Prenatal

39 weeks! Turning my breech baby

39 weeks and looking forward to a caffeinated coffee! Or maybe a nice cold glass of bubbles... 

39 weeks and looking forward to a caffeinated coffee! Or maybe a nice cold glass of bubbles... 

Well, here we are, 39 weeks pregnant - and down to the final few days (hopefully!). Apart from driving my husband crazy with nesting and various baby-related chores, I am feeling well and enjoying the calm before the inevitable storm.

The last 4 weeks have been interesting. If you have been following along with my birth journey, I have had a breech bubs since 29 weeks. I had such an amazing, powerful birth with Master N using CalmBirth techniques to assist with the contractions (aka. ‘surges’) and associated pain (aka. ‘pressure’), I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that it was looking like a caesarean section for me this time around. To be honest, I kept yo-yo-ing between “just accept it and start preparing for a positive cesarean experience” and “no, I am going to do everything I can do to help flip this baby and look into a breech delivery”. It was quite a tumultuous time for me mentally as I couldn’t seem to choose a path to stick to. So I ended up doing a bit of both - preparing for a caesarean whilst still doing everything I could do despite the low chances of it turning.

At my 35 week scan, I was told the baby was frank breech (bum down, head under my ribs and feet in front of the face), with a less than 5% chance it would turn. Bummer. But still, I persisted with all my weird and wonderful techniques to help flip baby. At my 37 week scan, I was 100% convinced it was still breech with a large hard mound stuck underneath my ribs and very limited movement. But to my honest amazement, it turns out that was a boney bum I could feel and its head was DOWN! I could not believe it - I was ecstatic and so very fortunate. 

Now, I am not sure if bubs was always going to turn or if it was something I was doing to help give it the space it needed. But I thought I would put together the things I was doing consistently that maybe did or didn’t have an impact. At the very least, it felt like I was trying everything I could and the rest was out of my control.

 

Chiropractic Manoeuvres (Webster Technique)

For me, I think this one made the most difference. I went to see Bianca at Body in Balance as she was one of the few Chiropractors trained in the specific pregnancy manoeuvre called the Webster Technique (read more about it here). The Webster technique is a chiropractic manoeuvre to help align the pelvis and whilst they say it is not designed to turn a breech baby, it can be a nice side-effect. 

On my initial consultation (35weeks +2 days), Bianca ran a series of tests and we discovered my pelvis was out on one side by a whopping 471%. She explained if the pelvis was out that much then my uterus could have a kink in it, something that baby just couldn’t seem to get past. Makes total sense. As soon as she adjusted me, bubs started wriggling around straight away and continued for the next hour - I had never felt baby wriggle that much. She obviously freed up some room in there! I have been seeing her 1-2 times a week since then to ensure the pelvis hasn’t reverted back out of alignment. I can't reccommend this highly enough.

 

Meditations, Self-hypnosis and deep Visualisations

This was another aspect I think helped me mentally. The mind-body connection is such a powerful tool. Biochemically, meditation and similar techniques set off a chain reaction of hormonal releases which help to relax the nervous system and the tension in the muscles. When I went to the chiropractor, she tested where my nervous system was sitting on a scale from sympathetic (stress response) to parasympathetic (relaxation response). Even though I was feeling quite relaxed on the outside, my nervous system was sitting in the sympathetic (stressed) zone. If your body is in the sympathetic state, it is starting to prepare to fight or flight, therefore muscles are tense and ready for action. Not the ideal conditions for bubs to grow, turn and flourish. So I realised I needed to work on getting my body and mind into equilibrium.

I changed my morning meditations from CalmBirth meditations to 2 guided meditations in particular:

Both are a little steep on price (approx AUD$17 each) but I was up for trying anything! Both of these meditations focus on relaxing and releasing through the muscles supporting the uterus and also letting go of fears relating to the birth. I found these, coupled with intense visualisation of baby turning really helped. Occasionally I listened to them as I was falling asleep at night and then had crazy visualisations all night about baby turning!

 

Talking to bubs

This is one my senior prenatal yoga teacher Rachael Foster from Luminosity Healing recommended. Just having a good old chat to baby and ask them to turn around. I also roped Master N to chatting (or yelling) to bubs daily telling it to turn around.

 

Prenatal Yoga of course!

