The Yoga of Aware Pregnancy, Birth, & 40 Days
Core Principles of Nature, Nurture, and a Quantum Leap

by
Mary Ceallaigh
© 2005, revised 2007




Womb Yoga

The periodicities of the human menstrual cycle are what provided the first concept of time
in human culture.  

We know from paleolinguistics that the word root “Metra” comes from the sanskrit “Matri”
which is the word for mother-womb… and thus in English all our words related to
“measuring” or “timing” are sourced in the human uterus… “diameter,” “thermometer”,
“speedometer!”  Long before current 24 hour solar digital time was lunar time and the
innate timing of the womb's creations  – it was the only measure.   

The womb is our first home, and it is during gestation that we as human beings learn core
energy imprints of what “Home” is, through the blood chemistry, breathing, thoughts,
emotional states, movements, sounds, and, intentions of our mothers. Yogi Bhajan taught
that pregnancy is the only time a woman REALLY teaches her child… because after birth
there are always numerous and ever-changing environmental and social factors that
influence our child.

During our gestation, all humans are yogis:  every prenate is very flexible and has a
tendency towards ecstatic states in sync with every rise in the maternal endorphin &
oxytocin levels.  

It could be said that all the yoga asanas are just about re-entering our original prenatal
flexibility and wholeness!  And certainly, any observer of physically intact, birthed in
awareness, and instinctively parented newborns can observe many hand mudras of yoga
within hours and days after birth.  However, finding a wholly aware and connected
newborn to observe and experience can be rare in our current society where stressed babies
are considered the norm!  Our medical normal birth culture, which is the care of choice for
most American women, routinely encourages mind-body dissociative practices and
protocols that diminish the physiological wisdom potential inherent in instinctive birth and
bonding.

For healthy, well-nourished women, bringing a child into the world can be an experience of
giving birth, or, quite differently, of being delivered - or some combination of the two, as
Jeannine Parvati (the author of Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth) has so eloquently
written of.   Navigating labor and giving birth in a drug-free, naturally high, and fully
embodied manner is the original 'Power Yoga' for healthy women - and the extent that this
embodiment is experienced consequently sets the tone for women's maternal awareness,
attunement, and sexual health on the personal level, as well as creates many broader
repercussions for the well-being of society at large.

When does labor begin? women want to know.   

The yogini-midwiife would reply,
From the moment you realize you are pregnant!”  

When is this going to end, I don’t think I can do this anymore!?says the
instinctive woman moving with  the transitions of late labor.

The yogini-midwife (or sometimes the husband/partner) would reply,
You’re doing it right now, and right now is all that matters.”

And, though we may birthe our babies into the world, the labors of emotional sacrifice and
selfless service continue our whole lives in conscious parenting, with part of our heart
walking around outside of our body, in the form of the child we gave birth to.

The Pregnant Woman as Yogini

To be consciously pregnant is a continuous sadhana (daily practice for heightened
consciousness), in fact, it is sadhana of the highest order and calling, as Jeannine Parvati
points out, as it is the original educational environment of the developing human child for
the world society.   In the yoga tradition it is said that through spiritual elevation in
conscious pregnancy, women can produce children who are saints, peacemaker-heroes, and
sages… and thereby the whole world is touched in ways it sorely needs.

“Embodiment” in conscious pregnancy blatantly unites heart WITH womb, body WITH
spirit, and in the process, has a way of diminishing fear and increasing intuitive
attunement.  The yogic emphasis upon inner wisdom is refreshing to a woman in search of a
sacred and secure way to navigate the labors of pregnancy, giving birth, and being a new
mother.   

In American society, a third of single Anglo women in our thirties are on anti-depressants,  
90% of first-time healthy birthing women experience mind-body dissociations/psychoses of
epidural anesthesia as well as genital cutting, and at least 40% of otherwise healthy, first-
time Postpartum mothers are quite depressed or “shell-shocked”  due to the endocrine
disruptions of typical medical interventions upon labor & birth physiology, and greatly
reduced pleasure in breastfeeding and early parenting.

