Category Archives: Spirit

How to Create the Ideal Birth Experience

Como preparar a experiência de parto ideal

Home Birth. Hospital Birth. Drugs. No Drugs. Doctor. Midwife. Doula.

Our ideals. Practicalities. Money. Opinions.

Having walked the path of pregnancy and birth with dozens of women, I experience first hand the confusion around what to prioritize when constructing a birth experience. These can be agonizing decisions- weighing financial pros and cons of each potential birth scenario, as well as hearing opinions of everyone far and wide about what the best situation is for you or for your baby.

What is important is that a woman feels satisfied with her birth experience, and it may surprise you that it is usually not the actual situational outcome that determines whether or not she was satisfied. I have met women who wanted homebirths and ended up with Cesareans after days of labor who were happier and more resolved about their birth experience than women who had non-medicated hospital labor that from the outside looked exactly as they had imagined it.

In Birth in Four Cultures, Brigitte Jordon shows that there are 3 primary factors that determine a woman’s sense of satisfaction around her birth experience. They are:

1) Her perception of control,

2) How supportive she found the birth environment, and

3) Her prior vulnerabilities (which may include her own birth and childhood, prior abortions or birth experiences, and history of depression)

So to create you ideal birth experience, first you have to have a team in a setting that mirrors your values. This team will have a woman-centered approach where you will feel like you are a part of the decision-making process. A doula has been found to drastically improve birth outcomes, in terms of overall length and less intervention, and will often contribute both to your sense of protagonism and your experience of support.

Your prior vulnerabilities are a little more difficult to assess! We bring all of us to the birth altar. We bring every stage of our growth and our unresolved questions.

Pam England, in her masterpiece, Birthing from Within, recommends looking directly into the face of our fears.  If you feel like you may have some prior experiences or traumas that could affect your birthing experience, it is worth it to talk about them, write about them, and seek therapeutic help. Bringing light to the darker areas will enhance your ability to be present both in birth and in the post-partum period.

The Crucible of Desire

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Over years of yoga practice, I trained myself out of knowing what my preferences are. I was searching for freedom- freedom from the tyranny of my mind, from emotional ups and downs, freedom from the pain in my past. I developed a powerful and stalwart witness, who could withstand hours of sitting, hours of intense practice. When a friend asked me how my practice was afterwards, I didn’t have an answer. Wasn’t I supposed to be neutral towards my practice?  It was simply a practice; I wasn’t supposed to judge whether it was good or bad.

Like you, I sat on the mat learning to observe sensations without preference. I developed a witness that could notice discomfort, and even pain, and move on, broadening my vision. I practiced in the Krishnamacharya tradition. The philosophical ground of Ashtanga is Advaita Vedanta; the philosophical base of Iyengar and Viniyoga is Sankhya. The first sees no separation and healing as a return to that undivided state. The second sees a stark separation between atma, the soul and brahman, the universal life force, and liberation as the reunion of the two.

And after years of practice, it was still rare for me to be able to identify specific emotions. I built a structure where I again distanced myself from what felt like the dangerous intensity of sensations. I observed those sensations and emotions, but I didn’t really feel them.  I found a safe refuge in the praised neutrality. In my day-to-day life, I was a bit airy and flat; to my family, I was annoyingly untouchable in the neutrality- nothing could really get to me. As well, I have noticed that my students come to practice and build a structure where the body is folded into different patterns. We instruct about watching the mind, so the mindspace is introduced, but what about emotions and the soul voice? It’s no accomplishment to experience years of practice without shedding a tear. If we want practice to purify and align all of our koshas, then we have to permit all of them to enter the room. We have to lovingly coax them onto the mat also.

Only after becoming a mother did I realize how I had been swimming in the masculine current of upward-oriented Spirit pursuit. Motherhood was initially a descent for me, into the dark, earthy Soul-depths. Only through this deep dive did I finally recognize that my practice had been a wedge keeping me from the shadow-work that is as much a part of growth as the sky flying. Of course I had had dark times as I was practicing. But my practice did not equip me with the ability to fully mine the gifts that that darkness offered. I continued my upward connection, looking to the cosmic energy. I simply did not have access to the practices that would lead me to the depths and take me out the other side with the tangible markings of the dark nights.

The post-practice airy energy was not at all what my young daughter needed from me as a mother. She needed grounded, fully present, ready to engage in the world and roll-on-the-floor Mother Bear. My new baby certainly knew what her preferences were- where did I lose this internal compass? And how had I let practice strengthen this distancing from my most basic instincts.

You see, desire is deeply feminine, so it is no surprise that becoming a mother awoke this surge in me.  Nor is it surprising that this one face of the Feminine essence is absent from the yoga texts that have been so readily adopted- Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, and Hatha Yoga Pradipika- outside of India.

Desire is uncontrollable, volatile, charged. It can feel dangerous. I invite you into this inquiry of how you welcome emotion, passion and your deep driving motivations into your practice. And I leave you with these questions:

Is it okay to desire? Can you be spiritual and desire something? Do you believe you can and should overcome your desires? Do you believe that it is un-yogic to trust and follow what lights you up, or is it all maya, world illusion? Do you use practice to protect you from your desire or do you use practice to clarify your desires and motivate you towards them?

“Cursos Sagrado Feminino” with Kimberly Johnson:

Rio de Janeiro
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São Paulo
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*This article posted at Yoga Journal Brasil

Exquisite Self-Care in the First 6 Weeks

The most difficult but most important part of the post-partum period is taking care of ourselves.  Ideally we would have a team of women, our mothers, mother-in-laws, women friends surrounding us so that while we care for our baby, they care for us!

Our whole being is programmed to be fully absorbed with our new baby.  We should nurture that instinct for bonding and overall health. At the same time, it is crucial to remember this simple rule, we cannot give what we do not have. We may not be able to control all of our circumstances, but we can create a peaceful environment with as little stress as possible.

Here are simple concrete steps you can take to protect your precious babysphere and bolster your reserves, so that you and your baby can get to know each other intimately and you can truly rest.

  1. Minimize visitors.
  2. Have other people do household chores.
  3. Rest when your baby rests.
  4. Eat whole foods.
  5. Drink enough water.
  6. Surrender to the space of non-doing.
  7. Write your birth story, with the real emotions, without protecting anyone.
  8. For five minutes each day, connect to your breath.