Dorothy Guerra on Yogini Birthing
Prenatal yoga and ‘yoga with babies’ are both popular trends that are catching on with expecting and new mothers in North America. Prenatal yoga, in particular, is increasing in popularity as it outlines yoga poses that are safe for both the mother and the unborn child, by recognizing the changes that women typically experience during pregnancy. Yogini birthing, however, is a relatively new concept coined by Dorothy Guerra, a registered yoga instructor and author of a new book, appropriately titled Yogini Birthing. Dorothy’s work takes prenatal yoga a step further and focuses on preparing expecting women and their partners for the natural birthing experience. Dorothy generously shared her story on how she became interested in the concept of yogini birthing, and explained the nature of yogini birthing.
Dorothy’s background in yoga led her along the path of prenatal yoga, where she spent some of her time teaching individual prenatal yoga classes. Dorothy found that she also started coaching individuals through labour, in addition to pregnancy. From here, she discovered doula work (labour coaching), and decided to integrate aspects of yoga with doula work. Such integration genuinely allows for women to learn techniques throughout their 9 months of pregnancy, and to apply yogini birthing techniques during the actual birthing process.
While one may assume that prenatal yoga and yogini birthing are very similar, that is not the case. While prenatal yoga places more emphasis on how to do yoga safely when one is pregnant, yogini birthing serves as more of a labour preparation tool for the expecting mother and couple. Yogini birthing integrates many distinct concepts that work to achieve the overall goal of a conscious and focused labour experience through the use of yoga postures for easy delivery, breath techniques, and optimum support. Additionally, there is a particular exercise and yoga tool implemented into each birthing stage (early labour, active labour, transition labour), so that the expecting mother is aware of how to proceed and is able to support herself in each particular stage. This provides women and their partners preparation tools, and decreases their intimidation surrounding the birthing process. This labour induced fear seems to be escalating in our community.
“If you’re conditioned to saying ‘I’m not going to handle the pain,’ you’re automatically going to reach for the medication.”
-- Dorothy Guerra
In a world with increased anxiety surrounding the labour process, and hospitals with readily available epidural, natural birth (or a birth without drugs or surgery) is a rarity. For example, attendance at Lamaze classes (where women are taught how to manage labour without drugs) dropped 14% between 2000 and 2005. Additionally, the idea of having Caesarean procedures (C-sections) has become more popular, as women can now actually schedule their birth. While it is necessary and safer for some women to undergo C-sections, many women refer to this option out of fear of the labour process, in addition to the scheduling perk. Many doctors are referring to this as ‘maternal demand’, which provides evidence for the belief that individuals in our society are extremely busy, resulting in a decreased mindful state for many events. In a nutshell, we’ve become too busy to fully experience many of life’s great moments.
As Dorothy discusses in the video, we are conditioned to believe that the birthing and labour process is all about pain, so we reach for the epidural. This deserves careful consideration, however, as epidural can actually retard contractions, can lead to the consumption of additional drugs, and can sometimes result in fetal stress. In general, society has cultivated a negative representation of the labour process, which has many women cringing at the thought of having a natural birth without the aid of drugs.
The media paints an indelible picture of the labour process filled with blood, panic, and a screaming woman in a hospital bed. Contrary to this depiction, a natural labour can be described as a completely aware and unimaginably positive experience. When this is paired with preparation tools present in yogini birthing, a natural labour can be a fully present, beautiful, and eye-opening experience.
A significant aspect of a women’s pregnancy and ideations around the labour process are dependent upon proper education. Yogini birthing is one consideration for women interested in integrating yoga and birthing techniques for a more enlightened labour process.