As well as my morning yoga practice that I shared in my previous post, I was also going to prenatal yoga classes. It is always a wise idea when pregnant but particularly when facing any pregnancy issues (pelvis discomfort, odd baby positioning, blood pressure, fertility issues). The classes can easily be modified to accommodate various stages of pregnancy as well as many variations to ensure you are practising safely whilst pregnant. So I was modifying my practice to ensure I was only attempting poses that were useful to turning baby rather than poses that would help to engage baby low down in the pelvis. I worked very closely with Rachel to come into many weird and wonderful positions to release the abdominal and hip ligaments, create space and use gravity to our advantage (hence lots of inversions upside down!). Rachael mentioned to me in class once, the power of a group of prenatal women together can be very strong so always a good idea to pop along. 

 

Many techniques from the Spinning Babies website

This is a great resource with copious amounts of information on turning babies. I recommend reading through it around the 32-week mark so you can start doing the daily / weekly activities to help position baby. In particular, I did a lot of the daily activities, forward-leaning inversions and the breech tilt - sometimes with a bag of frozen peas placed low down in my pelvis to encourage bubs to move upwards towards my ribs. I had some interesting experiences trying to lie down on an angled ironing board on my own when hubby was away!

 

Moxibustion - Traditional Chinese Medicine designed to help turn breech babies

Moxibustion - Traditional Chinese Medicine designed to help turn breech babies

Acupuncture and Moxibustion

And lastly, the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach - Acupuncture and Moxibustion. We all know what acupuncture involves (needles placed along meridian lines in the body to help stimulate the Qi or energy in particular areas). Moxibustion involves burning sticks of Mugwort underneath your little toe for 20 minutes twice daily to help the Qi to rise up to the uterus and create light heat that hopefully gets baby moving. I was using very smokey sticks of mugwort which resulted in many strange looks when I was doing this in the middle of a campground whilst on holiday! But at least it kept the mozzies away….

 

So what now?

 

Now I have gone back to preparations for CalmBirth. I listen to CalmBirth meditations every morning which helps my mindset and belief - surrender to the process and truly believe that my body is perfectly designed to birth this baby. I practice my relaxed breathing (trying to take 5-6 breaths per minute) to help keep my nervous system calm when it is under stress during labour (and also helps with my 3 year old toddler tantrums haha!). I am still working on the relaxing visualisations and gathering tools I can use during labour to create this calm environment. And of course, prenatal yoga, trying to get deep into the hips to help engage this baby’s head!

So wish me luck and I will see you on the flip side.

32 Weeks! My morning Yoga practice to encourage optimal birth position

OK second video attempt and slightly more natural this time! This is my practice at 32 weeks pregnant - a little flow I am doing most mornings to (try to!) encourage bubs to be in an optimal position for birth. At the moment, bubs is breech, so I am trying to lengthen through the muscles of my hips, pelvis and abdomen to give bubs some extra space and encourage movement. I am also practising a few gentle inversions making use of gravity to help bub flip into the head down position (only attempt these if you are an experienced yogi. If new to yoga, please seek assistance from your prenatal yoga teacher).

Yoga Australia Photo Shoot

I was very fortunate enough to be asked on a photo shoot for Yoga Australia. Truly honoured to have these precious photos when I was 28 weeks pregnant.

Backbending Series: Pregnancy friendly backbends

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When pregnant, strong backbends are contraindicated. As the pregnancy progresses, the lordotic curve (inwards curve) of the lumbar spine becomes exaggerated due to the increased weight of bubs in the belly. If we then add a backbend to this already compressed lumbar spine, we could run the risk of spinal injury, vertebrae or disc damage. 

Additionally, it is also integral to engage the core in all of our backbends to ensure proper pelvic and lumbar spine alignment. However, when pregnant, we are trying to avoid compressing the abdominal region where the baby is growing so it would be unsafe to attempt any strong backbends.

However, there are a few lovely backbends that are safe during pregnancy and ones which I tend to modify with. I have demonstrated these below:

 
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Bitilasana (Cow Pose) 

This is a great option for any prone asana (lying on the tummy) such as Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) or Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) etc. Here we try to open through the chest by bringing the gaze upwards and opening the chest forwards between the upper arms. Usually, we would dip the spine toward the mat, however, this could cause hyperextension in the lumbar spine region so it is safest to try to maintain a flat lumbar spine and neutral pelvis here. It's also a good idea to try to relax through the rectus abdominus (our ‘six-pack’ muscles in the front of the abdomen) and try to focus on gentle engagement of the side abdominals (transverse abdominis and obliques) instead.

 
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Ustrasana (Camel Pose) Variation

Here we still get the benefit of opening through the chest and front upper body but without compromising the lumbar spine and over engaging the rectus abdominis. If you feel comfortable the head can be released backwards for the cervical spine extension opening through the neck and massaging endocrine glands located in the neck.

