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As a yoga instructor, childbirth doula and mother, I have found that there is a beautiful marriage between the yoga practice and the act of giving birth. There are so many similarities; physically, through the breath, mentally and emotionally. This is why I highly encourage all pregnant women to attend not just a childbirth education course, but also attend a prenatal yoga class. These combined will ultimately empower and educate a woman, and solidify the trust to birth her baby.
Yoga's first rule is "ahimsa", or to do no harm. In a yoga practice, that means to respect your body's limitations, to move slowly and carefully, never forcing, to enjoy and find pleasure in the movement, and to let go of competition, vanity and ego. How appropriate that applies to birth! If a woman is left alone to birth the way her body knows how to, she and those around her will be practicing "ahimsa". There will be no rush, time limit, or direction. Mother will enjoy the slow, sweet decent as Baby slips peaceful into her arms.
Many times, a Yoga practice can be strenuous, working the muscles, the heart and the lungs. It is a wonderful way to build cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength and balance. To follow proper form, the breath will lead your movements with an inhale on extension and exhale on flexing. Deep breathing will oxygenate the muscles as you slowly stretch and lengthen the muscle fibers, and will flush toxins out of the body. It will rejuvenate and massage the organs, tissues and cells. And, as you rest afterwards, you will feel the sweet rewards of your hard work.
Birth can be strenuous. Kneeling, squatting, pushing all require energy. A prenatal Yoga practice can help a women understand this energy and how to use her breath to direct it. It can also teach her how to let go of external thoughts, release emotions and focus on her birth. Just as someone finds confidence in completing a yoga series or strength in an advanced pose, a birthing woman will find her strength as she breaths her baby down; as she discovers her rhythm, her comfort measures, posture and ability to bring forth life.
For me, having a strong Yoga practice prior to pregnancy helped me to continue Yoga throughout pregnancy. I always felt so good after class, and knew I was doing the right thing for me and my developing baby. My mucles felt strong, my joints felt flexible, my head was clear and my heart was full of love. I really began to understand how my breathing affected my practice, my day-to-day activities, Hypnobirth classes and finally contractions. And, it helped me built my confidence as my belly grew, my posture changed and modifications were necessary. Yoga has taught me to be at peace with myself, my body and my decisions.