While yoga is one of the sweetest of life's elixirs, helping manage day-to-day life, responsibilities, boosting your creativity, making you psychic (that part only comes with disciplined daily practice!), and generally improving your temper and outlook, one thing it doesn't do is prepare you for childbirth (don't worry, it prepares you for parenting but that's another post!).
There are many resources citing the benefits of yoga asana practice for the body of a pregnant mother, and how an increase in strength and flexibility can aid the process of natural birth. I certainly found that being able to squat for long periods of time made my childbirth easier.
What yoga won't do is help or otherwise guide you through the mental stages of labor - it's an entirely separate world that requires another set of resources.
Do you love yoga, and want to have that hippie natural childbirth without medication? Close Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and put it on a dusty shelf. Here's everything you need to know when preparing to birth your baby naturally:
1. Put Down "Patanjali's Yoga Sutras" - Pick Up "Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method"
Read this book and follow it exactly. Substitute some or all of your daily asana practice with the exercises from this book.
2. Between 34-36 Weeks, Start Perineal Massage
Your perineal massage should be every other night starting sometime between 34 and 36 weeks and continue all the way to when you begin labor. You can birth a baby naturally, and without tearing, if you practice perineal massage.
3. Substitute Meditation for Visualizations During Pregnancy
If you are like most women, it's hard to conceptualize that the female body is designed to give birth - but it is. The female body is perfect for birthing a baby. The uterus has two sets of muscles that work to "breathe the baby down". If you practice bandhas, stop bandhas during pregnancy and focus on relaxing your entire belly and pelvis. Visualize Your cervix soft and relaxed, like a piece of silk ribbon. Visualize your body being perfectly and divinely designed to give birth. Even if you don't believe it, practice and all is coming.
4. Sign Up for a Hypnobirthing Class
I think of hypnobirthing as the "yoga of childbirth". The classes were THE THING that made my childbirth quick, easy, and tear-free. Start to finish my first labor was 14 hours, with less than three hours between when my water broke and when the baby was born. Take the information you like from the class, and leave the rest - trust your intuition about what you need - just like practicing yoga.
5. You Can Do It - Practice Letting Go of Resistence
Every woman hits the point in childbirth where it feels really scary and impossible, and you have the thought of wanting to turn back. "I can't do this!" "I don't want this!" are common thoughts. Unlike yoga, where you can simply stop doing an asana, there's no turning back when you are in labor. That baby is coming out no matter what. You have to dig down deep - to the deepest strength reservoir you have, and keep going. I have been in many poses where the stretch felt too deep or too intense, and after a breath or two I simply stopped the pose. There's no stopping childbirth. You must go THROUGH the sensation.I can't tell you how empowering of a feeling it is to pass that point in yourself. When you finally birth your baby, you feel capable of anything, and it's there we realize the limitlessness of our potential.
Do you have an empowering birth story? Tell it to me in the comments!