Calm Birth

Yoga meets Labour - Using yoga techniques in the birth of my baby girl

Miss P, just minutes old

Miss P, just minutes old

I am back! Its taken me a good few months to finally get my head out of newborn land and semi-back into writing about all things Yoga. Life is pretty full these days (not busy, everyone is busy - just very ‘full’) and is a juggle trying to bed Miss P into the family whilst ensuring her big brother is ok emotionally with such a big change to the family dynamic. Then also getting myself right mentally, emotionally and physically whilst working part-time, running a household and ensuring my husband and I don't become ‘transactional housemates’. Maybe my yoga blog posts might get few and far between for the next little while!

On the 23rd January, Miss P joined our family, making another beautiful birth and entrance into the world - as did my 3-year-old, Master N. I borrowed yogic techniques heavily and also followed the CalmBirth™ approach to labour and birth.

 

How the day went

Well, I definitely didn’t start out thinking I was going to have a baby that day. It was the day before my due date. I woke up thinking my waters may be slightly leaking, but I had a few things to do that day and chose to get on with it and see how I went. The photographer we booked to take some family pics once bub arrived wanted to do a maternity shoot, so I donned some makeup, styled my hair and frocked up. Little did I realise I was about to be the most glamorous new mum on the ward that evening!

The day I went into Labour - Photography from  adriateall.com.au

The day I went into Labour - Photography from adriateall.com.au

After overcoming a few trials and tribulations position-wise during pregnancy (low-lying placenta and breech presentation) bubs was still keeping me on my toes and had managed to turn posterior in the lead-up, so off I went once again to acupuncture at 2pm. My acupuncturist just so happened to be right beside the hospital so after my appointment I thought I'd better just pop in and get these waters checked. Sure enough, I had a hind water leak and was going to be induced in 30 mins. So there I was, my car parked in a 2-hour zone and nothing but my purse, a water bottle (but looking super glam - phew) and I was about to have a baby. After that, it was all stations go. I was started on the drip, hubby arrived 1.5 hours later with my bags and beloved exercise ball. We spent an hour or so making the ‘pushing playlist’ (which we still listen to! Accessible on Spotify here) and chatting. They broke my waters, cranked up the syntocinon and then we were down to business.

4 hours of super-intense second stage labour (hard and fast - how lucky was I?) but my contractions were all over the place, not regular or consistent and no rest in-between. I’d been through this before with Master N, and thought I was a long way off. But suddenly it was time to push! Our 115-minute pushing playlist got cranked up, but 1.5 songs in and Miss P was here! Whoosh!

 

Yogic Techniques I used during labour

I was super lucky to have a non-complicated birth, something that many women are not as fortunate to experience for factors completely out of their control. So in the first instance, I was so very grateful to be given another chance for a natural delivery using no pain relief, especially since I spent a lot of my pregnancy preparing for a caesar delivery.

Being a yoga teacher and having a passion for birth and the amazing things the body can do, I was so keen to once again challenge my body and; more importantly, my mind. I had spent many weeks preparing for the birth (you can read about this here) and the big day was finally here. My labour this time was only 6 hours, with Master N it was 16 and I used the same techniques. So here is what I found helped me most in both my labours.

 

Breath-work or Pranayama

This amazing technique helped my body to stay calm during contractions and allowed me to relax in between. According to Dr Grantly Dick Read’s ‘Fear, Tension, Pain theory’, the more we fear labour and birth, the more tension it creates which leads to the release of stress hormones and adrenaline in the body causing ineffective and painful uterine contractions. We can control this both before, during and after labour by using the breath to ensure the body and mind remain calm. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a way to stimulate the vagus nerve which triggers a relaxation response in the body. This reduces the production of adrenalin and increases the release of Oxytocin and Endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller), which are essential for opening the cervix and encouraging uterine muscles to work effectively during labour.

So I took as slow, deep conscious breaths as I possibly could. Pranayama, as yogi’s call it. The term ‘pranayama’ actually goes much deeper than breathing. It is a way of controlling the prana or energy in the body, however, breath control is a common way of achieving this. I probably averaged about 4 breaths per minute. I was so completely focused on my breath, thinking of nothing else but the air flowing in and out, trying to extend the exhale and pause at the end of the exhale. In Yoga, we call this Visamavritti Pranayama which is using an uneven but consistent breath ratio consisting of inhaling, pausing, exhaling, pausing. My most common ratio during labour was 5:3:6:5 respectively.

 

Positioning and Asana

I tried many positions this time including (a sort of) Utkata Konasana (Goddess), an ‘Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge) meets Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard) pose, a very high Malasana (Garland or Yogi squat). But found the trusty ‘bouncing on the exercise ball’ (not very yogi at all) was the most comfortable. Of course this is purely a personal preference, however, I found I could rock and bounce on the ball to help draw bub’s head down and manoeuvre them through the birth canal. At least this is what I was visualising as I rocked and rolled! I also found this gave my husband (and amazing support partner) full access to help me through contractions by rubbing my back, massaging my shoulders etc. Then when a contraction was over I could lean back onto his legs and just rest until the next one.

