Tuesday, January 15

Tips for Labour & Childbirth

Shifting & Creating Focal Points For Childbirth
When the eyes focus on a specific point, the mind relaxes and breath stabilizes. We feel calmer and easeful. In yoga this is called drishti, an ancient technique used by yogis. It is also a commonly used pain management tool in childbirth.
When the eyes are overly active, pupils dilate, the body works out of the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight.”) It is a natural reaction to the eyes absorbing the whole scene, the body becoming prepared to defend itself. When the eyes are soft, muscles relax, the body shifts into the parasympathetic nervous system ("rest and digest"). The latter allows for a more complete cohesion between mind and body.
Using our eyes to focus on an internal or external space or object places the mind in an occupied state, distracted from pain. There are different approaches, some childbirth techniques encourage external focal points, like an object, person, or picture. Another suggests eyes closed, bringing the focus inward (yoga refers to this as pratyahara, a withdrawl from the senses.) This helps in calming the eye muscles and removing outside stimulus. As a doula, I've seen both be effective in creating a space for the mother to find her rythm for childbirth. Ultimately it is for her to practice and determine which method resonates best.

How to Establish Various Focal Points Through Yoga

An important tool in labour preperation, it can help remove oneself from the busy day to day and access awareness; connectedness to body breath and baby.
For example a relaxed yoga pose like supta baddhakonasana (reclined goddess pose) or savasana (corpse pose) accompanied by a brief guided relaxation ... "Close your eyes, with each inhale gently release the muscles, exhale resting the mind, soften the tissues of the eyes, on the exhale sinking into your mat bringing your gaze inside, continue your breath freeing your mind of distraction, allowing you to drop your breath deeper connecting down to baby."
Some women like to keep their eyes open, prefering an external focus, thus the language of the meditation changes slightly. Use terms like "watch the breath release tension, watch it move in and out of your body connecting with baby." Tweeking the language to suit the mother's focal preference is important in experiencing an effective practice.
Pranayama (Breath Exercises)
pranayama into meditation introduces the idea of control over one’s breathing pattern; connecting to breath can give directive to regulate one's state in labour. One example from yoga is Sama Vritti (even fluctuation with inhalation and exhalation). With pregnant women I practice a 4 count breath for the inhale and for the exhale. Women are inately drawn to breath awareness during the labour process, often finding themsleves counting. Counting the breath gives a specific attention for the mind (an explicit focal point) allowing space to notice and move with peaks and rests within contractions.
Labouring Poses
Modifications are important in yoga asana practice. Prenatal yoga helps women connect with the changing state of their bodies. Poses are adjusted in a way that is mindfull of the mind/body requirements of pregnancy. A relaxed state opens oneself to "being" with the different body sensations within the muscles. This focus on what is happening with the body gives it voice and purpose, giving the woman the ability to follow her body's internal rythm in the birthing process.
Shift your focal points - when overwhelmed with restless thought or sensation, go play, change the state of your body, and calm your mind on the spot. Reconnect with you - body and baby.

By: Mary Kuzniuk - Postpartum & Labour Doula
- Pre & Postnatal Yoga
- Holistic Energy Practitioner
Maternity Matters