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Birthlight Japan in action: part 1

A Personal Story of Birthlight Perinatal and Baby Yoga Experiences by Nana Ogawa

My first encounter with Birthlight was after returning to my hometown, while carrying my second son, Zen, (now 18 months old), when I joined Rumi Kinoshita’s Livelight class. Although pregnancy yoga was not new to me, I had practiced while pregnant with Kei, my eldest boy; I would sum up Birthlight yoga as -‘deeply profound’. Within and without, linking body, mind and community….it was an all-encompassing sensation. I’d like to share some of my pregnancy, birth and postnatal experiences from the Birthlight yoga.

Around the seven month mark I first joined the class on the recommendation of a close friend. With yoga mats arranged in a circle, we sat, acknowledged baby, and I was amazed at the generous amount of time taken, using a measured style, to share thoughts and feelings about our pregnancies. The abundance of delightful excitement didn’t focus solely on being relaxed around the birth or having the physical stamina. The outstanding feature of the Birthlight session is how the circle allows one clearly to see everyone’s face, to enjoy sharing in pair work practice with the other women, and thus is created the wonderment not just of one’s own baby, but witnessing all the babies in bellies participating together with their mothers in the circle. And it is not simply observing the other pregnant mothers; it is more the fact of feeling the powerful energy of the babies. We greet the baby, too, with, ‘hello dear baby’, while stroking our partner’s belly in pair work. Personally I will never forget the experience of the whole class stroking the belly of a woman who had passed her due date, saying to baby ‘we’ll meet shortly’. Even today when I see that child, I can’t help but spontaneously recall that pleasurable occasion.

As a matter of course we trained the muscles used during birth with the visual aid of a readily understandable model of the pelvis, were taught with precision to correct our seated posture for pelvic alignment, and practiced effective breathing together with a range of other techniques which we could translate into daily life.

In the final relaxation as a meditation one took great pleasure in the quality time for bonding with baby. In the beginning I noticed an invasion of rambling thoughts such as, ‘what shall we have for dinner’ and ‘I wonder whether I’ll get away early to collect Kei’, carrying over from the hectic day-to-day life, but as I continued with yoga, I experienced glimpses of reality and my true self as the stress and pessimism caused by the thoughts dissolved away, and I could let go of all the thoughts and sensations going round in my head. Gradually I could sink further into deep relaxation. With my second pregnancy, though not afraid, I still felt impatience and anxiety when it came to the birth.

My first baby was born in a medicalised hospital environment - a soulless, sparse, windowless room furnished solely with a bed, chair and golf ball as a prop, and where my baby was immediately taken from my husband and me in the belief that I would benefit from a week of rest. The reality is that after practicing Birthlight yoga I discovered the courage within to face birthing at the maternity unit which I had long yearned for. Since switching over to the maternity unit after 30 weeks, I was even more enthusiastic about having the freedom to birth in my own way.

The words of our teacher evoked positive feelings:-

“Baby knows to arrive when the time is right”

“From time immemorial women have given birth without the advantage of modern medicine.”

“If childbirth was such a dire experience would we really repeat it?”

“Certainly there is a reward to be discovered in the process of childbirth.”

No two births are ever the same……..compared to the birth of Kei, my first born, progression to contractions at 5-minute intervals was swift, was this going to be an easy labour….? Then my physical and mental energy began to fade as the labour stalled as for hours the contractions became sparse. I knew that baby was being delivered, but the situation was dangerous as the chord was around his neck. But when I knew that baby was cleverly travelling down the narrow birth canal at his own pace with a steady heartbeat, any pain and sadness disappeared, I felt true gratitude for the joint effort exerted by both baby and me.

With Birthlight not only the mother’s viewpoint, but the baby’s point of view is captured and explored in Perinatal Yoga.

I realised that the superb Birthlight experience was like no other in that baby‘s voice had indeed been heard, and after the birth, my newborn and I had somewhere to return to; that place is Baby Nurture with early Postnatal yoga with the comfort of same familiar teacher and mothers. After the birth of my firstborn, those pregnancy yoga classes didn’t offer the opportunity to meet with the other mothers, to share our birth stories, or to meet the other babies. The goal was the birth alone.

Following the birth of Kei, without the connections I’d enjoyed during activities I’d attended in pregnancy, I suffered a sense of social isolation during the time of hormonal imbalances following the birth. But thanks to the continuity of the Birthlight yoga sessions a sense of security surrounded the experience of nurturing my second baby, Zen, alongside a supportive teacher and companions familiar with my situation pre-birth, after all the nurturing instinct is an unfathomable entity.

I can’t emphasise enough how Birthlight Yoga has supported my parenting journey. My perspective has evolved since Kei was a baby, so that, for example, what I would have interpreted as ‘crankiness’ I now see as Zen communicating his needs. The yogic breathing techniques from Rumi’s antenatal classes now translate into emotional support during those challenging parenting occasions. Never did I expect the influence of Birthlight to continue well into parenthood. I am surprised and now feeling empowered toward my future parent-child relationship.

If you are interested in spreading this joyful perinatal experience, and wish to attend a training in the beautiful Japanese countryside, Japanese Birthlight teacher, Rumi Kinoshita, will be revealing all about the establishment of BIRTHLIGHT JAPAN in the next newsletter.