Dissolving Pain in Labour

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Giving birth requires us to be able to enter a place within ourselves that daily life never takes us. It asks us to trust, to open and to let go. To squat for hours, to push against ourselves and to enter an altered state where we lose all perceptions of time. Yoga is the first choice for many women once they discover they are pregnant and all the experience of giving birth can be greatly enhanced by its practice. Women for whom the caesarean is the only option – and those for whom it is a choice – will also find that the tools gained through doing yoga for conscious pregnancy will benefit them enormously.

I have been teaching Kundalini Yoga since 1998, working with women in all the phases of their lives, but most of my students come as pregnant women and continue their practice after the child is born.

Conscious Pregnancy classes are aimed at helping you become comfortable during the changes that the three trimesters bring. The body can feel very blocked and heavy, and the sensations of the breath become uncomfortable. Much of the movement in the class is aimed at opening up the lung capacity, releasing tension in the legs and back and improving flexibility in the pelvis.

We work together to deal with the different issues that come up for women around the approaching labour, using meditations for altering attitudes towards pain. There is a huge amount that can be done for this before the labour. To discover that there are fears is not surprising, but for women to hear that others have exactly the same worries calms those sleepless moments in the night, when thoughts of fear overwhelm. Another benefit of meditation is that one becomes familiar with the altered state of consciousness that it brings. This meditative state enhances the flow of endorphins through the body, helping women to naturally cope with the levels of pain experienced. Many women come back to me saying they heard my voice encouraging them to keep going through the pain whilst in the process of giving birth.

There is an interesting game for discovering how well you handle pain; my son loved to do it with me when I was pregnant with Isadora. It is a nice way to give your partner an idea of their pain threshold too. Hold a cube of ice in your clenched fist for one minute. Watch how you breathe. Do you fidget, flap your hands, purse your lips, breathe very fast? Using yoga and meditation the pain response can be calmed and even dominated. To discover that it is possible to be in pain and to rise above it is very liberating for women, particularly if the fear of pain during birth is a big issue for them.

We dance to loosen up the pelvis. Belly dancing is great fun and it’s an easy skill to learn that will serve in lots of other areas of your personal life! I teach a great birthing dance, taking women into a very primal part of themselves, moving the body to release the ropes of the modern world from our minds. Contemporary music also is great fun for dancing. It is not easy for a pregnant mother to find somewhere to dance, so coming to yoga has other benefits.

After the birth, preferably 40 days later, there is the Empowerment for women class. Here babies and small children are welcome. They can lie beside their Mum’s, sleep, breastfeed and discover their toes while Mummy starts the process of bringing the strength back to her body. I love to teach women, to watch how they change through Kundalini Yoga. It is a marvellous technology for us, bringing so much strength and power with it. The classes are challenging and the ability to join in fully comes surprisingly quickly. For post caesarean women I work on building up the muscles just above the pubic bone, and tightening the pelvic floor is essential for all women in the postnatal period. Fantastic friendships are formed here, too.

I have been teaching Kundalini Yoga since 1998. I have two small children and I live in South London. I am a KRI certified Conscious Pregnancy teacher and Teacher Trainer. I have made two DVDs for women; Conscious Pregnancy, focussing on Fear during pregnancy and pain in labour, and Empowerment for Women, a great abdominal strengthening set. Both dvds have 3 meditations as well.
To find a class with me, Carolyn Cowan, go to www.southernlightyoga.co.uk
To find a Kundalini Yoga teacher in your area, go to www.kundaliniyoga.org.uk.