 

Conscious Thinking and Visualisation (aka. getting in ‘the zone’)

Some yogic mindfulness techniques (I guess you could call it!) also helped me to shift my focus. The practice of Pratyahara, which comes with meditation, is the process of shifting the awareness from the external world and drawing the focus within. This, in combination with Dharana, concentration of the mind.  Drawing the attention away from the senses - in the case of birth - away from the sense of touch (pain from contractions) and fiercely concentrating the mind on another aspect ie. visualisations, mantra, breath. In my case, I was so wholeheartedly focused on my breath that I was in my own little world, I barely opened my eyes, I didn’t talk to anyone, I barely made a sound. Just counting the seconds of my breath. 

Another technique I did try that was useful (more so before I was in ‘the zone’) was focusing on another area of my body, an area that was not experiencing the intensity. I wiggled my toes…. a lot. And I still use it when breastfeeding! I also had a list of mantra’s I repeated to myself to remind me to believe in my body and surrender to the process.

 

My husband, my rock and my amazing support partner

My husband probably played the biggest part in helping me during labour. Especially with my first birth when I didn’t know what to expect, wasn’t sure if I could do it etc. And he really didn’t get any of the credit. If it wasn’t for him, my first birth probably would've resulted very differently.

Just to know there was someone I loved there with me, cheering me on, motivating me to keep going, believing that I could do this and being so in awe of what his wife was capable of enduring. The midwives even commented on how calm and amazing he was and left us to it most of the time, knowing I was in safe hands. He spent the entirety of both labours counting my breaths with me, talking me through the contractions and encouraging me if I ever doubted my abilities. What a man!

 

My gorgeous kids - Photography from  adriateall.com.au

My gorgeous kids - Photography from adriateall.com.au

Pure f-ing belief in my self and my body

This aspect was much easier the second time around as I knew what to expect and drew a lot of strength that I had done it before. Provided all went swimmingly and there were no complications; I believed my body could do it so much that I didn’t give myself an out. I completely surrendered all control and just trusted my body knew what to do.

 

 

So there you have it, the final page of my pregnancy and birth yoga journey. Now the attention shifts to recovery and rebuilding my body post natally. 

 

Some exciting news! Part Two: Acceptance, Elation and Change

Master N introducing himself to bub

Master N introducing himself to bub

Following on from my previous post, I am now 23 weeks pregnant and absolutely loving every moment of my pregnancy. As I navigated through the conflicting emotions around excitement of pregnancy yet loss of control of my yoga teaching path in those early weeks, I have found it has opened my path up in new ways. Some would argue, perhaps paths I need to travel to become a more humble and truly authentic yoga teacher? The very foundations of Original Silence.

A reminder of the seed that grew the flower

It has reminded me of the reasoning behind why I originally endeavoured to become a yoga teacher. It was to share my passion for birth and yoga and to become a prenatal yoga teacher. When I was 28 weeks pregnant with Master N, my husband and I took a weekend course in an approach to birthing called “Calm Birth”. This was life changing for us (and I mean us!). It taught us techniques that we could use for the birth but also just dealing with the challenges of life in general. It was an eye-opening experience and one that gave me such a thorough understanding of birth and the how the body works. I had a beautiful birth using these tools and one which has ignited a passion for pregnancy, birth and the mind/body connection. 

Through the techniques I have learnt from Calm Birth as well as the wealth of knowledge from my yoga teacher training, I really feel I can help other mums-to-be through their pregnancy. To help those that are perhaps experiencing fear or anxiety around the birth and labour. To share the wisdom that was shared with me, give them an understanding of the mind-body connection and how powerful this could be. And lastly to give them some practical ways of dealing with the intensity of:

1. the thought of becoming a mother
2. actually becoming a mother, and, 
3. the challenges that may come after becoming a mother

Prenatal teacher in action!

Prenatal teacher in action!

So being pregnant myself now, I have now completed some extra training to be able to teach prenatal classes - my initial dream is becoming a reality! And really, who better to have as your prenatal yoga teacher than one that is actually pregnant! If that’s not dedication to the job, I don't know what is. I have taught a few classes so far and they have been great. I particularly like the long relaxation / guided meditation I lead at the end of the class. It's about 15 - 20 mins of bliss and I usually leave the class feeling just as zen as the lovely ladies in there. There is more training I would like to complete, in particular, post-natal yoga as it differs a lot from prenatal, but that will come later down the track - just one thing at a time Lauren!

It's the motivation behind the OS blog

As I obviously won't be able to start any new teaching gigs for a little while, so it has spurred me on to start writing this blog. For the next 4-5 months, it will be a great way to keep learning and sharing the different aspects of Yoga with the world - just through a different medium. To share how I am using the teachings of Yoga in my life, my pregnancy and beyond - hopefully, my community might learn a new thing or two along the way.

