I recently started attending Yolande’s wonderful prenatal yoga classes in Walthamstow, and as our after-class talks unfolded I felt called to invite her to share the essence behind her work as a pregnancy yoga teacher and doula in this new space, dedicated to motherhood in all its stages and forms. I hope it helps those of you navigating birth support choices to do so with some clarity and insight.
Artwork by Claudine Peronne
Pregnancy : a time to connect
When Xochi invited me to write a piece for the Naturalista I felt a tingle of excitement, the same feeling I get when called out to a birth, as I love sharing as much as I am able on anything to do with pregnancy and birth. This journey in a woman’s life is so uniquely special, for so many reasons, and it is my absolute joy and privilege to support mamas and their partners through it as a doula and yoga teacher.
A time to slow down
I am usually sought out by mamas looking for doula support or pregnancy yoga when they have moved into their second trimester. As so many of us know, the first trimester can be a delicate and fragile time, when a woman is feeling so many changes in her body and emotional landscape as her baby finds its home within her. So often, this is experienced as a feeling of overwhelming drain and fatigue, both emotionally and energetically. The hormonal surges experienced to create your baby and give them the gift of life is mother nature’s way of letting you know that something magic is happening within you, and to take a slower pace. This is what we help encourage in my line of practice and it is especially needed in the city, where the frantic speed of living can leave a tired and anxious mother-to-be dizzy with the demands on her time and the sheer force of the new life taking seed within her.
Pregnancy, I believe, is an opportunity and an invitation for women to connect and cultivate a more nurturing approach to their lifestyle and their body as this miracle takes root and unfolds, and we often feel a call for more self care and self loving practices. Whether this catalyses dramatic lifestyle changes and decisions, or simply nudges us to adopt a more conscious way of operating within the realm of daily home and work life, our survival instinct tells us in any way they can to pause, breathe and listen to our bodies at this time of expansion and transition.
Prenatal yoga: presence and strength within and without
Yoga has become such a popular form of practice for mamas-to-be, and it provides many essential tools for pregnancy wellbeing. Whether we practise in daily life or not, a regular prenatal practice is such an important thread in the tapestry of motherhood, aiming as it does to promote greater peace of mind, presence of spirit, and a deeper connection to one’s own inner guidance. And of course the new life blossoming within us. And while this is true of the inner world, the practice also cultivates body strength, improved circulation, flexibility and openness. A mama’s best friends as she prepares to bring her new one earth side.
One of the key elements of yoga is the unionising of breath and movement, and this can also be true of birth. The classes I design mobilise the body like a wave: opening with a gentle beginning sequence, moving to a dynamic middle peak, before a slowing down and flowing into relaxation. When interwoven with wisdom moments and endorphin-stimulating Kriya, the breath will naturally change accordingly, mirroring the stages of birth. Moving inwards from the outer world and connecting to your body and your breath in labour draws you deeper into that primal labour zone, created by oxytocin and endorphins, which helps you to ride the waves of sensations experienced in labour with flow, presence and surrender.
The doula philosophy: working together for a safe and loving birth environment
Whether you are birthing in hospital, a birth centre or at home, oxytocin and endorphins love to feel safe, secure, supported and cared for. Because of this, it is so important to create a soothing birth nest when having your baby, to support and stimulate this all-important flow of hormones. While many centres and hospitals are discovering more about the importance of the environment, our work as doulas is can be of great help in establishing an atmosphere, mindset and communication flow that are as conducive as possible to active, natural birth. To feel fully and unconditionally supported in this process is of fundamental importance and the more we can quiet the thought process and activate the primal brain, the better: after all, it is not the mind that births a baby, but the ancient wisdom of the body and the hundreds of intricate releases and processes it is designed to let unfold naturally.
The beauty of our role as doulas is to encourage this feeling of safety for my clients, ensuring the environment is as oxytocin-enhancing as possible. We offer tenderness, companionship, and encouragement, especially in supporting women finding their own voice. For here, they need it more than ever, navigating a world with so many choices and what often seems like information overload. By gathering knowledge on traditional body wisdom and scientific information, couples begin to form a researched path to navigate through the medical system. The woman becomes aware of the miracle of her body, allowing her and her partner to make informed and empowering decisions to protect and nurture the memory of their birth.
Essentially, the essence of what I offer in my practise is to nurture and protect this memory, from conception to delivery, and often after. Because how a baby arrives earth side, and how parents feel about the birth of their child, has global impact on our collective consciousness, and what this planet needs more than ever is healing, love and compassion.
The positive birth of a new family can only make a better world for us all.
Yolande is yoga teacher, doula, active birth teacher and homeopath based in London.