Intending to fully embody these transformations is Yoga, and the healthy woman's
birthright is
an intuitive birth - a truly experienced exhaltation of unity
consciousness  between mother and baby.  
Upon immediately reuniting with her
newborn babe at birth in the heart center asana of embrace, the new mother who has
birthed in awareness knows, down to her marrow, that she is likewise embraced by
something greater:  Mata Shakti, the Divine Mother of Mother Power.

Just by fully “being present” to her pregnancy, a woman is “practicing yoga” -  being in
sync with her changing self and bonded to growing baby is a profound act of yoga.  By
bringing awareness to her pregnancy, any woman is a yoga teacher, teaching all the other
women she encounters through her example.  The partnered woman also expands her
husband/lover's awareness of her intuitive capacity & creativity,  and, when the time is
right, gives back to him what their love looks like, through giving birth in awareness rather
than being delivered from her own naivete (regardless of where she gives birth and any
unexpected circumstances).

Additional support for this kind of pregnancy is plentiful in formal yoga approaches such as
specific feminine mantras, expansive meditations, breathwork, and self-healing movements
in the community of women. A meditative mind naturally is more able to respond wisely to
the many challenges, changes, and choices in pregnancy and giving birth.  Conscious
pregnancy also means making informed choices in a culture where birthing is primarily a
medical-technical event, and this may lead to exploring many alternatives and options to
support a yogic birth experience and lotus birth practices.

Mental, Physical, Spiritual, and Emotional Environments

The birthing environment directly influences a laboring woman's relaxation energies and all
their potential hormonal orchestrations as responsive movement, emotional coping, and
dilation progress during physiological (spontaneous-natural) labor.

The quality of mother-baby unity consciousness during labor & birth and during the primal
period (the first six weeks postpartum - a 40 Day meditation of bonding) is likewise linked
to the consciousness of the birthing environment's protocols, physical supports, and primal-
instinctive birth facilitation skills of caregivers.

Birthing environment options include a range of hospitals and birth centers, as well as a
woman's own home.  It is a fact that large, documented studies have shown that, for
healthy women, attended homebirths are as safe, if not safer, than the institutional
environment.  One wonders what would happen if more young women and girls knew this
fact, and embarked upon pregnancy with significantly less fear than the average American
woman, feeling secure in their body’s ability to give birth, and selecting attendants who
honor that!

Transitions & Transformation

Letting a baby come forth is a primal experience of vulnerability, intimacy, and tremendous
neuroendocrine transformation.  It is also a psychological transition of enormous
proportions, where part of a woman’s old ego dies and a new self  is born into a mother.

Neurologically speaking, birth is a mechanism of the ancient "hind brain's" conductions
rather than the rational neo-cortex. All the hormonal orchestrations of human labor and
birth (and indeed, all mammals) are highly sensitized to environmental factors, many that
we are not even aware of. For example, at any given moment in an environment that is not
our usual habitat, there are about 2000 new scent signals registered by the brain, as well as
many other microbial triggers.

Simply entering an environment other than one's habitat in labor switches on the neo-cortex
and triggers adrenaline, regardless of any interventions. Likewise, being unsupported, and
stressing or obsessing in one's own home, can also create adrenaline!

Adrenaline is the enemy of a laboring woman, unless she truly needs to sprint away from
danger. Adrenaline is the hormonal message of the "fight-flight" reaction which causes the
body to shut down circulation to the extremities in a glandular alarm. This creates
catecholamines to boost muscle tension and thus reduce the labor pain threshold
dramatically while increasing anxiety and fear.

The art of consciously choosing and preparing one's labor support & birthing environment
during pregnancy is an art of self-care incorporating  Ahimsa, Ananda, Moksha, and
Rasayana (Non-violence, Joyfulness, Emotional liberation, and Juiciness).

Instinctive, or "unhindered" birth is a sensory experience of embodiment, wherever  it
occurs. It is often said among midwives and doulas, as well as mothers who have created
natural births for themselves, that the best environment to labor in is one which would also
be conducive to making love!

Giving birth instinctively is as tender as it is passionate, as sensual as it is sacred. As the
ancients say, it is giving of the Gift of Life - in Spanish it is referred to as “Giving Light.”

Most women agree that the thought of making love under florescent lights where you are
expected to stay in a metal railed twin sized bed in a chilly room where strangers observe
you, intercoms talk, computer screens flicker, and sick & infectious people are above and/or
below you, is unappealing at best, and definitely not relaxing! Dim the lights, and it's still
not that pleasant.