 
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Salambar Supta Baddha Konasana (Supported Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Here, there is a gentle yet supported and restorative backbend with the added bonus of a hip opener. Hip openers are a great way to prepare the body and pelvis for labour and birth. This pose also opens through the chest and front of the shoulders which helps to counteract the common hunching posture we gain when working at a desk, driving, lifting kids etc. This chest opening and posture is also very important postnatally when there may be a lot of upper body endurance needed when picking up bub, breastfeeding, hunching to change nappies etc.

 
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Salambar Matsyasana (Supported Fish Pose)

This is a little stronger on the lumbar spine and could be uncomfortable late in pregnancy due to the reclined position (2 bolsters in a T-shape would be more appropriate for the 3rd trimester) but is a lovely alternative to a regular Fish Pose. Here we are safely extending the spine with that added support of the bolster. Be careful when coming out of this pose, ensuring we roll to one side and then use the arms to support the body to sit up, rather than using the abdominals to sit up immediately from lying down - a good one to remember when getting out of bed in the morning as well!

 

So if you are pregnant but still want to explore that extension in the spine and some of the benefits of backbends, give these alternatives a whirl!

Now qualified to teach Prenatal Yoga!

A few months back, I completed an extra 30 hours of training to be qualified to teach Prenatal Yoga. Whilst my training at Moksha included a whole module on prenatal modifications, this just further solidified my already thorough understanding of the female anatomy, nervous system and the effects that yoga techniques can have on a pregnant body both during pregnancy and birth. This combined with my Calm Birth knowledge, I feel so well equipped and ready to share and help other pregnant ladies with the challenges and 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

And who better to learn prenatal yoga from than a pregnant teacher! I feel I have left my run a  little late to try to gain specific prenatal classes in a Yoga studio, but for now, I can cover classes and use my knowledge in my own practice. 

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Backbending Series: What to be aware of and when to avoid

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What to be conscious of in your backbends?

Although backbends can sometimes feel a little cumbersome and awkward, there are a few biggies that I like to focus on in my backbends. (I say ‘a few’… maybe attempt these one at a time!)

  • Ensure correct pelvis alignment. Quite often in our backbends we have a tendency to hyperextend through the lumbar spine (lower spine). If we can correct the alignment of our pelvis to be in a more neutral / slightly posterior position, this is going to ensure the lumbar spine is lengthened, relieving the compression in the lumbar spine. Sounds tricky to do when you think of a backbend eh? Try drawing your sit bones down towards the back of your thighs. Or perhaps think about using your hamstrings and glutes (muscles in the bum and back of the thigh) to draw the back of the pelvis down. This will align your pelvis and lengthen through the lumbar spine. 

  • Open the chest rather than crunch the lumbar spine. Although we are bending the spine, try reframe the perception of ‘bending backwards’ to ‘opening the chest and whole front side of the body’. This will help to protect the lumbar spine and bring the bend upwards into the thoracic and cervical spine (mid to upper spine). It will also encourage engagement of the core muscles to ensure we are supporting our lumbar spine (lower spine). 

  • Engage Bandhas and abdominals. Ensure the deepest layer of the abdominals (the transverse abdominals), Mula and Udiyana Bandha’s are engaged to protect our lumbar spine and support a neutral pelvic alignment. And your next question is: WTF is a Bandha? Put briefly, Mula Bandha is our ‘Root Lock’ where we engage the perineum and muscles of the pelvic floor, it sort of feels like you are trying to draw your sit bones together. Udiyana Bandha is our “Flying Up Lock” where we draw the lower abdominals back towards the spine.

  • Go slow and ensure adequate preparation of the body. If attempting a strong backbend, it's a good idea to slowly build the body up to the backbend to ensure we build muscle tone and avoid injury. There are a few areas of the body we should open, engage and stretch to prepare the body to bend in this way. Some of these include:

    • Opening the side of the body through lateral stretches

    • Stretching and also strengthening the hip flexors and quads through asana that incorporates lunges

    • Open the chest and front of the shoulders through asana incorporating heart openers or hand/arm binds

    • Adequate engagement of the core and glutes (be careful not to tire) to ensure these areas are switched on to support the lower spine and pelvic alignment

  • Be conscious of neck alignment. One of the most common misalignments I see as a teacher is head and neck alignment. People are busy trying to follow all the alignment cues, they simply forget about their head placement. Backbends usually involve an option to extend the cervical spine by opening through the front of the neck, however, if this causes pain then keep the neck in a natural extension of the spine. Think about trying to draw the back of the neck towards the crown of the head. This will tuck your chin ever so slightly but will lengthen the upper spine and avoid unnecessary injury. If opening through the neck feels good, then go for your life, but just remember to use your neck and chest muscles to hold your head rather than letting it hang.