Changes to my teaching style - for the better

I now realise that this is such a great thing for me. It is forcing me out of my comfort zone and I feel like this whole experience will make me a better teacher in the long run.

Our training at Moksha encouraged us to teach as though our students were blind. To rely on language to cue, move and adjust the students rather than visual demonstration. One of my main criticisms during my training was that I demonstrated too much and I still do rely on this a lot when teaching, particularly beginners. When pregnant, there are a lot of yoga poses that shouldn’t be attempted, especially when demonstrating. Not only could it be uncomfortable and disrupt the flow of energy around bub, but it would be difficult to demonstrate correct alignment and positioning in some poses - the cardinal sin of being a yoga teacher.

On realising this, it has caused me to change my teaching style dramatically. It is teaching me to express and guide the class using creative language and also to play around with cues until I find one that resonates with my students. It's proving to be an interesting and mindful process. It is forcing me out of my own head when teaching and to really connect with my students much more. 

Onwards and upwards!

So there you have it, I feel like the background to the how and why of Original Silence is finally established. Now on to sharing more in-depth info on all things YOGA!

How Original Silence came to be

The journey so far

Like all these things, starting a blog, a brand and a website is a bit of a daunting process. Making something from scratch with a completely blank canvas is no mean feat and sometimes it becomes so overwhelming it is difficult to know just where to begin. So I guess an introduction is the best place to start. I am Lauren, a Bayside, Melbourne based Vinyasa Flow Yoga instructor. I started practising yoga around 15 years ago at a gym. I really liked it but I completely missed the point at the beginning and stopped and started as “it wasn’t enough of a workout” as I was used to. It wasn’t until 4 years ago that I really began to explore the depths of yoga. 

The Chamundi Goddess at Chamundi Hill

The Chamundi Goddess at Chamundi Hill

My husband and I travelled around India for 2 months. We went all over, from up north in Amritsar and Shimla, out west to Jaisalmer and Udaipur. All the way down through Varanasi, Khajuraho, Mumbai, Mysore and eventually concluding in Kerala. It was here where my fondness of the country, the religion and culture was ignited. As we concluded our trip we stayed at an Ayurvedic and Yoga Retreat in the mountains of Kerala, called Chamundi Hill. We stayed here for a week, however, after visiting, we realised this really wasn’t enough time to be fully exposed to the traditions of Ayurvedic medicine. We had treatments twice daily ate a strict personalised Ayurvedic diet and practised yoga both morning and afternoon. Each day there was a form of meditation, chanting and kirtan. It was a really amazing and inspiring experience and my appetite to learn more started to blossom.

Upon arriving back to Melbourne, back to my career and daily life, my husband and I still practised yoga as much as we could. I fell pregnant with my son and continued with prenatal yoga throughout my pregnancy. During this time I took a meditation course and was also very interested in the ‘Calm Birth’ approach to birth and labour. We took a weekend course in Calm Birth which borrows quite heavily from yoga both in terms of positioning and breathing exercises. This honestly, and strangely, was a real turning point in both mine and my husband's lives as we learnt techniques to assist in labour and also everyday life. We were exposed to pranayama (breath control) techniques and how the cycle of fear, tension and pain linked both the body and the mind in labour. We learnt how to surrender to the birthing process to assist the opening of the body as well as various techniques to control the pain using mostly breath; but also meditation, visualisation and body positioning to remain in a state of relaxation. It truly was fascinating. The beautiful, natural birth of my baby boy was an incredible, calm and powerful experience, one which I draw a lot of strength and gratitude from every day.

After being on Maternity Leave from the corporate world, the inevitable decision to re-enter the work force approached - either return to the corporate world or study something I was passionate about that would help me attain some of my personal goals. I decided on the path of yoga teaching where I could learn and share that passion with others whilst maintaining a family and work life balance.

I decided to do my training with Moksha Academy of Yoga. Its reputation in the industry was pretty intense but totally worth it. And they were pretty spot on. 500 hours of training, 40 lectures, over 200 homework questions, 10+ classes of teaching, 276 pages of assignments and 4 exams. All whilst juggling a 1-year-old, part-time work and a husband who works away for over 100 days a year. Life was interesting! But I got there in the end and wouldn’t change it for the world. I graduated as a level 1 500hr Vinyasa Flow yoga teacher and decided to set up Original Silence. Who knows what the future holds or what direction this path will take, but I am so proud of what I have achieved & learnt and can’t wait to see where these learnings take me.

The purpose of the Original Silence (OS) blog

So the purpose of the OS blog is my personal views and interpretations of the yogic teachings. One of Original Silence’s main values is authenticity. Whilst I would love to completely and perfectly understand every aspect of yoga, I don’t. I am and always will be learning and I don’t claim to be a guru or an expert in any form (not even close!). This is purely a personal record of my personal journey through the teachings and practise of yoga. And also sharing my experiences and learnings with the world, and perhaps inspiring others to help them understand yoga and the depth, wisdom and richness it can bring.