Within a month of my RYT200 certification at the Holistic Yoga School, two of my friends gave birth. I am also a practicing Doula, which is a birth attendant who provides emotional, physical and informational support through labor and birth to mother and partner. It was decided that I would offer my doula services as my Seva project and relate the experiences with what I have learned and practiced at HYS.
Upon arrival to any birth, the first thing I want to accomplish is to create sacred space for the woman. Certain things like turning down the lights, soft music, candles or aromatherapy help to create a safe space for the woman to labor in, especially in the sterile environment of the hospital. This is much like creating sacred space to practice yoga in. Techniques I learned at HYS, which I was able to incorporate into these two birth experiences were clearing my own space and energy prior to arrival, using the mantra that I chose to take while at HYS: Om Dam Durgaye Namaha- Honor to the Divine Mothers, as well as using breath work and focusing on my own pranayama during any intense moments.
The next key tools to assisting through labor and contractions are rhythm, ritual and relaxation. Rhythm means movement. Often times the mother will move rhythmically or have other rhythmic behaviors such as moaning which help her focus through a contraction. Labor and birth bring along a full spectrum of emotions so it can be helpful for a mother to have the constant support of a doula. As a doula, I often guide women through different postures which encourage the body and baby to prepare for birth. These postures vary but are very similar to many of the yoga postures, such as lunges, lying sideline, table top into cat and cow, squat, puppy, etc.
Many women turn inward at some point during labor; they can appear to be very meditative and connected within. This is what is referred to as ritual. I honor this space she is in, as it is also the essence of yoga or to “yoke” mind and body. The mother is able to surrender her thoughts and fears by returning to the faith she has within her own body to give birth to her child. It is as if in this moment, the woman recognizes that there is a divine light with in that must be born into its own human experience. Relaxation is not easy to come by for a laboring woman. It is my role to encourage total relaxation in between contractions. Any constriction within the body such as in the shoulders, jaw or brow line can add to tremendous exhaustion. Massage can be very effective, until the mother no longer wants any touch, but breathwork is always a tool utilized to calm the mind, and therefore calm the body. It is important to honor whatever state the woman may be in and not overstep boundaries that may interrupt her flow. Entering that space must be done gently and in a way that is safe and nurturing. I may also offer up autosuggestion relaxation or a point of focus or drishti to concentrate on to help calm the mind and divert energy away from her pain.
The birth is always such a magical miraculous flow of love and energy. The moment the child takes his/her first breath, there is new life. It is a new beginning and therefore also, in a way, a death to the life the mother had prior to child. Although, to a lesser degree, this new beginning is similar to that which we experience as we are awakening from savasana. There is a burst of oxytocin at the conclusion of both birth and (again, to a lesser degree) yoga. This is a moment of bliss that only a mother knows, but we as yogis can certainly taste the bliss bubble as we step off of our mats and back into the world. Perhaps this bliss is reminiscent of not only our birth but also the initial innocence we experience in childhood or when we find ourselves in ananda balasana.
*~Namaste~* Jenny Duer “Avani”