Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lamaze Breathing or Pranayama?

From very early on in my pregnancy, I had reservations about a hospital based program's ability to support my strong intention for natural childbirth.  Looking back on it now, I was right, the class was mostly an informative session about what to expect at the hospital and not a class that empowered.  I made sure that when I started teaching classes at a major medical center that the curriculum was balanced, thorough, informative and joyful. Fortunately, I had a wonderful nurse manager that supported my efforts. To this day, she is one of my gems that I will treasure always.

Despite my trepidation, with my big belly, two stuffed pillows, and my heart full of glee, I attended weekly classes for 6 consecutive weeks, along with 10 other couples.  My husband would be able to participate in several of the classes but needed to travel abroad for business and so was absent for others.  But I was able to teach him what I learned in our practice sessions that we did religiously before bedtime.  It took us real effort to stay disciplined, after a long day, we were both tired, him from the grind of corporate life and me carrying around an extra 25 pounds in the swell of August in New England.  

Finally the day arrived when I would be able to put my knowledge and practice of lamaze breathing to the test.  I made one of my last entries into my journal while being pregnant at 2:45 p.m. August 15th,  "Dear baby, this will probably be the last time I write to you while you are part of me.  I share tidbits of early labor activities and then express my sadness over how much I will miss having her a part of me.

Throughout my labor, I never once used lamaze breathing.  Instead I did what came naturally, straddling my breathe like one holds fast to the front bar of a fast moving, swirling, gliding roller coaster car.  In that way, the breathe became my god, an instrument of calm, soothing and protecting me like a deep streaming inner sanction as the turbulent forces of nature raged on.

Here in lies the difference between lamaze breathing and yoga, for both marry the breathe and have an ultimate goal in mind.  Lamaze uses the breathe as a distraction away from the pain of labor until such time a baby is born.  On the other hand, yoga worships the breathe as the goal and not a means to an end.

In yoga the breathe carries prana or life force, which is the very essence of our existence.  The intensity of childbirth demands that we give our full selves to our breathing and in doing so provides for a heightened experience.

This higly focused attention on our breathing is called Drishti and is highy praised on the yoga path.

Pranayama is the control of breathing to direct prana throughout the body.  In my next several postings, we'll practice Pranayama specifically for childbirth, helping you to work with your breathing in the context of enlivening your vital energy for the richly gratifying work of transformation.