Every once in a while we receive questions from YDs out there inquiring about anything from yoga to practice to props and beyond. We try our best to answer them, but feel some are best answered by the YD community.
Today’s question comes from Nikki B on what yoga she can do during labor.
I am expecting in 5 weeks. I have been doing yoga through my pregnancy (minus those pesky morning sickness weeks, but even then I would do a couple side bends and twists). When I deliver, what can I do right there in the hospital to relieve all of the stress of delivery?
Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!
In a word, yes. I studied uses of traditional medicine for pregnant women in four countries–New Zealand, Samoa, India and Vietnam–as part of a Watson Fellowship. In each of these countries the traditional midwives suggested various forms of yoga, especially to help with breached births. If you think about it, moving and stretching those muscles in a nahimsa way will help the baby to be properly aligned. Also, remember, yoga does not equal asana. The other forms of yoga–pranayama, meditation, etc. will be very helpful in birth, and you will be joining 100s of generations of women who have been practicing for years.
We took a hypnobirthing class when I was pregnant with my son, and it was the perfect complement to my yoga practice. I couldn’t really do many actual poses during labor, but the breathing techniques were perfect to keep me calm and focused during labor and our subsequent unexpected c-section. Best of luck to you!
I think Nikki’s question wasn’t whether she can do yoga in the delivery room, but rather what she can do to cope better with labour… – so in a nutshell- be active, be upright, and breathe! move your hips a lot, do any movement that feels good, get good support people to be with you, and keep listening to your body (all of it is yoga, right?) <3 All my best Doula wishes for your safe, gentle delivery.
I have been teaching prenatal yoga for over 10 years, since the birth of my daughter. I practiced yoga techniques during her birth and was able to have a blissful labor and easy childbirth. Yoga’s long, slow, deep abdominal breathing is the key! Also, relaxation techniques, staying upright and changing positions often (walking, rocking, swaying, squatting, cat pose, supported child’s pose), receiving support from loved one(s) and following your intuition are all helpful. The empowering strength, focus of mind, and the ability to deliberately maintain a relaxed state through challenges, are all yoga tools that will serve you well in childbirth. I recommend dimmed lighting, quiet, calming touch, hydrotherapy, a yoga ball, and some gentle yoga music in the background, too. Wishing you all the best for you and your baby!
I am an apprenticing student midwife and prenatal yoga teacher. You can definitely do yoga during labor. I mostly attend out of hospital births though so it might be more challenging to do yoga in a hospital. You would have to do it before an epidural obviously. I recommend sukhasana, malasana, cat/cow (seated and on hands & knees), balasana, down dog, and any hip openers that don’t strain or are uncomfortable. If you have any “back labor” any positions that get gravity to pull the baby off your back ( belly hanging forward/down) will help! And of course breathe, breathe, and breathe!
yeah ah ah, among other poses, I cat-cowed my last baby into delivery. What a fast easy labour it was!
Yes! Cat/cow! Any gentle squats and chest openers on the wall or in a doorway as well. Certain postures will be easier at times and then not at other stages. It just depends on the labor.
The idea is to just move and position yourself in a way that feels most comfortable for you. Whatever allows you to take on the tension with the most ease. You want your muscles to relax as much as is possible so the body can open up as the baby passes through freely.
Birthing balls and squatting bars are great too!
I’m do NOT like to chant in class but for my second natural birth I used voice therapy. I had a yoga teacher who is an opera singer and he explained that all of the sphincters opened in unison- start with the throat, the stomach, birth canal and anus follow.
I used a series of HA!s to get baby Dos out. I felt like a rooooock star after.
In the moment of birth I didn’t actually push him out, I felt my birth reflex do it for me. It was amazing (painful, but amazing.)
Nikki, yes you can do yoga during labor! Squats, cat/cow, and get a birth ball too!
Yes, whatever makes you comfortable. With my first baby, it was taking so long to progress. I started doing some warrior poses, and I swear, that is what helped the baby girl get moving down and ready to go!
Hi yes use it….use the focus, breath, movement the lot!!! I would also highly recommend Uma Dinsmore-Tulis book Mothers Breath it’s fantastic. And here’s what I wrote about my labour experience. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/09/if-we-arent-in-the-present-we-are-nowhere-carly-mountain/
All the best with it, labour can be an amazing and empowering experience!
I did yoga during my labor (asana, pranayama, and meditation); and most of my clients also do yoga during their labors (they report back to me). Many of them labor and birth in hospitals, so it’s not impossible.
I found that the most helpful thing for me was meditation and breathing. Focusing on breathing is actually what made it possible for me to get through a very difficult labor naturally. My midwife told me after that she couldn’t believe I got through it…she thought we were going to have a c-section. I also used the ball and some “gravity” positions but what helped the most for me was focused breathing!!
These responses are great, thanks so much. My wife is a yoga freak and we recently found out she is pregnant, YAY! Now I can tell her that it is possible for her to carry on through her pregnancy with the right people.
hi. i’m a pregnancy/postnatal teacher and have practiced every day through my 5 pregnancies over the last 13 years (drug free home waterbirths). my experience of yoga during labour was that it felt utterly irrelevant to impose any shape or practice upon my body and what it needed to do. every time, i’ve thought, hmm, labour; that’s about going within, well obviously i’ll do that on my mat. that’s what i do every day. and every time it’s been the wrong thing to do. that’s not to say that my body didn’t make some shapes and moves that we might label as yoga (balasana, cat, actually lots of others now i think of it), or breathe in ways that we might label as pranayama (brahmari, ujjayi). but i needed total freedom to move, breathe; just to be with the energy coursing through my body. to try and do that with any prescriptions or preconceptions felt restrictive, which of course inhibits birthing energy.
i guess it depends on what you think yoga is. i come from a very philosophical place in my practice and every pose/practice i ever do incorporates the yamas. so with hindsight i can see that actually each birth was a profound and deep yoga in that i was responding with spontaneity, trust, and an incredibly deep connection with parts of myself i don’t normally see – plus with babe of course. i wouldn’t have been able to do that on my mat, or if i hadn’t thrown away my notions of “doing yoga during labour”.
and as a footnote, letting go of the idea or goal of “doing yoga” while birthing allowed me, i believe 1) to birth easily, and 2) to understand more deeply, with every birth, exactly what yoga is (for me). so it has been a most fantastic journey and many blessings to anyone setting out on this path.
if anyone would like to follow up any comments, please pm me (email@example.com).
Yes, you can do yoga during labor. It’s not going to be Sun Salutes, or headstand, but yes. You’ll do many hands and knees postures, like cat/cow and child’s pose. Lunges, squats, easy pose, cobbler’s pose, etc. Breathwork like ujjayi breathing, chanting, mantra, etc will all help you on your journey to motherhood.
On a different level, yoga helps us connect mind/body/spirit which is needed during labor. We need to move into ourselves to better connect with our bodies and our babies. Birth happens in the reptile brain, not in the logical brain. Our yoga practice allows us to go deeper and access the core of who we are. Being open to the change that is taking place will allow for a smoother transition.
So, yes, on many levels we take yoga into labor and birth.
I did yoga and pranayama with my second child and I wish I had with the first. Yoga helped me move with the contractions as they built up so that when I got to the delivery room, the baby came before the doctor did. It was much more of a team effort. She still does asana practice with me nearly 4 years later. 🙂
This is so informative. I have a friend who is opening her own pregnancy massage studio and we were talking about the possibility of expanding the services to include yoga.