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Birthlight yoga: so special and vital

As a Doula and Birthlight Perinatal Yoga teacher I am in the humble position to witness first-hand how Birthlight’s teachings have such a beneficial impact in pregnancy, labour and beyond. Clients who book me as their birth doula have the option to do one to one prenatal yoga sessions with me. I am able to offer them a full toolkit of preparation antenatally and to follow through their continuity of care in a unique and special way.

Witnessing a woman birth her baby is an awe inspiring event. The emotions and energy present at that time are like no other. A woman who is fully in her power, not afraid of her body and has become deeply aware of how best to utilise her resources to birth her baby having been antenatally well prepared is a powerful thing to behold. And whilst I know many women and yoga teachers who continue their regular practice, it is those women, even those who have never practiced yoga before but connect to prenatal yoga in pregnancy that are a force to be reckoned with.

Yoga puts us in touch with ourselves - our biggest teacher. What Birthlight yoga does is to hone in on the pregnant, labouring and postnatal women’s needs in a holistic way to ensure that she is prepared for the journey ahead that is to be her transformation to motherhood. It is a far cry from any other yoga class and it supports her in a way that her usual practice isn't able to. The practices are sustainable, adaptable and suitable to her needs.

Whilst it may be possible to integrate a woman into any yoga class - by dropping postures or finding a replacement - this class is fundamentally designed to serve her needs. So many women have an incredibly complex relationship with their bodies. This may be merely cultural, that they don’t fit the expectation of perfection required, or it could be to do with their own fertility history. It is unusual to know what may be residing just under the surface. As teachers we are in the container of the class holding a safe space for a lot of potential healing, self love, acceptance and being. We are honouring the feminine need for flow, for softening, for surrender.

Birthlight classes are specifically designed to work with the pregnant body - we train to have a deep understanding of the anatomy and  physiology at play when a woman is growing her baby/ies, birthing them and then nurturing them and still herself. Birthlight’s classes create a sense of wellbeing, relaxation and offer much needed headspace. Women often look so different after their practice - relaxed, contained and softened.

As I started to teach and it was immediately apparent just how important it is to have skilled practitioners in this field. I passionately believe that good birth preparation is key to a woman finding her own way and to be empowered to follow her own intuitive style of parenting as she is transformed into a mother.

So what makes it so special and why is it so vital?

One of the most important aspects of Birthlight’s philosophy is the ‘Spirals of Joy’ - that which can be created with positive connection and encouragement and fostered despite a person’s fertility or maternity history. In fact, it can offer deep healing and a way to move on from a previous traumatic experience.

The ‘joy’ part is scientific fact - we release the love hormone ‘oxytocin’ - one of the most important hormones for birthing a baby when we feel positive, happy, confident and calm. In turn, the endorphins that come as a package deal help to increase a womans comfort level as she moves through her labour.

Stretching can feel amazing when you are trying to find space in a body full of baby - but due to the relaxin hormone it can be possible to overdo it. Birthlight teachers are trained with in-depth knowledge of pregnancy anatomy as well as physiology around different common issues in pregnancy. So you can be assured that the practice is very safe for you and your baby.

There is a lot of focus on the birthing muscles - for example connection with the abdomen to create optimal breath patterns to assist during the various stages of labour and exercises to give you a deep sense of your own body and pelvic floor. When a woman is able to drop out of her head you can really witness this sense of her literally in the seat of her power with confidence in her body.

Breath work is a key component - one of the first things I notice is just how few people know how to breath properly - this is so vital for her maintaining a relaxed state as well as to fuel the uterus and oxygenate the body and baby. Tapping into and practicing a state of deep relaxation is key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system. It can prove beneficial in the later stages of pregnancy - even when sleep is not possible. The process of labour is all encompassing and having this skill in your toolkit can really enhance your experience.

What also can become apparent in early classes is just how disconnected women are from their own bodies - living in a desk bound and often seated culture. Perhaps more troubling is how little women like their bodies - especially the belly where this new life resides. I spend time asking a woman to tap into her own story here, to soften her abdomen, honour it, behold it. Especially if you are holding onto something from your past around worthlessness or shame - it can be a very transformational experience.

My favourite part of the Birthlight practice is the active labour preparation - movement designed to create optimal foetal positioning and create space in the pelvis. As a doula I witness women in the zone naturally finding these movements - and having practiced all manner of options not only have many ways to try but also can find just what works for them in that moment. If she is uninhibited with sensitive birth keepers she will find her way with her baby. Watching a woman empowered in her body is why I know how vital these practices are.

Birthlight also encourages work with toning the voice - using for example the well known ‘Aum’ to create deeper connection with the lower body, giving baby a lovely sonic massage and releasing tension in the jaw. When they feel confident to inhabit their bodies it is these sounds that come naturally. Having practiced them and got any sense of concern out of the way these low primal sounds take a woman deeper into her experience in her body far from the concerns of the mind. These and other such anchors are yet more tools to use on the journey.

It goes without saying that a positive birth experience is going to have a huge impact on a families wellbeing as a whole. It all starts here. So if we have a birth experience that feels positive we are much more likely to be in a position where our body is working well and once again Oxytocin is going to play a big part in the bonding and breastfeeding journey.

The postnatal period is renowned in our culture for being some state from which we bounce back. The idea that we should quickly defeat this pregnancy body in order to return to the ‘maiden’ aspect. The truth is that we can’t. It's incredibly sad to think that mother has become a dirty word. It should be the most revered state of woman - a powerhouse of selfless love, devotion and creation. Postnatally Birthlight is practical but fosters healing in a way that creates connection, softness, self love and honours this new form.

Postnatally I had such a deep understanding of what my body had just done that there was no other choice for me but to honour my body, my needs and to heal in order to best serve my baby and myself. The postnatal period can be such a minefield to navigate. When we have a gentle practice that specifically honours the postnatal period - coming back to the breath, to being with, to slowing down - it is truly a toolkit for life.

On a personal note - I know first hand that what I learnt in my Birthlight training gave me the tools to birth my ‘compound’ (super-manning!) baby at home with no interventions. I stand behind it wholeheartedly. I want to be part of a society where this traditional women’s wisdom is commonplace and where women feel strong, confident and supported.

Laura Swann
Birthlight Perinatal Yoga teacher
The Holistic Doula
Instagram: the_holistic_doula


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