  • Breath awareness. As with all yoga poses or asana, the breath is the best indicator of our body. As soon as the breath is held, shallows or the need to breathe through the mouth arises (rather than the nose only), this is a good indication that we have gone beyond our edge. Easy to fix - just come out of the pose slightly and re-enter with awareness and non-judgement.

 

When to avoid bending backwards in your yoga practice?

  • Heart conditions and Hypertension or high blood pressure. Due to the stimulating effects on the nervous system as well as increased intra-abdominal pressure. These elements can elevate heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Pregnancy. Strong backbends should be avoided due to the strong abdominal stretching and compression of the abdomen - the very space where bubs is trying to grow. Gentle backbends with the use of props to support the body can be ok, but be sure to check with a prenatal qualified yoga teacher. I will be sharing some safe prenatal backbends next week.

  • Insomnia, anxiety and late at night. Due to the stimulating and energising effects on the nervous system which could affect sleep. 

  • Spinal injury. For obvious reasons! This includes sciatica, disc injuries, hyperlordosis, osteoarthritis etc.

My prenatal practice at 20 weeks pregnant

Here is my first attempt at a video - my Surya Namaskar A practice at 20 weeks pregnant, complete with prenatal modifications. I recorded this for anyone that is pregnant but feels attending a prenatal yoga class is a little premature. If you are comfortable practising in a vinyasa flow class, these are the modifications I make to my Surya Namaskar (a.k.a Sun Salutation).

We were recently in the Gold Coast, Queensland which I thought would be a beautiful backdrop (which it is!) but didn’t really think through attempting a Surya Namaskar on a short towel, on the uneven sand whilst trying not to engage my core too much. It was also a little off-putting having my 2.5-year-old shouting “MUMMYYYYYYY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!!!” in the background but hey, that’s a mum life for you. (Don’t worry, he’s been dubbed over with some pleasant music for your enjoyment)

It was an enlightening experience actually watching myself do yoga, one of those ones you cringe as you peep between the fingers covering your eyes - much like a horror movie. So many things I would change if I was to do it again however Original Silence is all about authenticity so this is it! Enjoy.

Music credit: The Yoga of Dance by galacticwind

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!

Some exciting news! Part One: Joy & a few honest truths

After graduating from an intense year of studying all fresh-faced and keen to start my new career as a yoga teacher… I celebrate by having a baby! Hooray and at the same time - Sod's law!

21 weeks and feeling great!

21 weeks and feeling great!

All joking aside, we are so excited to announce the news. We love how much richness and joy our little boy, Master N, brings to our lives. I count myself so honoured and privileged we have received the chance to do it all again. So I am now 21 weeks along, feeling great, still practising vinyasa flow yoga (with a lot of modifications) and teaching 2 classes per week. 

It was planned and something we really wanted. We were obviously over the moon when we found out. In all the excitement and anticipation, I didn’t really think about the impact that this might have on my teaching journey. It is a challenge enough to get a break out there as a yoga teacher when you are freshly graduated, let alone when you also happen to be pregnant as well. 

To be honest, when the limitations (yet only temporary) on my Yoga teaching career first came to fruition, I felt quite conflicted. Maybe it was all the extra hormones making me feel things that were so out of character for me, who knows? On one hand, I was so ecstatically excited and very grateful to be given the chance to bring another being into this world. But when I thought about Yoga, there was a small part of me that couldn’t help but feel a little disheartened. My teaching path was on a slight tangent for a little while. 

It took me a good week or so to really make sense of these conflicted feelings and also move past the guilt for feeling them in the first place. I found guided meditations on acceptance helped things along here. I realised that with the desire, ambitious and determined parts of my personality, this naturally attracts some forms of disappointment and dissatisfaction. As morbid as it sounds, it is not. It is a natural reality of any situation. You can’t have one without the other. Much the same as having your cake and eating it! Buddha explains:

“We experience everything in terms of the Eight Worldly Concerns: gain and loss, praise and blame, pleasure and pain, happiness and unhappiness. We, of course, want gain, praise, pleasure, and happiness. But one always arrives with its opposite. One cannot be open to praise and not receive blame. One cannot experience pleasure and not feel pain. This is the nature of the reality that we know.” 

As soon as I realised and accepted this I could make sense of the situation a lot more and move past it. Now I can concentrate on being wholeheartedly excited and the positives this brings to my yoga journey which I will explore in my next post - "Some exciting news! Part Two: Acceptance, Elation and Change"