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My trip to Moscow - Perinatal Yoga Training

I am writing this returning from a week tutoring perinatal yoga in Moscow and I wanted to share some of my experiences.

What a wonderful group of women I had the pleasure of teaching. Some of the women stayed for the second part of the training when others also joined us. Each and every woman put their whole self into the experience – body, mind, heart and soul.

I wouldn’t pretend to know much about Russian cultures and traditions having only been here a few times in recent years – but I know there is a massive role for Birthlight here.

There have been some hard times in the not so distant past, and even now for some. Some of the traditions around pregnancy and birth have been quite harsh –I would imagine in a spirit of toughening up in order to survive. Practices such as holding one’s breath in pregnancy to prepare babies for possible hypoxia at birth and immersing young babies in icy cold water, or baby gymnastics.

Some of these practices persist even up to the present day, and these types of beliefs are likely to resonate for quite a while. This means that for example some pregnant women may be suspicious of the Birthlight approach to breathing during pregnancy, namely ease of breathing and the awareness that we are breathing for two.

It follows that a lot of perinatal activity in Russia may be quite strong – such as weight training programmes for both pre and postnatal women (sometimes lumped together) or exhortations from yoga teachers to do deeply hip opening asanas such as pigeon pose.

We know at Birthlight that there is another way to optimise a woman’s wellbeing during pregnancy and afterwards, so that she can nurture herself and her baby. It often calls our Russian perinatal yoga teachers to re-educate women, to awaken a different relationship to herself and her baby which is accessed through ease of breath and movement and enlivened by joy. Sometimes our teachers themselves go through this reassessment before it can be passed on to our students.

What I witnessed this past week was precisely that – the journey of self transformation that Birthlight invites us to engage with, and then the spirals of joy ripple outwards. From what I saw, Russian women have a wonderful capacity for nurture and tenderness, and that this will be gladly received by the women they teach.

Although I know cultural differences exist and always will, and that they are a cause of great celebration – it’s our capacity to love and share joy that binds us more.

Belinda Staplehurst

Birthlight Perinatal Yoga Tutor