When I moved to London, I was pregnant of my second child. I was new to this country and with a little one for most of my day. I needed to make new friends and make networking. So I thought that a pregnancy class where to meet other mums could be a good start. I used to practice Vinyasa yoga before getting pregnant, and I missed a lot. When I found Louisa’s yoga for pregnancy class, I couldn’t be more happy. Louisa rans many pregnancy and postnatal yoga classes in West London.
What I liked most was the combination of yoga exercises that helped me a lot with my back pain, with advices and mental support. At then end of the class mums can share their doubts and experience. The big difference I found was also that Louise is a mum herself and when it is about pregnancy and birth experiences, it makes a lot of difference. Because she gives information based on her experience.
Louisa is a person you would never stop listening to. That’s why I asked her to write for my blog, because I’m sure that what you read here will help many future mothers!
I asked her to share her experience as a mum and Yogabirth teacher
YOGA FOR PREGNANCY – BY LOUISA ALDRIDGE
When I was pregnant with my first baby I was delighted and very, very excited. Some of the time, that is. The rest of the time I was pretty terrified. Like many women, I found the thought of actually giving birth to be both horrifying and somehow entirely removed from my actual, real life experience. It was something that happened to other people. Clearly human beings were good at giving birth – in fact it soon became obvious that that every single person I had ever met had been born. (Why had I never noticed this before?!) But me? Could I really move my baby that short yet somehow impossibly long distance from my womb to the outside world? Could my body actually do this? Could I do this?
I set out on a quest for answers, and it took me to some surprising places. Ultimately it led me to train as a YogaBirth teacher and become a fully-fledged birth geek. I have since seen many newly-pregnant women embark on the same journey. I marvel at the transformation that takes place as a nervous pregnant woman, a hand unconsciously protecting her small belly, blossoms into a full-bellied sage who is truly ready to meet her baby. Women arrive at my pregnancy yoga classes early on in their second trimester, a look of polite excitement on their faces mixed with a little fear. They don’t know what to expect, and they’re not entirely sure why they’ve come along in the first place. Do they want to feel healthier, stronger, more flexible? Do they want to meet other pregnant women who just ‘get’ what it’s like? Do they want to find answers to some of the questions that rushed antenatal appointments haven’t covered? Do they want some reassurance that they can actually do this everyday yet extraordinary thing?
We live in a culture where fear of childbirth is plentiful, and that cultural baggage is impossible to avoid. For the most part, it’s the fear of not knowing. For several generations now, birth has been hidden away in hospitals and shrouded in a certain mystery. Most people have never seen a pet give birth, let alone another human. So pregnant women turn to the internet for answers, and are met with a barrage of horror stories that seem to corroborate the traumatic births that random people suddenly seem hell bent on recounting to them. The TV is no better, with programmes like One Born Every Minute depicting birth in a way that doula Natalie Meddings describes as having about as much in common with real birth as porn has in common with real sex. A small voice in the pregnant woman’s head is telling her that maybe it won’t be awful, maybe her body can do this, just as women’s bodies have always done it; but dare she listen?
What’s a pregnant woman to do with all this fear surrounding her? Ina May Gaskin, the legendary American midwife, has a suggestion: ‘The antidote to fear is courage’. It is courage that I see blossoming week by week in the pregnant women who come to my yoga classes. The courage to unpack those fears, to shine a light on them, to sit with uncomfortable feelings rather than ignore them or find a distraction. This is where the yoga comes in. As we move our bodies through specially designed sequences of yoga poses, we’re stretching and releasing tight muscles, taking our joints through their range of natural movement, and helping prepare the body for the work ahead. The calm, the dim lighting and the half closed eyes allow the woman’s focus to draw within so she can really feel what’s going on in her body as it responds to gravity. And we don’t distract the mind from this process: the mind is an integral part of the process. We bring a razor sharp awareness to the sensations within the body, and to the breath, noticing how the mind, body and breath are in constant dialogue. It’s both simple and profoundly beautiful. Week by week, it becomes easier to slip into this space of powerful calm and to pay attention to the present moment. And it just so happens that these are also the conditions that will allow labour to unfold.
After a deep relaxation, it’s time for a cup of tea. We sit in a circle, pass round tea and biscuits, and talk about whatever comes up. People share things and ask questions that they might otherwise not, because they feel safe. The sense of community is palpable. Many people think that birth preparation from a yoga teacher is all about learning how to give birth ‘naturally’, perhaps with the help of some Oms and a joss stick, but that’s not the case at all. Most women want a simple birth without intervention, but some are only too happy to plan for a well-timed epidural. Others know, for a variety of reasons, that an elective caesarian is the right choice for them. Each and every woman is the expert in her own wishes. When pregnant women are truly listened to and presented with facts that can be backed up with solid research, they make very good decisions. Often the decision making process involves delving deeper into an issue that’s come up during pregnancy, and acknowledging that the first medical opinion you were offered needn’t be the last. If a recommendation doesn’t sit comfortably with someone, I encourage her to seek a second opinion, to ask questions, to ask to see the research evidence that supports that recommendation. This is informed consent; it’s active birth; it’s becoming the wise and confident mother that you will need to be.
This combination of yoga and birth knowledge transformed my experience of the births of each of my three babies. During pregnancy I’d done my homework, educated my husband, and written my birth plans: a plan A, a plan B and a plan C. Then when the time came I just let go and decided to trust my body. Along with 90% of birthing women I found that, given the right conditions, my body was capable of doing its job very well. Plan A was all I needed. But guess what: if you end up needing help from our incredible doctors and midwives, you can still have a great birth. Many women do. They just tend not to be the ones who are talking about it. Knowing your options and preparing your mind and your body is something you will be glad you did, regardless of how the birth itself pans out.
Because it’s not just a baby being born that day; a mother is born too. And that mother will be embarking on a whole new journey – one for which a healthy dose of courage will serve her well.
Thanks Louise 🙂