Most women agree that the elements that invite relaxation are not metallic, and not cold,
and there are no bleeping noises. A woman who knows her worth, knows that self-
nurturing and self-care are top priority for her well-being as a mother and a partner.  She
may hold an intention to give natural birth at home, or to transfer late in labor for an
institutional birth at some other locale.  The Yoga of late labor is an immersion experience
of instinctual transformation that knows no bounds.   A journey that unites a woman with
her own soul in order to give birth to an aware, pleasurable bond between mother and
baby.  A bond that is supported by the energies of earth and heaven reuniting and moving
through a woman's body, an all-encompassing feminine power.

Mother and Baby are One: Yoga beyond Pregnancy

From conception until the baby emerges into the world, the baby’s universe has been the
drumbeat of the mother’s heart, the swishing of the mother’s aortal pulse, the 98.6 degrees
silken cocoon of the womb, the internal vibrations of the mother’s voice, the external
sounds of the father’s voice on the other side,  and the frequent swishing and swaying of
the mother’s movements.  Birthing environments are also the welcoming world for the
baby's first experience outside the womb, and healthy babies (even ones needing a bit of
stimulation to rouse them as they transition into breathing) prefer immediate 'Skin-to-Skin'
reunion at the maternal heart, regardless of locale of birth!  After all, the mother and the
baby are one.   

In the Yoga tradition, in most indigenous cultures and in modern yogic births, a woman
would stay enclosed in her nurturing home for the first 40 days after birth.  In her private
world, the new mother focuses on being in love with her baby, on eating delicious food and
drinking postpartum herb teas prepared by her female relatives or her doula, and going
through all the changes of being a nursing mother caring for an amazing newborn!
 Nursing
babies and mothers, when napping together, share the exact same REM pattern
– there is
much sacredness to be celebrated in the first 40 Days.  

The first few postpartum weeks are precious and oh-so-fleeting, in-home yoga nidra
(relaxation yoga) establishes a strong foundation of ultimate family bonding and recovery  
before emerging into the dramas and stresses of the mundane world, a world that never
stops.  

Modern medicine readily agrees that it takes six weeks (around 40 Days) for a woman’s
internal organs to return to their pre-pregnant positions in the body.  Ancient medicine
traditions don’t think it’s a good idea for women to engage in the stresses and risks of the
outside world before six weeks postpartum, and that makes sense to the Postpartum
Yogini!  Of course, this requires a good support system, a well-stocked kitchen, and/or a
doula!  















Healthy birthmothers have the right to request home visits by their midwife or physician
for an extra fee, or can consider the benefits of doing informed self-care postpartum
monitoring documentation and telephone check ins when there is home support and things
are obviously thriving and healthy, attending only the 6 week check-up.  In Britain and
much of Europe, visiting nurses or midwives come to the home for the 3 Day and 2 week
Postpartum check-ins – there is no thought of requesting a woman who just had a baby to
navigate freeway traffic or to board a subway during this very tender time.

New Beginnings

Conscious pregnancy encompasses conception, gestation, labor & birth, the first 6 weeks
postpartum (the primal adaptive period) and the first nine months of life.  Until the baby
can crawl away fast (around 9 months old), it is essentially still completely dependent upon
the mother’s nurturance.  (The term to describe this is “extra-uterine gestation).”

Conscious pregnancy, birth, and postpartum are within reach of any woman who is
dedicated to self-healing and optimal newborn beginnings.  Though the vast majority of
modern women were ourselves born stressfully and separated from our mothers etc.,
in
just one generation women can make a quantum leap back to our original birthright:

aware birth and deep bonding with the amazing conscious newborn.

Though many a woman has a sense of a “broken’ female lineage when it comes to
spontaneous birth, and though, according to statistics,  many a woman has had additional
trauma such as pregnancy loss, childhood sexual abuse, abortion, motherlessness, previous
negative birth experiences, and rape to name a few, we have an amazing capacity to heal, in
just one generation, through restoring yoga to pregnancy and birthgiving.

I have personally known or been employed as a doula by many women who have done just
that.  Intuitive, fearless, and fulfilled mothers are BORN, through aware pregnancy and
birth, wherever it occurs.