Happy Labor Day, everyone! I thought it was only fitting to cover the topic of yoga asanas for labor on this holiday. This was a question that had come up on Reddit, and I wanted to share my response over here with a little more elaboration.
When most people think about yoga in reference to pregnancy, they think about the prenatal classes to stay fit and zen for those 9 months. While that’s a very important time to continue a yoga practice, there are also yoga postures to help manage labor pains and move progress along for those wanting to deliver naturally without an epidural.
I took a prenatal yoga for partners class, which gave my husband and I different postures to do together. This included some postures for pregnancy to help relieve back pain and other aches, but the ones I found most helpful were for different stages of labor.
Squatting is a great one to use during labor to let gravity do its thing. You can do that one probably easier when labor first starts rather than in the thick of multiple contractions. By the time my water was really gushing, it was just gross. (Sorry, TMI.)
I did a “standing” down dog during active labor, using the edge of the hospital bed to hold on to and having my husband put counterpressure on my low back and hips. GREAT for back labor.
I ended up on hands and knees for the bulk of active labor, so a little bit of a moving cat/cow and swiveling hips side to side. Again, I had my husband put counterpressure against my hips to help with back labor.
Ujjayi breathing (while not an asana in and of itself, but an essential part of an asana practice) is really what kept me calm throughout labor. I had quite a few panic moments as a first-timer and really wanted to completely freak out and ugly cry, but when it was all over, the nurses commented that they knew I could do it without the epidural when they saw how controlled I was breathing.
I pushed while reclined, and I think in retrospect, I should’ve at least given the squat bar a chance and gotten back into that posture instead of happy baby for delivery.
I never took Bradley Method or Hypnobirthing classes. I relied solely on my yoga practice to prepare me for the 25 hours that it took from my first real contraction to the last one. Some people looked at me like I was crazy to attempt a med-free birth. Others looked at me like I was even crazier to attempt med-free WITHOUT a proper birthing class. All I gotta say is yogis are tough. Finding calm in the chaos is kind of our specialty.
Hope everyone in Austin, DFW, Houston and Sacramento are enjoying some free yoga today and good luck to any mamas out there getting ready to push out a baby sans epidural!