POST BY LOUISA KOUSSERTARI
The Labour & Yoga Journey
The Beginning – Mind & Breath
Try to adopt a calm mindset, any mental preparation ahead of labour will feel much easier to draw upon so trust everything you have learnt.
Firstly, don’t be alarmed – one of the early signs of labour is a blood stained discharge – very normal as this is the mucous seal that releases off the cervix. Expect contractions of the uterus as the amniotic fluid (waters break)
Bring your focus onto yourself, into your space within you and establishing a calm, in control and positive mindset.
Drawing attention to the breath, the sounds &, qualities. Study the breath by drawing your focus onto it, try to achieve smooth and slow inhales and exhales – especially during contractions. With every contraction come back to slowing down, deepening the inhale and drawing out the exhale as the contraction happens and fades.
Breathing into sensations and allow the breath to carry you – don’t fight or resist it. Use it and trust it!
To help achieve balance and control of the mind, the autonomic nervous system and breath whilst drawing your focus inward.
Visualisations & Mantras
A very effective tool for aiding clarity of the mind, finding the positive, comfort and confidence as emotions and anxiety may rear their head.
Draw upon a scene or words that mean something to you, perhaps you have already reflected on fears and can turn these into the positive.
‘I feel calm and in charge of this experience.’
Visualising something that can help the body, mind and breath to relax, not battling with contractions but managing yourself through each one will make it a much kinder experience.
‘Think of contractions as an ocean wave, where you can feel the energy building in your body, peaking at the top and then tumbling and crashing to shore as the pain subsides’
Postures & the body
Try to remain upright – let gravity help, keeping the spine upright or leaning forward will also encourage the pelvis to tilt forward.
Here are some helpful yoga postures
Standing, on a ball or on all fours adopt cat position to encourage the pelvis to draw down and provide some relief across the back. Adding in hip rotations or the figure of 8 with the hips rolling will give spine relief and encourage the baby into the optimal birth position if needed.
Walking up and down the stairs lifting one knee much higher than the other will also help to move baby to rotate and find the correct Optimal Foetal Positioning (OFP) – Occiput anterior or LOA
Let the face be relaxed, especially as contractions build, tensing the body and face and a quicker breath can easily take over. Use the ‘horse breath’ and exhale through flapping lips to relax the face and know that being as calm as you can will encourage endorphins (natural painkiller).
The ‘cooling soup’ breath will help to focus some of the breath into every short sharp contraction.
Post by Louisa Koussertari
Pregnancy yoga & meditation – Why meditate? Why not?
For most of us we live in a world surrounded by constant stimulation, and general business, leaving little time to pause, process and think clearly – reacting to life and our environment vs. awareness of the environment and clear thought and seeing.
A meditation practice can simply allow the mind to focus its attention on less, even on one single thing.
Cultivating the skill of single-pointed awareness can have an endless amount of benefits for mother and baby during pregnancy, below are some of the most common benefits!
By focusing on simply less or just nothing that requires less effort can provide a mental rest, a break from constant thought, helping to find calm and quiet. During meditation, you may enter a deep state of relaxation whilst remaining conscious
Meditation requires being in the moment with the breath, observing this or your thoughts or a single point perhaps – being present in yourself in the moment. This provides steadiness a sense of stability, connection to oneself and baby. A slower and managed breath if strained or affected with anxiety, for example, could be self-regulated by yourself, you have the ability to manage this and regain control.
Some research supports that meditation (not necessarily as a single method alone) can aid the ability to self regulate reactions, panic, pain for example and a study carried out on 78 pregnant volunteers showed that after four days of meditation the participants were able to handle pain 27% better vs. those not practicing meditation.
Meditation can also help to calm other systems within the body if it is in a state of stress and the stress response mechanism is constantly heightened tension can occur within muscles and joints, higher blood pressure, hormone imbalances and of course shortness of breath for the mother who may receive less oxygen to herself and baby. A steady and relaxed breath could aid these symptoms, steadying the heart and supporting you to feel in control with full expansive breaths. Better for you and baby. Much research shows that stressed mothers can pass higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) to their unborn baby, which shows later on as they move through childhood into adulthood. Tests carried out on a control group showed that the “amygdalae’ (fear centre in the brain) was much larger in teens where the mother was carrying a higher level of stress. This group also displayed social anxiety and depression and signs of fear in comparison to other children.
Tension in mind and breath can feed added tension in muscles, not ideal as pregnancies can naturally affected hips, thighs, shoulders and spine as the baby grows. Meditation can offer space to release and help to let go mentally and physically, the experience of this can be learnt and then continued into labour. Giving you the confidence to know and feel in control, take on a positive perspective and birth, visualizing this joyous experience in the months leading up to it and during.