. Birth is governed by hormones and yoga practice has a real and direct effect on this. Relaxing our muscles, moving with not against the muscular action of birth, slowing our breath and heart rate, focusing our mind to change our experience of effort and time all support birthing. It empowers us to trouble shoot when things are hard work during birth and to trust our skills to instinctively move and consciously change our breathing to open our bodies, to lessen pain and to stabilise the mind to take thoughts that challenge and slow birth and move towards thoughts that bring raw and authentic courage.
Beyond this real and practical skill set for body and mind our yoga class offers us community and an empowering safe space for women. The community supports life long friendships, your yoga teacher will cultivate a community that requires us to have an awareness of judgements. In this, we are encouraged to move away from judging ourselves and of labelling our type of mothering. Moving away from this is vital in a time when mothering has been commodified and divisions created. Increasingly we need the practice of yoga to support us as women to connect, listen and to bring forth our own wisdom and path into mothering as well allowing the difference of others.
Yoga practice ultimately brings us home to knowing our-self and our needs. Only through this can we look after ourselves and others. Birthing is at the frontier of feminism. Knowing, formulating and communicating our needs and rights for how we want to be supported to birth and mother is needed. Yoga is not passivity, it is soothing and brings beautiful practices of self-care but it also brings relationship and responsibility to ourselves, other women and the children we grow. Through working with our bodies, and breathing to open doors into our minds and thoughts we occupy the space that is rightly ours that holds women to be strong, powerful and at the forefront of change, compassion and our future.
blog by Marie Groucott